Leaving your dog at home after lockdown

Top tips for preparing to leave your dog alone at home

Dr David Tweedle - BVetMed MRCVS

Going back to normal after a few months of furlough, or working at home with your dog by your side? Separation can be tough, but there are ways around it! Dave Tweedle, Clinical Director at Natures Vet in Somerset and My Family Vets vet, explains more…

For many of us, it’s time to get back to work and to live our lives as normal (sort of normal, at least). But how do you go about leaving your dog on their own? 

For many owners, their pets won’t have had any solitude in months, and the prospect of leaving the house without them can be a bit daunting. 

Making your preparations

It’s all in the planning. If you start preparing now, you’ll ease your dog into alone time and it won’t come as a shock.

Choose an area for your dog to spend their alone time, somewhere they’ll feel safe and comfortable, away from hazards. Put their bed here too, plus clean, fresh water. 

Top tip: Try fitting a safety gate, this’ll mean you can leave the room and your dog will still be able to see you. If you prefer, you can also use your dog’s crate. 

Make your dog comfortable by adding their favourite toys and a long-lasting treat. These goodies will help keep them mentally stimulated.

BorrowMyDoggy dog in a dog bed looking at camera
Doggy member Rudy

Step 1: Closing the gate

When you come to close the gate (either to the crate or to the room you’ve chosen to put your dog in), do it as casually as you can. Stay where your dog can see you, and only keep it closed for 10 seconds or so. Next time, you can close it for 20, then gradually work up to keeping the gate closed for a minute or two. 

Step 2: Opening the gate

Try not to fuss over your dog while you open the gate. Open it casually, and don’t entice them out. If they’re happy where they are, leave them be!

Step 3: Going where your dog can’t see you

If your dog is fine with having the gate closed for over a minute, your next step is to go where they can’t see you. Stay in your house for the time being – just wander off to the next room and pop back again a few seconds later. Once again, build up the time gradually, and only proceed if your dog is happy and content. (If they’re not, go back to the previous stage.)

Step 4: Leaving the house

When you’re happy leaving your dog in their crate/hangout room for a fair amount of time (the time it takes you to do the washing up, say), you can then start leaving the house. 

The length of time you leave your dog alone will depend on lots of things:

  • If they suffered from separation anxiety before lockdown
  • If they have any behavioural problems
  • Their breed (some breeds like their own company more than others)
  • Their age (a young puppy might find solitude difficult)

The trick is to work slowly, and be prepared to go back a step if you need too. Don’t throw your dog in at the deep end – they’ve been enjoying your company a lot over the past few months, and will find it difficult to be apart from you. 

If you’re concerned about leaving your dog alone for the first time since lockdown, give your vet a call. They’ll be happy to help.

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