I don’t know about you, but I am feeling things are finally getting back to normal after the strange times during the Covid pandemic.
Our pets have been so important to us during the crisis, providing us with company, and if you have a dog, a reason to exercise, but now we are getting back to normal life we have the problem of what to do with our furry friends when we go out, on holiday or go back to the office.
Research shows new owners are worried
About 3.2 million households got a new pet during the pandemic. Research by the Kennel Club in August 2020 showed that nearly a fifth of new dog owners who bought a puppy during the pandemic don’t know if their dog will fit in with their post covid lifestyle. In addition, 22 percent of new dog owners said they were concerned about their puppy’s behaviour due to a lack of socialisation with other people and dogs during lockdowns.
So what can we do to make leaving our new dog home alone stress free for everyone?
The first step in being able to leave your dog alone while you pop out is to build up their tolerance to being left alone. It’s important not to make a fuss when you leave the house, so they don’t start to get stressed even before you leave. If you can leave by a door, you dog isn’t near that will help, but make as little fuss as you can and leave as quickly as possible. You don’t need to say goodbye!
Initially leave them alone for a short space of time, say 15 mins and then return. Over the next few days leave them for a slightly longer periods of time on each trip out, slowly building up their tolerance to being left alone.
Make sure they are in a safe environment that isn’t too hot or cold and they always have water available.
The maximum time an adult dog should be left alone is about 4 hours, but every dog is different, and you will need to work with your dog to build up their tolerance to being home alone slowly and see how they cope.
Some dogs will adjust to you being out quite easily and probably just sleep while you are away. Others will find it stressful and may become stressed and destructive or bark. You won’t know how they react until you try!
If your dog gets upset, noisy or destructive it is good to consult a behaviourist for advice on how to help them deal with their stress. Leaving them with toys that are puzzles to solve is a good distraction. A cardboard box with treats hidden inside in bits of screwed up paper is great fun for your dog, and they will love ripping it apart to get at the treats!
Preparing to leave your dog with someone else
If you are concerned that your dog is not well socialised with other dogs or people, attending dog training classes is a great way to get them used to interacting with others. Training classes will allow you to learn how to train your dog and give your dog a safe environment in which to interact with other dogs and people. Talk to the training class leader before you attend and explaining any worries you might have will enable you to work with them to make sure you get the most out of the classes.
Ensuring your dog is comfortable and well behaved around other dogs and new people will mean that you can consider employing dog walkers to take your dog out while you are at work, or dog sitters for when you are away.
When you decide on a short list of carers its important to meet them and allow your dog or other pets interact with them to see how they get on. Leaving them with a candidate carer for a short period of time is also important so they can get used to each other and you can make sure everyone feels comfortable. A reputable carer will suggest how you might do this familiarisation process and it’s important you and your pets are happy with the carer you choose.
What are the options for pet care?
There are lots of organisations offering dog and pet care while you are away. You’ll be able to find local dog walking or pet sitting care providers online and the National Association of Pet Sitters and Dog Walkers UK have the details of registered professional pet care providers local to you.
There are larger national organisations that provide the opportunity for people who have dogs or pets to find other people who might like to care for them for a while.
BorrowMyDoggy is one such organisation that matches experienced dog owners who would like a dog in their life without buying one with those owners needing help caring for their dog. This might be due to work commitments, illness or holidays and works well for both parties.
Trusted House Sitters is another organisation matching people who are going away who need their house and pets cared for with people who would lie to visit a new area and are experienced pet owners.
Holidays4Dogs is another organisation matching experienced dog owners with owners that need someone to care for their pets for a short period of time and they have sitters in many parts of England and some parts of Scotland and Wales.
For those who have limited means or who face an emergency there are charities that help. The Mayhew charity run a pet refuge programme that provides shelter and care for the pets of people in crisis. Based in London, this short term care can help people who need to go to hospital, needs respite support or encounter an unexpected emergency.
The Cinnamon Trust is another charity offering care and support for older owners, those in their last years and their pets. They have a network of 18,000 volunteers who help keep owners and their pets together providing dog walking services and foster care.
Whatever your decision about how best to ensure your pets are happy and fit around your new 'normal' life don't forget to insure their health, just in case. You can read reviews for all the insurers we feature to help you make the right choice for you and your furry friends.