Image via Anna Hoychuk/Shutterstock.com
By Teresa Traverse
Pet parents always tend to worry about something happening to their dog while they are away. Dog safety is at the forefront of every pet parent’s mind when they have to leave their best friend at home.
A dog home alone can be a recipe for disaster—but not to worry. There are certain precautions you can take to ensure your pet’s safety when you’re not at home.
Be Sure to Put Things Away
“The most common thing we see is dogs getting into the garbage or eating something on the counter that they shouldn’t,” says Dr. Carly Fox, DVM, emergency and critical care staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in New York City.
To prevent your dog from accidentally ingesting something harmful, be sure to keep your place picked up, and put away any hazardous objects or food that’s dangerous to pets.
Be sure your garbage bin has a lid with a latch so that your pup cannot dig around inside for snacks while you are away. The garbage bin should also be stored in a cupboard or in a place with restricted access.
Dr. Fox says she’ll occasionally see dogs who have chewed up electrical wires, so be sure to create barriers or covers for your electrical wires that prevent your dog from being able to get to them while you are away.
Dogs also can rip up dog plush toys or dog beds and mats and ingest the fluff or pieces of fabric, so it is important to pay attention to your dog’s chewing habits. If you know your dog shreds toys or shreds beds when nervous, it is best to put those items away while you are out of the house.
Keeping cabinets closed and latched is also a smart idea. It will limit your dog’s access to cleaning supplies, garbage and other products or items that could make them ill. A great way to ensure your pup cannot get into your cabinets is to use child-proof cabinet locks that require agile hands to open.
Hire a Dog Sitter
If you’re going to be leaving your dog home alone for longer periods of time during the day, it is worth considering hiring a dog sitter or dog walker. “These days under most circumstances, that’s probably what I’d recommend for most of my clients,” says Dr. Kwane Stewart, DVM, chief veterinary officer of American Humane.
Dr. Stewart advises trying to maintain your dog’s routine even when your schedule changes. Your dog’s routine is an important part of their overall health and happiness. Routines help dogs thrive.
If you are going to be changing your schedule around or are going to have to spend longer periods of time out of the house, it is important to find a way to keep your dog’s schedule as close to what he’s used to as possible, or to gradually adjust them to your new schedule. Hiring a dog sitter is a great way to help make sure your dog stays in a healthy routine or can get slowly adjusted to a new one in a way that minimizes their stress.
Technology has come a long way when it comes to pets, and there are a variety of options out there that allow pet parents to stay more connected to their pets, no matter where they are.
So, if you are a pet parent that worries about having your dog home alone, even if it is just for a few hours, dog cameras and monitors are a great option. Pet cameras like the Pawbo+ Wi-Fi interactive pet camera and treat dispenser and the Petcube Bites Wi-Fi pet camera and treat dispenser allow you to check in on your canine companion throughout the day from your phone. You can even provide them with dog treats just to show you are thinking of them. Both Dr. Fox and Dr. Stewart recommended using pet cameras as a way to monitor your pet while you are not home.
Dr. Stewart also recommends using a dog GPS collar or even alarm systems that go off if your dog escapes the house. This way you can keep tabs on your dog and their activities while you are out and be notified if your dog has escaped from your home.
Crate Your Dog
“If you want to be 100 percent safe, the best thing to do is crate them,” says Dr. Fox. “Most dogs actually like being in their crate. It’s a very safe space.”
Dog crates are the best way to prevent your dog from getting into trouble when leaving your dog home alone. They are especially helpful if you have a dog with destructive tendencies.
If your dog isn’t used to being in a crate, make sure to gradually ease him into the routine and create positive associations with the crate so that he sees it as a safe spot and not a punishment.
Consider feeding your dog in his crate at least until he looks forward to his time there. You can even set aside a small amount of his dog food to use as a reward for willingly entering his crate.
Dr. Stewart advises leaving your dog crated while you head to work in the morning and then letting him out when you return for a lunch break. Or having a dog sitter or dog walker take your pet out around lunchtime.
You also could consider confining them to one area of your house—like the kitchen or a bathroom—using dog gates. If you do this, be sure you dog-proof your cabinets with child locks and keep dangerous or toxic items out of reach. Dr. Fox recommends leaving your dog with rubber dog toys since they’re harder to rip up than plush ones to ensure he doesn’t get bored.
If you’re confining your pet to a specific area, be sure to leave water in an accessible place, says Dr. Stewart.
Separating Multiple Dogs
If you have multiple dogs in your home and know that sometimes disagreements can break out, it might be best to keep them separate while you are not home. Dr. Fox says that keeping the dogs separate can prevent potential injuries.
You can use a dog gate to keep them in separate rooms, or you can keep them in dog crates. No matter how you choose to separate the dogs while you are out, it will help to ease any anxiety about possible injuries while leaving your dogs home alone.
Provide Your Dog With Entertainment
When you are not home, your dog may start to search for alternative forms of entertainment to keep himself busy while he waits for you to come home. As Dr. Stewart explains, “There are things in your pet’s reach that normally in your presence they wouldn’t get to.” He continues, “You’re away… Boredom sets in. And they start trying to go after things or chew things.”
To help deter your dog from chewing on household items or furniture, it is a good idea to provide them with dog-friendly items to chew on as a safe alternative. You can try using dog interactive toys or dog chew toys. These dog toys are designed to keep your dog occupied and mentally stimulated, so they are ideal for a dog home alone. Both vets also recommended treat balls.
Dr. Fox says that she always leaves her dog with a KONG Classic dog toy when she is not home. She says, “It really keeps him super active. I think it prevents him from getting into trouble because he’s so focused on getting the treats out.”
You can also consider providing your dog with some background noise by leaving the TV on. Or you can try calming sounds and music by using the radio or a speaker, like the Pet Acoustics pet tunes speaker.
“It’s helpful to try to step into the mind of your pet for a moment,” says Dr. Stewart. “And then act accordingly.”
Close Your Windows
Another pet safety concern when leaving pets home alone is their access to open windows. “We see a lot of cats and dogs falling out of windows,” says Dr. Fox.
It is important that you make sure that the windows in your home are securely closed and locked before you head out. This will prevent your dog from being able to escape through an open window or jump through a screen. If you must leave your windows open for ventilation, secure them so they can only be opened a few inches wide while you are gone.
Don’t Leave Your Pet in the Yard Unsupervised
“You shouldn’t leave your dog outside when you’re not at home,” says Dr. Fox.
If you’re not at home, the risk of your dog escaping from your yard and running away are too high. In the hot summer sun, leaving your dog outside exposed to the elements can lead to issues like sunburn, dehydration, burnt paw pads and heatstroke, just to name a few.
Put a Decal on Your Window Specifying That You Have Pets
If you have pets at home, it is also a great idea to put an emergency decal, like the Imagine This Company “Rescue Our Pets” decal, on your door or at the entrances of your home. This will help emergency responders know to rescue your pets if you ever have an emergency at your house while you are not home.
“It can only help. And it could very potentially help save one of your pet’s lives,” says Dr. Fox. “It could be a deterrent to someone who wants to rob your house.”
It is also smart to let your neighbors know how many animals you have in your home, too.