What will your new routine look like?
This is obviously very variable depending on your job, who is at home and when etc. If your dog can happily be left for an hour at a time or more, then the routine below will provide a guide. However, if you are needing to train your dog to be left, they should not be left alone outside of your training sessions. These dogs will need company until they are naturally comfortable with being on their own so hiring a dog sitter, leaving them with family/friends or taking them to work with you will be better options. Leaving a dog for longer than they can cope with will mean your training cannot progress as they are experiencing their fears and anxieties in the very situation that you are trying to work in. If this applies to your dog, then feeding and walking times may be as below, but then their sitter will take over or you will take them with you.
- Feed your dog an hour or more before walking/exercise
- Ensure that they are walked/exercised and have been to the toilet shortly before you are due to leave
- Make sure your house is dog-safe by removing access to plugged in cables, anything that you would be upset about if it got chewed, don’t leave food on the counters or tables, turn the bin around to make it more difficult to open! Remove anything that could become a danger.
The following steps are for dogs who are comfortable being left for the period of time that you will be gone;
- Fill some food puzzles/dispensers/lay a treasure hunt, and cue your dog to go and find it/provide them with the puzzle, then leave without fuss
- Arrange for someone to go in regularly (initially) to let your dog outside.
- When you arrive home, greet your dog calmly when you’ve taken your coat off, let them outside but leave it a short while before taking him/her for a walk (have a cup of tea!). If you walk/play as soon as you get home, this may reinforce to your dog that great things happen when you reappear, strengthening their need for you to come home.
- Feed, walk and arrange toilet breaks at routine times with some tolerance of a half hour either side (encouraging a degree of flexibility may save anxiety if your day goes astray sometimes).
- Remember, when you’re playing and exercising your dog, and when they’re having time alone, mental games are healthy stimulation for them, especially scent-based activities.