The Covid-19 pandemic means that many of us have spent extra time indoors, with millions of people having worked from home or been on furlough. People have been able to pour care and attention on their dogs that they previously may have been unable to give. The downside — there are many pups who will have never experienced you heading off to work in the morning.
As people ease back into their pre-Covid lives, your new additions won’t know what it means to be home alone for extended periods of time. This is going to be a big change for all pets who will have gotten used to their owners being around all day, every day.
For most owners, spending all day with dogs post lockdown will be out of the question — after all, someone has to pay for all those toys! Your 9–5 office job inevitably means time apart, which can often be hard for dogs who are ‘home alone’ for extended periods. In some cases, it can even lead to mischief and misbehaviour.
There’s lots of things you can do to soften the adjustment period and make time alone more comfortable for the furry friend in your life as the limits of lockdown lift. Here’s a few useful (and fun) tips to help you get started.
A good routine
Just like us, dogs love routine — they rely on it to give structure to their days. Establishing a routine early on is key for a happy home life, whether you’ve brought home a brand new puppy or adopted an older dog.
Figure out what works for you both in terms of their meal times, toilet breaks and walks, to help make your dog's time at home alone happy and comfortable. If they know that time away from you is simply part of their day, they’re more likely to take it in their stride, and also enjoy it; especially if they have access to some of the toys we talk about later!
When training your dog how to be on their own, they’re bound to have some separation anxiety, so start off small and work your way up as they get used to it, using a rewards system so they learn from good behaviours that you recognise. You can start off just making them stay in their bed whilst you’re in the room, then move progressively further away and for longer periods until you’re able to close a door behind you and stay out of the room.
After that, progressing to leaving the house should be easy, and soon your pooch will be comfortable in their own company whilst you’re out and about.
Plenty of exercise
Daily exercise is important for all dogs, but especially for those who will be indoors for a large chunk of the day.
Getting out and about is not just great exercise for your pooch, it gives them a chance to socialise, go to the toilet and burn off some energy so they can relax and enjoy a good snooze. A big run out on a morning can improve your pet’s mood for the entire day, allowing them to settle in and relax before round two later.
Their evening walk is great for using up any excitable energy so you all get a good night’s sleep. Remember to let them out as soon as they wake up and before they go to bed so there’s no accidents in the house (if you’re looking to toilet train your puppy, take a look at our latest blog full of top tips and tricks).
For those looking for a little extra help, there’s also the option of dog walkers who can give your dog(s) some additional exercise and company during the day, as well as bonus toilet breaks. For those with extremely energetic dogs, in some areas, there are now even dog runners like Milo’s Dog Running or Jog My Dog who will actually take your dog out for a distance run!
A balanced diet
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for any dog, whether they’re country dogs who spend most of their day running about or city dogs who spend a lot of time alone or inactive.
It’s up to you to ensure your dog is getting all the nutrients and minerals they need to keep them fit and healthy, avoiding poor quality foods that may make them overweight or could contain additives which can affect their behaviour.
Harringtons Just 6 range offers irresistibly tasty and crunchy kibbles using the finest ingredients such as lamb, chicken or salmon, blended with farm-grown vegetables and oils rich in vitamins and nutrients. We use simple ingredients that you know and recognise so you can feel good knowing this tasty recipe gives all the natural goodness your dog needs — with no hidden nasties!
Dogs can be very persuasive with their big, adorable eyes — and don’t they know it, especially when it comes to begging for food! Try to not give them too many treats or scraps off your plate as it may cause weight gain or an upset stomach which is not what either of you want if you’re out of the house and unable to let them out! Stick to good quality, complete, balanced meals full of the nutrients you pooch needs.
Create a dog-friendly home
Here are some simple things you can do around your home to make it a little safer for your pooch. It should also give you peace of mind whilst you’re out and about, knowing they’re not causing havoc!
Our top tips for maintaining a dog-friendly house include…
- Non-toxic cleaning products: if your dog chews, licks or generally likes to carry things in his mouth, use non-toxic cleansers to avoid making them poorly.
- Hide wires: Some dogs chew them, others run into them — neither have good results! Simply put them away or conceal them to keep your wires intact and pooches safe.
- Flooring & carpets: Consider the areas they have access to. Wooden or tiled floors are tougher and cooler in summer and are easy to keep clean. Carpets are warm and create a cosy space, but can contain mites and nasties if not well looked after, they’re also much easier to damage if your dog has an accident.
- Sealable lid: Toilets, bins and beyond, dogs are curious, clever and can often make their way into anything. Sealable lids or clips can stop them getting into places they shouldn’t.
- Baby gate: If you want to keep your dog downstairs or in a specific room, consider fitting a baby gate. Not only will it give you peace of mind when you’re out that your pooch is where they’re supposed to be, not off making a mess or chewing your favourite pair of shoes, it also gives them a sense of routine so they know when they’re in that room that they’ll be spending some time alone.
- Fan/white noise: Some dogs are a little more nervous than others, and unusual or unexpected noises can frighten them. Leaving a fan on or white noise playing can mask a lot of these, leaving them to relax.
- A good vacuum: Keeping your space clean and free of nasties — like mites — will not only keep your house smelling fresh, it will also keep your dog free from a number of skin irritations.
- Camera: Think baby monitor, but for your canine companion. You can now install a camera that links up to an app on your phone so you can keep an eye on your dog whilst you’re out and about. Some even come with treat dispensers so you can drop them something tasty without being there.
Create a calming space for your pooch
Like you, dogs can benefit from having their own space. This doesn’t mean leaving them alone, it means their own place just for them.
Try and find an area in your home that can be indisputably theirs. It never moves. This might be where they will sleep, or somewhere they can just rest. You could even create a den, but it’s theirs, and they know it’s there.
To create it, use things they love. Start with the space itself using a bed or a blanket and then fill it with items they enjoy like comforting toys. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, simply somewhere they can go whenever they want to take themselves off for some peace and quiet. Ensure it’s not in a part of the house where they have limited access to.
A space like this can be invaluable during time alone, as it gives them a source of comfort and familiarity until you return.
Distractions - games, toys and puzzles
As they say, when the cat’s away, the mice will play!
Dogs are naturally playful animals, so leaving them plenty of fun distractions will keep them occupied until you return, rather than them sitting anxiously waiting for you. Games, toys and puzzles will make those hours apart more bearable, meaning you come home to a happy pooch who enjoys some time on their own!
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