Contributing writer: Lucy Wyndham
It comes as no surprise that Seattle is known for its ‘dog obsession’, with more canines officially living within city limits than children. There are about 153,000 dogs compared to 107,178 little tykes, with many owners seeing their pets as no less than ‘four-pawed children’.
Of course, if it were left to Fido’s ‘humans’, they would probably choose to spend all day with him visiting the park, playing fetch and afterward, lying on the sofa for a good old-fashioned rest. Unfortunately, most Americans work a minimum of eight hours a day, and a vast majority are unable to get home to walk the dog or ensure he is entertained. To lower Fido’s (and your own) stress levels, follow these tips to ensure he has a fun-filled day, even in your absence.
A full belly is a happy belly
There is nothing worse than feeling lonely, bored, and hungry. Feeding your dog should part of your morning routine, just as important as a long walk and active exercise for a good half hour or full hour, every morning without fail. Feeling full and tired out is the perfect combination for a nice sleep, which is one of the best ways to reduce the intensity with which your pooch misses you.
Don’t feed all your pet’s food in his bowl. Hide quality kibble in Kong-style treats, feeling confident about filling more than one and leaving them in places your dog already knows you favor when playing hide-and-seek. These toys can take hours to fully empty, so more energetic dogs can find a new obsession apart from you, their beloved owner.
I’ve got my eye on you
Spying on your pet is fully legit; consider investing in a pet chat device, which allows you to have video calls with your pooch. It is very easy to use it; just train your dog to approach the device, which hands out treats when he clicks on a specific button. Many owners swear by this device, though some pooches are more “interested” in conference calls than others.
What if it is separation anxiety? Dogs who suffer from this condition (which needs to be seen to by a veterinary behavioralist) often display various behaviors, including destroying furniture and apparel, howling and barking, doing ‘number one and two’ in the house, trying to escape, and more.
First things come first: protect your woodwork against gnaw marks by spraying tables and other wood features with a DIY essential oil spray (fill a small spray bottle with water and around 20 drops of citrus therapeutic grade essential oil and spray to your liking). Take any steps you need to to keep Fido away from valued pieces of furniture (e.g. consider placing baby gates to keep him confined to specific rooms in the home). Also, ensure he has plenty of exercise since boredom is one of the main reasons why dogs might destroy items in the home.
A dog behavioralist will often recommend desensitization, which essentially involves teaching your dog to understand that when you leave, you will always come back to him. To start, do everything you normally do when you leave home in the morning (e.g. pick up your keys and your coat, fill his water bowl etc.), but instead of leaving, you sit down again. As the days progress, you then practice actually leaving the home for a few seconds, coming back very quickly to reassure your dog. Extend Fido’s alone time to minutes, then hours, until he stops associating being left alone, with abandonment.
You need to experiment to see if special ‘doggy CDs’ and/or ‘white noise’ work to instill a calmer state in your dog. There are also dog TV channels and videos that just might pique Fido’s interest.
No two dogs are alike, and that means that owners need to try a number of different tactics to ensure their dogs are okay when left alone. Dogs should generally not be alone for over eight hours, so dog sitters and walkers are an excellent tool for those who cannot get home in time to give their dog the long walk he needs to enjoy optimal health and happiness.