As the world begins to move past the restraints of Covid and lockdowns that once seemed endless but are now history, pet owners may be leaving their dogs at home alone for much longer periods of time.
For some apartment residents, the first they know that their dog isn’t coping with being left on its own is a note from their strata committee about excessive barking during the day or deconstructed sofa cushions strewn over the loungeroom floor.
And while strata laws and attitudes are changing, one thing remains: if your dog is a nuisance to other residents, you can be forced to fix the problem – even if that means finding a new home for the dog or yourself.
So what can you do when you have to go to work and the pet that had you around all day, every day, is left alone for hours at a time?
“Separation anxiety is also a concern as many of us head back into the office environment,” Nadia Crighton from Pet Insurance Australia says. “For dogs that do not know what it’s like to spend long periods of alone time, this may also lead to issues.”
Routine is the key when helping a pet deal with the reduced amount of attention. Pet Insurance Australia suggests including a morning and evening walk with your dog and scheduling some playtime.
“Dogs can start to exhibit signs of boredom suddenly, particularly if they are used to you always being at home, so ensure you enrich their environment to avoid destructive behaviours,” Nadia says. “Keeping your dog entertained when you are not at home is easy with a few simple steps, also increasing exercise levels will help.”
The trick is to make your dog’s outdoor or indoor environment interesting, different, and challenging on a daily basis. To stave off the boredom, consider the following;
- Home Alone Toys – have a good selection of toys that you rotate daily and are only available for when you’re not there. Pick them up when you return home and put them away. This will increase the life of your dog’s toys and will keep them interested for longer. Plus, they’ll never know what selection of toys they are getting each day.
- Create a fun area for your dog – such as a half-clam shell (kiddy pool) fill one side with sand and bury some treats. Fill the other with a small amount of water.
- Challenges – think treat balls, Kongs stuffed with goodies or frozen biscuits (soak a portion of your dog’s daily diet in water then stuff the Kong and freeze), puzzle balls. Just remember to remove the food from your dog’s dinner or you might have an overweight if entertained dog!
- Chewing – deer antlers, raw big bones, synthetic bones, give your dog something to chew.
- Consider asking a friendly neighbour or a dog walking service to step in and offer some companionship and exercise for your dog.
“It’s also good to remind the kids that their furry friend could be feeling a little lonely during this time,” Nadia recommends. “A little extra pat, praise, and attention can go a long way until everyone adjusts back into normal work and school life.”
PIA also suggests that if you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour in any way seek professional advice.
“If your pet seems sad or withdrawn or is exhibiting strange behaviour call in the experts, the sooner you get to the core of the problem the better,” she adds.