Becoming a dog owner changes your life. You have an amazing bundle of furry joy that now relies on you, so what should you consider when leaving your dog alone.
I’m sure many of us would love to spend all day with our pets and I’m sure some of us have even passed up on invitations due to feeling guilty leaving our fur baby home alone.
However there are times when we have to leave our pets when we go to work, family events or holidays away, so what do fur parents need to know to keep their pet happy and healthy.
THE DAY TO DAY ROUTINE
You don’t want your dog to be crossing their legs all day long or urinating inside because they haven’t had enough bathroom breaks.
It can not only be an unwanted mess to clean but also holding urine for prolonged periods of time has is at risk of urinary tract infections, crystals and stones.
According to Dr Kristy Conn, Veterinary Medicine recommends urinary frequency in dogs will vary due to factors such as age, sex, body size and overall health.
“Ideally, adult dogs should be allowed outside to relieve themselves 3-5 times a day,” Dr Conn said.
“Typically, smaller breeds and younger dogs will need to urinate more frequently than larger breeds and older dogs.”
Common time limits for dogs at different life stages:
- Puppies: one hour per every month of age (so a four month old puppy can wait four hour to pee)
- Adult dogs (One year and older): up to eight hours, but ideally no more than six
- Senior dogs (Eight years and older): depending on size and health, anywhere from two to six hours
Provide a break every four to six hours to ensure your furbaby's comfort and safety.
Standard work days are eight to ten hours long, so what if you can’t pop home at lunch to take your dog out? Hire a dog walker for worry-free pet care.
Dogs need an outlet for their energy and this is best channelled into exercise and play.
Obesity is a common problem among Australian pets and no matter your dogs energy and fitness level exercise helps them:
- Stay healthy
- Digest meals
- Stimulate their mind
- Burn calories
- Avoid boredom and boredom-induced destructive behaviours
Of course individual exercise needs vary depending on your dog’s age, breed and health level, however all dogs require daily exercise, regardless of their breed and size.
As a guide, healthy dogs need about 60 minutes of moderate activity every day but does not need to be continuous.
A good starting point is: In the morning enjoy a 20-30 minute walk or play session, then a midday romp (with you or a dog walker) to break up the alone time and of course quality time with you when you arrive home in the evening.
Keeping your best friend happy, healthy and on their best behaviour can require mental exercise activity, also known as enrichment.
The RSPCA Animal and Behaviour Training Centre says mental wellbeing is often not given quite the same amount of attention as physical health needs but is very important.
“Good psychological health will enable your dog to be calm, able to cop more readily with stressful events and generally have a more enjoyable life,” they said.
“Additionally keeping your dog entertained will reduce the opportunity that your dog has to practice problem behaviours such as nuisance barking, digging, chewing and escaping.”
Mental stimulating activities can be simple and your dog will love you for it.
Tips and ideas to keep your dog mentally stimulated:
- Exercise outside the yard: beach, park or at another house (Doggy day care or play dates)
- Dog toys: Have a toy box for each day so your dog feels like they’re getting new toys everyday. Find enrichment toys here.
- Use food to entertain: Ditch the food bowl and use food as rewards, hid it around the house, make dog popsicles with treats frozen in ice or use it in puzzle toys like kongs.
- Make a treat bottle: Use an old 2Ltr plastic bottle with lid, plastic ring and labels off, clean the bottle, cut a few holes in the sides and place treats or dog biscuits inside.
- Make an ice treat: Place dog treats in an ice cream container, fill with water, freeze overnight and once frozen tip the ice treat out of its container.
- Amusement areas at home: Make a sand pit or water pit your dog can freely dig and play in.
LONGER TRIPS AWAY: WHAT IS BEST HOUSE VISITS OR HOUSE/PET SITTING?
What about when it comes to being away? At what point should you change from house visits to house sitting or pet sitting.
Pictured: Dr Mandy Paterson, Principal Scientist for RSPCA Queensland
Dr Mandy Paterson, Principal Scientist for RSPCA Queensland advises a dog should not be left along for more than 48 hours.
Dr Paterson said if a pet owner is away for any longer periods of time the dog should either have a house sitter or go stay with a pet sitter so they can have physical company as they are pack animals.
When dogs are left alone for extended periods it can lead to behaviour like barking, whining, destruction, escapism.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SITTER
It is important for pet owners to select a pet sitter who is well suited to their pet’s needs such as exercise requirements, energy levels, social needs, attention needs, etc.
In particular if your fur baby experiences separation anxiety, destructive chewing or escapism such as digging or jumping fences, choose a sitter who is home throughout the day.
Pet owners should consider booking a pet sitter who offers dog walking services and able to walk their pet twice a day.
Also by packing your pets favourite enrichment toys, your pet will be receive mental and physical stimulation and return home a happy pet!