Regardless of how much we adore our dogs, we can’t always be around them. This is why, in addition to creating an amazing home for them, we have to make sure that we also help them be at ease when we’re not there. Of course, this is one of those things that’s much easier said than done, since being on their own can be very stressful for dogs, for some dogs, being left home alone can even lead to separation anxiety (click here for separation anxiety video).
Let’s see how you could help a dog like this German Shepherd Golden Retriever mix to settle by themselves.
First off, you have to make sure that your dog is able to feel relaxed when you are at home, but are not paying attention to him or her. For that, he or she should have their own bed or covered den, in a place where they won’t be distracted. Indeed, when you’re cooking, or doing some type of activity, give him or her a tasty food-release toy in their bed. By doing so a couple of times, they will learn to enjoy their bed when no one is paying attention to them.
Now, if they start following you around, this is perfectly normal, since dogs are social beings, after all, however they need to learn that they can't have your attention ALL of the time, so make sure you spend some time each day ignoring your dog, so that they learn to amuse themselves.
Move a Bit Further Away
Separation is something that can be taught, but it has to happen gradually, with plenty of patience. When your dog is calm and at ease, use baby gates across doorways to teach your little dog that it’s ok for you to be at a distance from them, and they don’t have to worry. Before going through the baby-gate, make sure you leave some treats spread out on the floor, or give them a toy. Stay away for short periods at first, and then gradually build up.
It is very important that if you see your dog becoming very anxious, you go back to leaving them for a shorter period of time. If the dog is not able to calm down at all, it may be a good idea to look for a qualified behaviourist for help.
The Big Step: Leaving Them Alone
Before leaving your pooch in the house, make sure to take them out for a walk to make sure that they’ve gone to the toilet and burned off some energy. Be sure to leave them with water and safe chew toys. It’s also a good idea to have your things all prepared, so that you can be both quick and calm when you’re leaving, so that the dog won’t pick up on your stressed energy and become stressed themselves. Something else that can help a great deal is establishing a leaving routine, and incorporating a special phrase in it, that’s only used when you leave. Routine is crucial for helping your dog know what will happen next, and for helping them feel safe.
It’s also a good idea to make sure they have a food-release toy, or something that will keep them entertained for at least 15 minutes. The tastier, the better. Another great idea is leaving an old item of clothing that smells like you in their bed, so that they will have something to help keep them safe. Also, be sure to leave the radio or the TV on, to keep them distracted from outside noises. Finally, it’s important to ensure that you’re not gone for a very long time the first couple of times. If you have a camera you can use to supervise them, that would be best. However, even if you don’t, try leaving for only 30 minutes the first time, and then gradually increasing the time you spend away from the house. When figuring this aspect out, it’s also very important to make sure that you take into consideration how long they can go before going to the bathroom.
Leaving your dog at home alone for the first time, can be quite a stressful experience for both of you. However, if you take care to prepare them for it ahead of time, this can become a more pleasant journey, which they can be eased into slowly. Patience is the key, however, since dogs are social beings, and they do prefer to be around humans as much as possible. Still, this doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to be happy for a while on their own.
For more advice on leaving your dog home alone, check out our videos on Canine Separation Anxiety
Forty percent of dogs are considered obese in the UK. While this is enough to warrant an epidemic, the problem stems from a combination of owners not recognising when their own dog is overweight, and not understanding how little weight a dog needs to gain before their health is at risk.
While the health risks of obesity in dogs can be life threatening, it is also a problem which, if kept in check, is relatively easy to avoid.
Health Risks of Obesity
Each breed of dog typically has an ideal adult weight range, says pet nutrition experts James Wellbeloved. As a general rule, if your dog falls under the recommended weight range, they are too thin. Likewise, if they exceed the weight range, they are considered overweight to an unhealthy degree. Sometimes this is only the difference of a few kilogrammes, so owners need to be vigilant and weigh their pet regularly.
Obesity is a very serious problem in dogs and can very quickly lead to long-term health issues, including high blood pressure, increased risk of cancer, diabetes, liver disease, and osteoarthritis. It is also likely to lower the effectiveness of their immune system, increasing the risk of harm from other illnesses and diseases.
Signs Your Dog Is Overweight
The easiest way to tell if your dog is overweight is to go to the vet. However, you should be able to approximate your dog’s condition without the vet, too, so you can ensure your dog is inside their healthy weight range.
1. Find an online dog weight chart and learn the ideal weight range of your dog according to their breed and sex. Weigh your dog and compare.
2. Dogs should have a visibly tapering waistline when viewed from above, and a tucked abdomen from the side. If you can’t see either, your dog is probably overweight.
3. If your dog struggles to get to their feet, fatigues easily on walks, or has trouble breathing, obesity could be a factor.
4. If you can see your dog’s ribs and spine without touching them, they are too thin. Conversely, if you struggle to feel their ribs through the layers of fat and muscle, they are too heavy.
Staying at A Healthy Weight
Like humans, the key to any healthy dog diet is a balance between eating healthy food, eating regularly and not to excess, and staying exercised.
• Feed your dog purpose-made food that is suitable for their age and size. Dogs need different levels of nutrition at different stages of life.
• Feed your dog at regular times each day, and never exceed the recommended daily amount, unless your vet has explicitly advised to do so.
• Avoid giving your dog excessive treats.
• Cut out table scraps. They are disruptive to the diet and encourage bad eating habits.
• Exercise your dog every day with quality walks and regular play.
• Know what your dog’s ideal weight should be, weigh your dog regularly, and schedule regular check-ups with your vet.
It doesn’t take much for your dog to become overweight and have their health put at risk. Keep them happy and healthy by remaining vigilant about their size, only feed them a healthy diet, and substitute the treats for regular play and affection.
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