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How to Leave Your Dogs Home Alone...and Feel Good About It!
When J and I were moving in together he had the misfortune of losing his job, which meant he automatically became caregiver of both of our dogs. Although I do have a home office, a busy schedule and a slew of part-time jobs made keeping my own routine with Milo and Gemma difficult to manage.
We consider ourselves lucky that we currently can afford to have such arrangements and the dogs really enjoy the company of a human (sometimes I think even more so than each other). But occasionally J and I do like to go out and at least pretend we have lives. Together, we've come up with some tips and tricks on how to leave the doggies safe and sound when we leave them alone.
- Take them out before you leave. How would you feel is someone locked you out of your bathroom for hours and hours? Even the most well-trained dog can have an accident if left alone for the afternoon, especially when the last time they went out was around breakfast. As the old saying goes, "When you gotta go, you gotta go."
- Put on some music. Dogs love to be around people and noise and leaving the radio or TV on for them is the next best thing. Some dogs actually really like music (and Gemma is a very non-discriminatory listener when I sing in the shower). Either way, if they don't understand or appreciate it, it's at least better than waiting in silence. Some people even swear they use this technique to ward off potential intruders who may be poking around your property.
- Bring out the toy arsenal. You'd be bored too if you were sitting, and waiting around for someone. Dogs are less likely to get into mischief if there's something to play with while you're out. Experts even recommend reserving certain toys to leave out specifically when you leave the house to trick an anxious pet into thinking your absence is a special time.
- Keep them busy. If you don't like the idea of a dog chasing after a ball and running into a family heirloom while you're out, leave a toy that they can chew on instead. Many toys now are advertised as "puzzle toys" allowing dogs to develop their motor skills and expand brain functioning by figuring out how to get a treat from inside. Many chew toys are also specially coated to combat bad breath. Why not combine treats and toys into one fun package by giivng your dog a bone specially formulated to keep him or her busy for a couple of hours when you're gone?
- Loss prevention. A bored dog can be a mischievous dog and once treats are finished and toys are abandoned, they may look for other ways to entertain themselves, especially if they are young, energetic, or nervous by nature. Make sure that shoes are put away, breakables or valuables are out of reach, and make sure there is no laundry on your floor. Gemma, for instance, loves to eat underwear (don't ask!) and Milo will steal socks and use them as replacements for a ball.
- Bribes are never bad. Using treats in moderation- to make your pet feel more comfortable about you being away or to distract them from being bored- is totally acceptable and encouraged. (Sorry, Milo typed that last part.)
- Make it quick. This is the advice I always used to give to parents when I was a baby-sitter. The longer your good-bye, the more painful it is. Tear yourself away from those soulful doggie eyes already!
- Play it safe. Always make sure that any fire hazards or harmful substances (including chocolate!) are safely away from the reach of prying doggies. Make sure you have someone to call should anything happen and your dog is left alone for too long. It's also a good idea to stick a sign on your door to let emergency workers know there are pets inside should something bad ever happen.
Dogs are never ecstatic about their owners leaving and more often than not wish they could come along. You know your dog best, so decide for yourself how long your dog can safely be alone or if it's appropriate to let them tag along. Remember, you are allowed to go out and have some fun. Your life doesn't revolve around your dogs, right? Right?