Sorry Pup, Mama's Gotta Work: Field Guide for Working Pet Owners
So you want to get a pet or already have one, but need to go to work? Don’t worry – you’re not alone! Sure, you might feel bad, but leaving your dog alone is alright, if you take the proper steps to prepare your animal and your home.
Pick the Right Dog
Be honest with yourself when selecting a dog. If you work all day and then like to sit on the couch until going to bed, a Rhodesian Ridgeback is definitely not the dog for you. Make sure you do the proper research before picking a breed and if you are adopting, ask around the shelter, speak with the volunteers and find out the day-to-day involved with your new pet.
Some dogs require constant stimulation and some prefer sleeping over walking. Make sure you pick a pet that fits your lifestyle. If you can’t be around all the time, don’t get a dog that needs you there 24/7. You will just set yourself up for issues down the road that will be difficult to solve considering your hectic schedule.
Then, be sure to spend enough time with your dog as a puppy and stay dedicated to their training.
Prep Your Home
Dogs are den animals. I remember one dog trainer telling me that no dog is happier than when in his/her crate. Dogs are content in small, dark places – take dog houses as an example!
Make your dog’s crate a safe place. Try not to use it to discipline them and instead make it a rewarding, positive environment! Some dogs might benefit from draping a blanket over the cage. This makes it more like a den, and keeps them from realizing they are totally alone in a big open space.
Leave plenty of water and one stimulating chew toy in their cage and they should be fine. Dogs instinctively will not urinate where they sleep, so by making the crate a positive space, you can prevent accidents while you are away.
Routine. Routine. Routine.
Make a schedule for your dog. Pick a time for feeding, exercise and play and try to stick with it, even on the weekends. It is important for your dog to adapt to your lifestyle. Even if it means getting up an hour earlier each day, you should make time in the morning to walk your dog. Try to get them tired so they don’t have excess energy when left alone.
When you come home, dedicate a portion of time to exercising, feeding and playing with your dog. But don’t forget to also portion off time away from your dog. Just because you leave him alone during the day does not mean the dog should rule your life when you’re home. Be sure to set your boundaries in the house so they don’t become too attached.
On weekends, try to keep to your morning and night time routines the same. Sure, you may want to take the dog to the beach for the whole day, but be sure his walking and eating schedule remains the same.
Added bonus: once they have a routine, it will be easy to rely friends or dog walkers/sitters should you need to go away!
Finding a Dog Walker/Sitter
I know you’d prefer to pass them off to a friend, but some don’t have that luxury. If you don’t know anyone willing or your dog has behavioral/medical issues, you should rely on a professional!
As a dog owner, you have a lot of resources for finding a dog care professional. Your vet or local pet store can most likely recommend someone reliable. Then, there are your friends with dogs. Ask around. See if anyone has worked with someone great. There are also several professional groups, like National Association of Professional Pet Sitters who can help you find someone in your area. Don’t be afraid to interview candidates to make sure they are the right person for your pet!
Obviously, if you have a well-balanced dog, relying on a neighborhood kid is fine, too! In fact, I used to walk dogs in my neighborhood, often for free, just because I loved doing it!
Doggy Daycare is also an option if you really can’t stand leaving the little guy alone. But it’s also very expensive and (in my opinion) unnecessary. Kennels are one thing, full on daycare is another. Most dogs will be fine if left alone! Give yourself and your dog a chance before settling on daycare.
All dogs are prone to separation anxiety, if they aren’t handled carefully. Be sure to create boundaries with your dog and do not encourage over excited greetings. A lot of people have a tendency to over excite their dog when they get home, which makes it harder for the dog when you aren’t there.
PetPlace.com recommends ignoring your dog for 10 minutes before you leave and 10 minutes after you get home. Allow them to settle down before rewarding them with attention. Once they are calm, you can show them love, take them for a walk and play.
It’s important to give yourself time alone, too, so the dog does not get too attached. For example, PetPlace warns against letting your dog sleep with you, especially if they suffer from separation anxiety. That only encourages attachment. Instead, try to make them happy about their crate/bed so they feel comfortable when left alone there.
Every dog is different, and if your dog starts exhibiting unusual behaviors, you should consult a trainer or vet for more specific advice. But definitely, don’t let your job stand in the way of becoming a pet owner. Millions of Americans do it every single day, and so can you with a little bit of time and dedication!!
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