So, you got a new puppy or adopted a dog over the holidays. After a few days of happy bonding time, you need to now get on with the eventual separation of you and the puppy because mama’s (or papa’s) gotta work.
According to a recent census in America, nearly 48% of American households have at least one pet, with dogs and cats being the most common pet in the households. Since most of us work, dealing with leaving our pets at home alone while we work is something we all need to deal with.
Dogs are social pets; they love to be with their pack and close to their humans. So, if you are a working dog owner, you will need to juggle your workday schedule with your dog and make it all work. Dogs can get separation anxiety and get into all sorts of destructive behavior that needs to be addressed before it becomes a problem.
Here Are 15 Tips To Help Make Life Easier For Busy Working Dog Owners:
Puppy Proofing The Home
Before we jump into the actual puppy related tips, we should ‘pup proof’ the home for unsupervised time away from you.
To deal with boredom or their separation anxiety, dogs will chew things or get into things they are not supposed to. We will discuss the merits of confined spaces for dogs when you leave the home later.
However, should you choose to let them be free around the house, you need to ‘puppy proof’ your home. This is not just for actual puppies but also for full grown adults because boredom and anxiety will lead them to do things you don’t want them to do.
First thing first, safety is important. You will need to ensure all the heating appliances are switched off, the stove or the oven is not on, and even the crockpot is not on. Make sure the water taps are all not on when you leave. The usual checks before you leave home apply here.
Remove all food related items away from reach. If you store your dog’s food and treats in a cabinet below the counter, make sure it is locked or move it all in a top cabinet/shelf. Make sure your garbage is out of sight and not easily accessible and preferably emptied out before you leave. No garbage means no pups in garbage shredding them to pieces.
Make sure items that are poisonous for the dog are not accessible. Chocolates are a common household item that is poisonous for dogs. Keep them out of reach. There are plenty of stories of dogs getting sick from getting into a box of chocolates tucked away as gifts under the Christmas tree. So think of all possible things your dogs could do harm to themselves and puppy proof the place.
Chewables are another thing. Make sure your shoes or anything the dog can chew are out of the way. This is also where confined space training will help which we will get to shortly.
Mind The Neighbors
Once you have secured the inside of the house, it is time to be a good neighbor. You will need to put your puppy through puppy training classes to stop them from developing barking habits.
Unfortunately, barking can still be something you cannot avoid. This is because they feel they are in charge of guarding the territory and will let ‘intruders’ (neighbors or the mailman) know that they are approaching a protected territory. This can become a noise issue for your neighbor. If you live in an apartment, the problem is even more acute.
To minimize the chances of neighbors hearing your dog, put your dog in a confined space on the inner side of the home away from walls you share with them or the front door. Leave some soft music on to minimize noises from outdoors and from your neighbors hearing your dog.
Before you leave for the day, take your dog out for a walk in the morning. Make sure he gets enough exercise before you leave for work. Perhaps even a game of fetch if you can squeeze that in. Exercising your dog in general through-out the day will keep him happier. The old adage of a tired dog being a happy dog rings very true.
Maintain A Routine
Dogs are creatures of habits and routines. Try to maintain a routine with your workdays. Leave at the same time, and try not to stay back too late for work. Consistency is key. The more consistent you are the more the dog will get used to the time of day and hours he will be away from you.
Crate Or Confined Space Training
Dogs love being in their dens - a cosy comfortable nook that feels safe and familiar. So confined spaces and/or crates can be a great way to get them used to long hours without you. They will feel safe, have less anxiety and will not be able to get into the stuff you don’t want them to chew/ingest.
Make sure you have plenty of fresh water and a bowl of pre-measured dry food and his favorite toys. For puppies that have not been house-trained, pee pads will be needed for a designated pee area.
Entertainment While Away
Dogs need stimulation to keep them from getting bored. Give your pup some interaction time in the morning with you. Before leaving, keep their favorite chew toy and or stuffed toy around.
Some dogs like challenging toys - where you can put a small soft treat in a ball where the dog will try to find ways to get into the ball. Consult your vet/pet store/groomer before choosing the right toys for them. Make sure there is nothing they can choke on or get hurt with around.
You could always opt for dog walkers to come and walk your dog in the middle of the day. This service has a fee but most dog walkers’ fees are pretty affordable. The walk time will be an exciting time for your dog as he will get to interact with other dogs and have some outdoor time while you work.
If you don’t feel comfortable with dog walkers taking your dog outdoors without you, you can always opt for drop-in services. Maybe you have a friend who works from home or a retired parent who can drop in and check on the pup. There are also drop-in services you can pay for.
Puppy Daycare As An Option
The ultimate luxury option would be to leave your dog at a doggy daycare service. Often your groomer will have daycare services as well. Beware, doggy daycares can cost you hundreds of dollars a month.
A Soothing Ambience
Keep a soothing ambience around when you leave. There is some research that suggests soft jazz or classical music relaxes your dog. So, feel free to try leaving some soft music on. Keep the place temperature regulated and ensure there is enough daylight coming in.
Pup In The Office
Some workplaces now allow you to bring in your dog (at least one or two dogs) into the firm. Being around pets improves productivity and overall wellness of employees. See if you can register your dog to be that lucky one who gets to go to work with their humans.
Flex Work/Lunch Visit
Some of us are lucky to be knowledge workers where we are not required to be tied to a desk at work. See if you can work in a flex work policy where you can work from home or be able to take an extended lunch to drop in on your dog. This again is a luxury not many of us can afford.
A Companion Perhaps?
Some pet owners love the idea of having two dogs or a dog and a cat instead of just one pet. Some breeds like Yorkies and Chihuahuas are recommended to be kept in pairs since they can develop severe separation anxiety when raised alone.
Tackle Separation Anxiety
Ultimately, the entire process of leaving your dog at home becomes smooth and comfortable if you can tackle his separation anxiety. Training classes early on or even a dog trainer individual lessons will help.
There are many tips on how you can introduce the concept of you being away. One tactic is popping in and out of sight while you leave the puppy in the other room for a minute or two. This can help build that mind frame where they will not feel like every time you leave, they are being abandoned. They will soon learn their humans will go out of sight every now and then and it is okay.
Also don’t make a big fuss when you leave or when you arrive. A gentle pet when you are back is fine, but no goodbye kisses or hugs and baby noises before you leave. Because if you do that any anxiety they may feel will be encouraged. So, be mindful of that.
Don’t Be Too Harsh on Yourself
Finally, don’t beat yourself up over having to work a full schedule and opting to have a dog. Dogs are amazing life companions. They reduce your stress levels, increase your physical exercise time, and can be great bundles of joy.
We all have to work and it is completely possible to have both a dog and work full-time. So, don’t feel guilty and put your mind at ease. If you do feel anxious or guilty when leaving, the dog will pick up on it.