I have worked from home for years, which has meant that my six-year-old Cocker Spaniel never had to be left for long during the day. Unfortunately, business has been bad recently and I’ve had to take a part-time job at a nearby shop, meaning I will be out of the house two days a week. I’ve researched some companies locally, looking for a dog walker who can take her out during the day, but how can I best prepare her for this change in routine? I feel dreadful for having to leave her, but I have no choice.
Kirsten Dillon advises…
Firstly, don’t feel too bad about it – life happens and things change.
Before you go out for an entire day, you may want to see how she copes with being alone for a shorter length of time. Start with one or two hours and build up slowly from there. Set up a recording device so that you can watch back actual footage of what she does when you have gone. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that she settles quickly and sleeps quite happily.
Dogs are crepuscular, meaning they are at their most active at dawn and dusk, so a good walk at these times will meet her exercise and mental stimulation requirements. Then, during the middle of the day, you can ask someone to pop in, play a game or two, take her out for a loo break, give her a chew or stuffed Kong, and provide a little company. No dog should be left alone for more than four hours at a time.
If you find she is distressed by being left, you will need to seek the help of a qualified behaviourist, as separation issues can be tricky and don’t often resolve themselves.