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April 19, 2016

How To Leave Your Dog Home Alone

“Hi, while you’re not home I’d like you to leave an animal whose favorite activity is ‘chewing on stuff’ loose in your house.” It sounds like an insane proposition, but it’s one many of us accept each and every day. Thankfully, these days I have two well-adjusted (always using that term
“Hi, while you’re not home I’d like you to leave an animal whose favorite activity is ‘chewing on stuff’ loose in your house.” It sounds like an insane proposition, but it’s one many of us accept each and every day. Thankfully, these days I have two well-adjusted (always using that term loosely with Penny) pups who don’t cause any trouble while I’m gone. Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

This was certainly not always the case. Goodbyes used to be quite anxiety provoking for Penny

While attempting to train Penny to stay home alone, outside of her crate, we had a few…setbacks.

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

There was the time she turned my loafers into “Penny’s loafers”

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

And the mysterious case of the Swiss cheese blanket

Much of my initial training centered around making sure Penny was tired before I left. But despite being well-exercised, and despite getting a small training treat before I left, Penny inevitably caused trouble.

I realized the issue was none of my training changed the basic problem that my departure was a negative, anxiety-inducing experience for Penny. So I changed my training with the goal of making my departure have a positive association.

How’d I do that? By harnessing Penny’s ravenous love of food. Prior to leaving I put a high-value treat in front of Penny, but keeping Penny in a “stay” command. I put on my shoes and went through my normal going-out routine, all with the treat inches from Penny’s face.

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Penny would tell you it was cruel and unusual punishment

It wasn’t until I opened the front door and stepped outside that I gave Penny the “take it” command. Over time, Penny associated my sticking around with a negative feeling (the interminable wait for a treat) and my departure with the rapture and relief of finally chomping down on her sweet reward.

The new training method worked so well that these days Penny gets exasperated when I don’t leave quickly enough!

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

“OMG, Will! Go! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!”

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

And Eko? Eko calmly plays along and earns easy treats

There’s no getting around the fact we have to leave our dogs alone sometimes, but there’s certainly a way to change our pups’ perceptions of that departure. In fact my method may have worked a little too well…

Rhodesian RIdgeback, blog, chicago, adventure

Because sometimes I think Eko and Penny are happier to see me go than they are to see me come home empty handed!

But it’s a small price to pay to keep all of our sanity (and furniture) in one piece. This lesson was a costly one for me, but it’s one I’ll be able to use for the rest of my life. We can’t always change circumstances but we can certainly change perceptions.

 

Comments for How To Leave Your Dog Home Alone

  1. Emmadog says:

    Bailie seems to have magically out grown her destructive nature when home alone. She does just fine these days and we are thrilled about that!

  2. Easy never damaged something when he had to stay at home for a while. yes, I knocked on wood 3 times before I wrote this comment :o) He only starts to shred something as soon as we are back, probably as a punishment for leaving him behind… I told him that is unfair, the hospital and my insurance made this stupid rule that dogs aren’t allowed… he understood and ate my insurance card… oh man :o(

  3. Can’t believe your pups aren’t over the moon when you come back! Those dogs adore you and why not…you’re the wallet of scrumptious treats that keeps on giving among other things. 😉

  4. Elyse says:

    My husband, who works at home, is going away in the near future. Duncan will be home alone for most of the day for nearly a week. It will be a challenge for the big guy. I think I’ll give your method a try.

  5. Kismet says:

    When the peeps left Kyla alone for the first time, she was 5 months old. They thought they’d see how she did when they left for 30 minutes and visited next door. When they returned, Kyla had ripped a door jamb out of the wooden molding as if to say “I’ll show you”.

  6. Neeka was a nightmare when she was left home alone. We were unsuccessful crate training her due to her anxiety. We tried everything. The fabric muzzle was her saving grace. It seemed to calm her and kept her from finishing what she started on the couch. Khoi, on the other hand, took to his crate perfectly. After 16 months, we crossed our fingers and left him out with Neeka (she hasn’t needed the muzzle for years now). Then the big day. All day with free roam of the house. Perfection. Granted they’ve had their mad minutes (the rug was just a little off) but over all, they have been awesome. Such a relief.

  7. fran godwin says:

    Too funny when pwnny says, OMG WILL GO, cracks me up for a good laugh.

    Thx Will,Penny n Eko

  8. coastingnz says:

    oh my gosh that last shot of Penny – priceless! Great idea though, really love it. The things we learn for the next time around…..

  9. Ogee says:

    Reverse psychology! We should call you Professor Will. 🙂

  10. What a great idea. Mom will share it with new puppy parents still training for that. I am not a chewer, but I get hungry while Mom is gone. That’s why she got me a treat camera. Now she can give me a treat when she leaves, and then check on me and give me treats while she’s gone.

    Love and licks,
    Cupcake

  11. Leo's dad says:

    This is brilliant. Leo gets separation anxiety when I close his gate and leave. Now he gets some peanut butter in his Kong. And he loves when I go. #bribery

  12. Good trick – will have to keep that in mind. I feel fortunate that we’ve never had a dog with separation anxiety and Jack & Maggie are usually asleep by the time I get to the car!

  13. Jesse says:

    We were really lucky with Oshie. He never got into the whole chewing thing. He does love chewing a toy or bone and he did have an issue with socks for a little while but he thankfully never chewed furniture or anything else expensive.I don’t think we could have been too mad about it anyway. He was too dang cute.

  14. Finally time to leave penny out and about, nice job

  15. Hailey J Peterson says:

    Lovely dogs! Did you find adding a second Ridgeback helped with leaving Penny out to roam the house? We have a 13 month old Ridgeback who is still crated when we’re gone (lest he set the house on fire in his destructive wake), but eventually need to be able to leave him alone, uncrated. Nerve provoking. I’m thinking it might be less of a hardship for him if he had a baby sister to keep him company…

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