Leaving Your Pet Home Alone: How Long Is Too Long?
While it can feel great to come home to your best friend, it’s hard not to wonder what they got into while you were away. Sure, some pets will happily curl up on the couch for several hours, but others may pace, howl, whine, or stare out the window obsessively. Pet separation anxiety can also cause pets to damage property or even hurt themselves.
There might not be alternatives to never leaving your pet home alone, but it is imperative to know their limits.
What a Relief!
Once fully house trained, most dogs can go without a potty break for 4-6 hours. After that, it’s really asking a lot for them to hold it.
Puppies and younger dogs, seniors, and those that are sick or recovering from surgery typically need additional breaks throughout the day.
The first few days of separation are usually the most challenging. Whether young or mature, newly adopted dogs can be trained to accept the fact that being separated from you isn’t the end of the world. That being said, this can backfire if forced on them too quickly or with few or no rewards.
Over time, we recommend easing your dog into the new routine by:
- Crate training them as early as possible. Instill in them that the crate is their safe, comfy, secure spot to hang out in during your absence.
- Leaving them for a few minutes at a time and gradually increasing the time apart until you see they are fully comfortable with your departure and return.
- Playing with your pet or giving them abundant exercise opportunities before you leave. A jog before work can be the perfect antidote to separation anxiety. In other words, a tired dog is a content dog.
- Offering them a treat when you leave, but not when you come home.
- Trying to be as calm and neutral as possible. This will signal your dog to react in kind. Don’t hype up your comings and goings.
- Hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to break up the day and provide exercise and attention.
- Giving your pet a chance to burn off any pent up energy. This may be a long walk, run, hike, invigorating game of fetch, or even a simple drive.
- For a younger pet home alone, you may be worried about boredom. Doggie daycares or play times can give them mental stimulation and physical exercise they need.
Tips for a Pet Home Alone
Leaving a pet home alone doesn’t have to be boring or dangerous. Food puzzles or treat-dispensing toys can keep them engaged and entertained. Plus, by the time they earn a treat, they’re worn out!
Be sure to set up their crate with clean, soft bedding, indestructible chew toys, a Kong stuffed with Xylitol-free peanut butter, and a window to peer out of. Although doggie doors can give your pet bathroom breaks, they can create problems if your dog likes to bark, hop the fence, or dig.
Be sure that your pet doesn’t have any access to trash cans, bathroom cabinets, and dangerous foods. Items like shoes, socks, and pillow stuffing can cause GI obstruction or choking.
Separation anxiety in pets doesn’t usually get better without help. In fact, it can get much worse if symptoms are ignored. Please let our vets know if you need help regarding your pet’s behavior. Harris Parkway Animal Hospital is always here for you.