As unforgettably portrayed to American audiences in the classic movie, Home Alone, waking up to find that you are on your own can be entirely thrilling at times and utterly terrifying at others. Just like little Kevin in the movie, our fur babies tend to fall in one of two camps. They either grab the independent life by the horns, digging in the trash cans, chewing up the couch, and sleeping on our pillows or they take cover, burying themselves in our dirty laundry, wondering when and if you will EVER come back home.
Whether your dog becomes anxious and destructive when you leave or you just can’t stand the sad look in his eyes when you walk out the door, there are ways you can help your pooch feel more confident and secure. Over time, your pup will understand that sometimes you have to leave, but you will always come back.
#1 – Practice Alone Time
Give your pup plenty of opportunities to feel comfortable being alone by letting her practice short but frequent sessions. While you are both home, bring her to her crate (or wherever she sleeps) and settle her in for a short time away. Praise her for going into her crate and walk out without any fanfare.
Stay home, but out of sight and ear shot and give it a few minutes. Go back to let her out and make a huge deal of your return. Give her loads of love and tell her what a good girl she was while you were away.
By doing this frequently and for relatively short periods of time, you are setting her up for a positive association with her crate. You are also instilling confidence that you will return and that when you do, it’s going to be amazing.
If your pup cries or howls, it may be that you left her too long to start. Try even shorter alone time sessions of less than a minute. Over the course of a few days or weeks, you can increase the time of the session, building her self assurance with each positive reunion.
#2 – Leave a Little Comfort
As you have no doubt noticed, your dog really loves your smell. In fact, it is one of the main ways he recognizes you and it brings him great comfort to be around it. Placing an item with your smell in his crate is an excellent way to bring comfort to your dog when you have to be away. Better yet, stuff that smelly t-shirt in a Comfort Cuddler and your dog will have your scent and a cozy pillow to snuggle down with while you are away.
If your dog has a favorite toy or blanket, that is also a great choice to place in the crate when you will be away. The goal is to breed familiarity with the process, the environment, and the experience. Comfort items can be very useful in furthering this goal.
# 3 – Doggie Day Care
Socializing is an important activity to promote well-being in your pup. The wonderful thing about providing this stimulation with doggie day care is that your dog has a grand ol’ time without you. He gets the opportunity to be left at a place, see you leave, have an absolute blast, and experience you coming back. It’s a perfect way to condition confidence in your absence.
You can use a doggie day care service as often as you like or can afford. Just once a week or more can make huge boosts to your dog’s comfort while away from you. Consider more frequent visits initially while you are conditioning your pup. Then you can back off and make it a more rare, special occasion thing.
#4 – Make it Special
Parents of human children use this trick all the time. It goes a little something like this. You buy a super fantastic, awesomely appealing toy. You present it to your brave sugar bear only when she is going to be spending time alone. Instead of the crate or you leaving being cause for a droopy head and depressed state of mind, it’s an all-out play fest of epic proportions.
Naturally, every dog is different. Maybe your pup likes to pull the stuffing out of a plush toy. Maybe licking peanut butter out of the center of a ball is more her speed. Brain teasing toys are a great way to make long lasting fun and stimulation during your dog’s time alone. Choose whatever kind of toy will be most appealing to your girl. Focus on something that lasts a long time and that your dog will get super excited about. Just be careful leaving anything that will pose a choking hazard.
#5 – Make it Familiar
Although traveling with your dog is becoming increasingly easier, there are going to be times when you travel without your dog. Work trips and girls trips are probably not going to be well-suited for your furry friend. As he will have to stay in the care of another, it’s important that he become familiar with his temporary home before you drop him off for the duration.
Boarding facilities should have no problem allowing you to bring your babe in for a little face time. Let her sniff around as many times as you deem necessary leading up to her stay. Even one walk through to see and smell the sites for just a few minutes will make for a much easier time while you are away. You can also consider leaving her there for an afternoon a time or two so that she experiences you coming back to get her.
If she will be staying with a family member or friend, she may already be familiar with their space and associate it with good times. If not, pencil in some day dates or even an overnight. This will allow them to get used to each other and let your dog can get used to the being in the home. Again, by breeding familiarity and reinforcing that you will come back for her, you are setting her up for success in your absence during the real deal.
“I’ll Be Back Soon.”
A self-assured, confident dog that is able to be comfortable with or without you is a positive for everyone involved. Taking steps from the very beginning to foster independence will benefit the long term health of your pup and your relationship. Parting may be such sweet sorrow, but absence does, indeed, make the heart grow fonder.