We’ve all experienced that moment where we have to leave the house without your dogs — cue the puppy dog eyes along with our sinking hearts! Not to be dramatic, but you get the point. Sometimes they can’t tag along on our adventures. For this reason, our dogs need to stay home alone without tearing the house down. A leaving routine can reduce the stress placed on both humans and dogs during times of separation.
There are a handful of different methods for getting your dog into a goodbye routine. Keeping them relaxed and confident that you indeed are coming home is key. We’ve included some suggestions that we have put into practice with Fletcher throughout the years, along with tips from others.
First, a little background: Fletcher is a rescue dog who was previously abandoned on two separate occasions. You can imagine the panic that ensued when we tried to leave him the first time. Everything within his reach was chewed on or torn up. It was like there had been a parade in our house that we were late to attend. Please view the culprit below after two separate chewing sprees. Who can be mad at that face, right?
We immediately went to YouTube and Google, scouring the internet for the cure-all of Fletcher’s anxiety. Let me be the first to tell you that there isn’t one. No dog is perfect (as much as we disagree) and there isn’t one set way to solve home alone issues. A farewell routine is useful, but it’s a process that requires constant practice. It’s like walking your dog on a loose leash…you’re always training.
Here are some tips and ideas that may help ease your dog’s experience of being home alone. Feel free to combine these into the best goodbye routine for you and your dog, but be patient. This process will not be perfected overnight. Trial, error, and the celebration of little successes are necessary.
Have a safe place for your dog. Is your pup crate trained? If so, you can walk them to the crate or bed each time before you leave. The crate can be placed in the house where they can see it the most or by your bed if that’s where they normally rest. Fletcher has progressed from being locked in the crate to waiting on our couch that has the perfect view of the front door.
Choose a phrase to use when leaving the house. We say “you wait here and we’ll be back.” He recognizes this phrase and will go to his crate or cozy up on the couch all on his own.
Use soothing techniques. A PetSmart worker had previously suggested putting a drop of lavender on the top of the dog’s nose to help them be calm. Most pet stores also offer calming treats as another option.
Determine if your dog likes background noise. We originally thought Fletch would be paranoid about hearing the neighbors and other outside noise. Instead, leaving the tv on actually created a pattern of him cleaning off our dining table. One neighbor told us they play relaxing music when leaving their dog home alone. It truly depends on the dog and the routine. Test out what makes your dog feel most comfortable.
ROMP & PLAY
Exercise, exercise, exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog. This doesn’t mean to get your pup excited before leaving. A good romp session or walk can be helpful, but the timing shouldn’t be right before you walk out the door.
DID YOU SAY TREATS?!
Treats and toys can be great distractors for dogs. Try freezing some peanut butter in your dog’s favorite toy to occupy them once you leave. They even have created home pet-cams that dispense treats! We tend to love the treat puzzles because they require some brain power that helps tire Fletcher out.
GO FOR DISTANCE
Start off leaving your dog for small amounts of time. Go through your goodbye routine then walk to the mailbox and back. Take some time once you return to love on them and praise them. Then the next time you leave, go a little further, perhaps around the block. Train your dog to trust you will be coming home.
We hope some of these ideas help, and once put into practice, will allow you and your pup more freedom. Anyone have other suggestions they use when leaving their dog home alone? We’d love to hear them!
Happiness is coming home and knowing your dog is there to greet you!
Hi! I’m Marleigh. I am a nurse, military spouse and proud human to @fletcher_the_pup. We are lovers of dogs and adventures, especially in combination. Fletcher is a shepherd mix who is a puppy at heart and loves being around others. His big ears only add to his even bigger personality. Fletch is definitely the most photogenic person in the family and we hope our experiences can bring some joy to other peoples lives.