Tips for Leaving Pets Home Alone
Leaving our pets is something we all hate to do but must do sometimes when travel destinations are neither pet friendly or practical for pets we have to. Sometimes we’ve got to work long hours so our pets can have a good life!
There are plenty of places that allow pets to come with you on vacation – (check out our pet friendly links at: http://suburbanpaws.com/petfriendly.html) however, sometimes it isn’t an option and that’s when utilizing resources, tools and tips come in handy. While away from home some owners choose to utilize daycare and/or boarding for longer stays, others prefer to have their dogs stay in the comfort of their own home and have someone come in and visit with them.. For pets who are at home while their owners are away there are a few little things you can do to help make your pet’s time alone more comfortable and secure and ways to provide enrichment while you’re not there.
Music & Voice
Leaving the radio on for your pet isn’t silly. In fact, research has shown that certain types of music can actually help to calm your pets. According to one study by Belfast-based psychologist and animal behaviorist Dr. Deborah Wells, a research program was conducted to determine the influence of five types of auditory stimulation: human conversation, classical music, heavy metal music, pop music, and a silent control (no music at all).
From Dr. Wells’s study, we came to understand that classical music had a marked soothing effect on dogs in animal shelters when compared to the other types of auditory stimulation. In the discussion section of her published research, Dr. Wells stated, “Classical music resulted in dogs spending more of their time resting than any of the other experimental conditions of auditory stimulation. This type of music also resulted in a significantly lower level of barking.
This research was expanded and used to create music specifically engineered for dogs by Joshua Leeds & Lisa Specter in their music series “Through A Dog’s Ear“. These CD’s were created specifically to help calm and soothe pets and have been used in clinics, classrooms, shelters and kennels.
Some people have also reported that their pets are soothed by talk radio. The sound of human voices present in the environment can sometimes help pets feel they’re not so alone.
Mental & Physical Enrichment
Giving our dogs something to do while they wait at home for us is a great way to help pass the time, release energy via a healthy outlet and give our dogs some mental & physical stimulation. Traditionally many dogs were bred for a job that provides them with mental, physical and cognitive exercises, activities and challenges. Being a companion animal can create room for improvement in these areas. Domesticated pets spend many hours alone and boredom and anxiety is one of the number one contributors to problem behaviors. Did you know that wild dogs spend 80% of their waking hours hunting and scavenging for food? With that in mind here’s how to step up our dog’s mental and physical enrichment.
Having a dog walker or sitter visit with your pet can break up the day for your pup and give him/her some energy release and company but for the rest of the hours of the day there are excellent tools that can help.
Kibble/treat dispensing toys: There are quite a few of these on the market that can provide your dog with something to do. Feeding a meal with dry kibble from one of these dispensing toys and giving it to your dog before you leave can make a positive association with your departure and give your dog a job to do for a while after you leave.
Puzzle toys: You can find a variety of these in stores and online, some popular puzzle toys to check out are those made by Nina Ottosson, and Outward Hound.
Treat dispensing machines & interactive cameras: Products like the Furbo and Petzi are interactive toys/cameras that allow you to watch and speak to your pet while away. They also have a feature that allows you to dispense treats to your pet remotely. A great way to interact with your pet while away from home.
Keeping pets cool in the hot months and warm in the colder months is sure to make them more comfortable. If you are concerned about electricity usage while away from home keep your thermostats on energy saver to help reduce costs but be sure to keep your pets comfortable and safe from any heat stroke or extreme cold. Extreme temperatures are especially dangerous for brachycephalic or short nosed breeds like the Pug, Boston Terrier, Pekingese, Boxer, Bulldog, Shih tzu or any other breeds with “pushed in” faces.
While you’re away from home you certainly can’t control the weather or the outdoor noise. What you can do, however, is provide your pet a safe haven in which to retreat when thunder, fireworks or outside noise are present and may disturb your pet. Open crates or carriers placed in quiet locations with blankets placed over them to create a secure, quiet and dark hiding spot are helpful to have in the house and coupled with music or radio can help to drown out disturbing noise.
Pheromone Therapy & Aromatherapy
Calming scents like lavender and chamomile are just as soothing for pets as they are for humans. Keep calming scents around the home or consider some other products made specifically for pets. You can try calming collars like the ones made by Sentry called Good Behavior as well as calming pheromone diffusers like Comfort Zone with D.A.P. for Dogs and Comfort Zone with Feliway for Cats
For dogs who have noise phobias like fear of thunder and fireworks, anxiety wraps like the Thunder Shirt are wonderful for many dogs. They work, not only for noise phobia but also for dogs who tend to get anxious in the car, when not close to their owner or even just general anxiety to help calm them. The wraps work by applying gentle, constant pressure that helps to calm. A great tool for separation anxiety as well as other types of anxiety!
These are just some of the tools and tips for helping dogs to be more comfortable while home alone. Always be sure to properly contain any dogs who tend to get into trouble or into things they shouldn’t. Leave toilet seats down, garbage out of reach, common household toxins and plants out of reach and never EVER leave a choke or prong collar on a dog while they are unsupervised. Make sure crates are large enough for your dog to comfortably turn around in and don’t leave any toys that require supervision when unattended. Antlers, nylabones and KONG toys are best.