A little bit of planning will go a long way. Please do not feel bad we all have to work and if done properly our dogs will adjust to life after Covid or the holidays. We can teach our dogs to feel safe and calm when home alone.
However, for a truly calm dog we need to ensure we have helped to fulfill their social, physical, and mental needs.
For dogs, social needs means being connected, and given we make them live with us, we should actively spend time together and, if they like other dogs, provide opportunities for dog interaction. For most people social means mainly dog interaction or meeting new people or new places. This might be fun and beneficial for some social butterfly dogs but for many this could also be just too much because they do not have a secure attachment with us in the first place.
To get that social connection do joint activities such as training life skills, doing scent work, Agility or Rally Obedience just to mention a few activities. Or if you both like to go to the coffee shop, the local park or long walks either in the neighbourhood or in the countryside then do that. The key is to develop a trusting relationship where you both feel secure and safe with each other, each other’s behaviours and can adapt to the changing situation around you.
Let’s assume you do ongoing social activity and have a great connection with your dog, then we need to meet their physical needs.
Physical exercise should be balanced, so not too much that we create adrenaline junkies and a very fit athlete and not too little so they do not produce feel good endorphins and are getting fat.
You also should plan for an early start as dogs are calmer at home if they have had a walk and had some enrichment in the morning before you leave them. We would do it for others we love.
Another important question is where will they be when you are at work?
The easiest and best answer is where they are currently spending most of their time.
There is a good chance that this is inside (on the couch). If that is the case your best chance for success is leaving them inside with access to the yard via a dog door. If you need to leave them outside providing some comfortable outside furniture will help.
If they are used to being outside you will need to provide shade, shelter from the rain, wind, heat or cold.
If you are now thinking kennel – make sure your dog is using it. We have seen countless clients spending a lot of money kennels – never to be used. Yes, you can train them to use the kennel but unfortunately once you are gone, they still might not use it.
The next question to address is how are you going to break up their day?
When choosing a dog walker, you should be very careful as you leave your dog in the care of someone else. A dog walker should have a qualification and a membership with the Pet Professional Guild Australia (check www.ppgaustralia.net.au), also check insurance and get references.
Individual walks, walk and train, group walks. The cost should not be your only consideration. You need to be realistic with the results when you use walk and train. This can be great but you will need to do your part, too and keep up the work your trainer has done.
Group walks and busy dog parks are only suitable for the minority of dogs.
You will need a babysitter or rather dogsitters. How many people would love a gig watching Netflix and admiring your dog? But plan ahead and build a relationship with someone you trust.
Last but not least what are you going to leave them with?
If yes, what kind and are they safe. Careful when you have multiple dogs who might argue over the toys. Make sure your dogs are used to the toys and you have supervised them on numerous occasions.
Ideally, your dog sleeps the better part of the time you are away. Providing too many toys, can be counterproductive and they never relax.
If you are unsure if your dog is happy, or at least relaxed, when you are away a pet camera could put your mind at ease or help if you need to make changes.
If your dogs are barking, digging, chewing they are communicating that they are not coping. Then you need profession help. Look up your nearest PPGA trainer here Visual Directory (ppgaustralia.net.au)