Pet adoptions reached record levels during the pandemic as people welcomed a new, furry family member into their home. These pets brought people the much-needed companionship, joy and entertainment that only a pet can bring. Now, as many are returning back to the office, even part time, people are learning that their new dog may have anxiety when alone or be lacking basic training skills.
Even simple, everyday activities such as grabbing your keys or putting on your coat can turn into cues for your dog and trigger stress. PetSmart training expert Jodie Havens, CPDT-KSA, shares advice on how to ease your dog’s anxiety and correct challenging behaviors when left at home alone.
Create a Positive Routine Around Leaving the House
For dogs that begin to display stress the moment they sense you are about to go out, try creating positive associations with you preparing to leave the house to help them remain calm. For example, while you are putting on your coat or shoes, give your pup a treat.
As you grab your keys, give them a treat and then place the keys back on the table – repeat this drill with them a few times. Repeating behaviors that may trigger stress and instead giving positive reinforcement will help to create a pleasant association with these actions. You can also try mixing up your routine a bit each time you are getting ready to leave the house. Being less predictable will give your dog less time to build up stress and anticipate your departure.
Provide Mental Stimulation with They Are Alone
PetSmart offers many different interactive toys or dog puzzles that can keep your dog entertained while you are away. This not only helps to create distractions to keep your dog out of trouble, but it also gives them ongoing mental stimulation that dogs truly need.
“Mental stimulation is key to creating a happier, well-balanced and confident dog,” said Havens. “Interactive toys or activities give dogs an outlet to direct their energy and attention while home alone which can decrease behavioral issues such as chewing or barking”
Give Them an Outlet While You Are Home
Giving your dog physical and mental stimulation a bit before you leave the house is also key. Getting their energy out before you leave can help to keep them calmer when alone and less hungry for active attention. Taking a sniffy walk or engaging in a play session a half an hour or hour before you leave will give them a sense of purpose and accomplishment for the day and help tire them out.
Get Proper Training
Whether you have a young pup or an older dog, PetSmart training classes can help your pup learn how to behave appropriately at home and on-the-go. Classes are available both in-person and virtually, and meet the needs of all pets with focus areas including Beginner Training, a new Stress LessTM Training, Brain GamesTM Training and more.
PetSmart’s virtual dog training offers one-on-one instruction with accredited trainers that is a great option for pet parents who want to customize their curriculum and work on their dog’s problem behaviors in the environment where they occur.
PetSmart Accredited Trainers can provide a free, 15-minute evaluation to determine the right course for your dog to address challenging behaviors your dog may be experiencing as you leave the house. Helping to ease your dog’s anxiety around being alone can also lower stresses for you knowing your dog is happy and your home is safe. For more information about PetSmart training classes and locations, visit PetSmart.com/training.