Leaving a dog home
When we leave a dog at home it is important to set ourselves and the dog up for a win. There are some basic principles that can be applied to most dogs and homes. The environment that we leave them in wants to be one that the dog feels safe and secure in. Because dogs require 18 hours a day sleep, we recommend the frame of mind that you are trying to achieve for your dog is a feeling of safe and secure. Leaving your dog enrichment for them to occupy themselves with is essential, but leaving them things that spike their arousal such as balls and other stimulants may be counter productive. Leaving items that they can chew is ideal, chewing releases endorphins but also helps calm the dog down while it is doing so. This leaves the dog is a calm state when finished rather than a stimulated state full of adrenaline.
Things to aim for:
Ensure that the area that we leave them in is appropriate and one that they feel safe and secure in, with no access to stressors such as front windows/doors or gates – we want to keep the dog calm and feeling safe rather than busy and overstimulated.
Give them enrichment to give them an option such as a Kong with high value food in it for them to have while you are away – use the Kong or food puzzle that you leave your dog to feed them at meal times as well. This will help generalise it and prevent the dog learning that this food puzzle/Kong only comes out at times of you leaving.
Leave on a familiar sound such as the television or radio – try to leave on a sound that they are used to listening to while you are present. Avoid leaving on a sound that they are unfamiliar to because the dog can learn to associate this with you leaving.
Ensure that comfort items, such as toys and chews are left for them.
Things to avoid:
Avoid rushing them into the area you are going to leave them. The more frantic and rushed we make it the more stressed they become.
Avoid getting them excited before you leave them, the frame of mind we leave behind is what we are trapping in our house. A comfortable dog is a happy dog.
Stop the process of leaving and concentrate on settling them down if the dog begins to show signs of stress.
Our dogs often learn the cues that happen before we leave such as always putting on the same shoes or picking up our keys. If your dog finds you leaving stressful, the early onset of stress can be set off by keys being picked up etc. If we keep the dog calmer and comfortable as early as possible then it will help them accustom to these triggers.
Avoid leaving them with access to areas of the house that are stimulating. We often leave our dogs with access to the front gate or windows thinking they will enjoy the view, unfortunately this can often cause stress in a dogs life and be detrimental to their mental health. Please read our page on Vigilance for futher information.
Avoid blindsiding them by throwing treats and rushing to get the door closed - this may cause desperation between the distraction and you leaving and increase the anxiety. - To learn more on how to get a dog where you need them to be click here