Full time work, less people time for dog.
April 30, 2013 12:57 PM   Subscribe

Our dog, Apple who you might remember from some other puggle-problem questions- is doing really well. She no longer shows signs of separation anxiety and we've even got her to stop barking hello when we walk in the door. But for the first time in her little life with us- I will be transitioning from working at home to working at an office full time. Poor little apple will be alone for a good seven hours five days a week. So what do we do to make it easier on her?

So a dog walker and doggy day care are out. Our plan so far is to specifically dedicated more time each day to giving her attention, but is there anything that you can think of?
posted by Blisterlips to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Toys. Freeze a kong with food and peanut butter in it. That usually keeps them busy for a half hour to an hour. Chew toys are also great for distraction (just make sure they're big enough they can't be choked on and won't splinter). If she isn't crate trained yet, now is a great time to do that.
posted by zug at 1:02 PM on April 30, 2013

That's a long time for a little dog. I've been there. When we had to discontinue dog walks, I started going home in the middle of the day for an hour. I assume that wouldn't work either?

Other than that, long walk in the morning. Maybe a treat that takes a long time to eat, like PB frozen inside a Kong? (Sadly, our dog isn't food-motivated enough to be distracted by that for long.)

Do you crate her? (Apologies if this was in a previous question.) We've found that it helps-- otherwise ours runs around anxiously, getting more and more worked up.
posted by supercres at 1:02 PM on April 30, 2013

I'd leave her with some puzzles to keep her engaged. If she likes food, try stuffing a Kong with some treats and baby food, and freezing it. My dog also is very entertained by frozen bones. There's the ongoing fascinating questions for him of where to put them, when to go check on them, and when they will start to thaw enough for a good chew.

Also, bear in mind that your dog will sleep most of the time you are gone. She won't long for you and miss you and think of you every minute.

Lastly, don't make a big deal of arrival and departure. You don't want to get the separation anxiety going again.
posted by bearwife at 1:05 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We recently de-crated her- we had been working on her anxious barking for over a year and had gotten down to five min barking intervals when we just let her out of the crate and she hasn't made a peep since. It looks like being confined made it worse.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:06 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

My large pit bull mix just curls up somewhere and sleeps all day, occasionally making his rounds to check out what's going on around the house.

We do a couple of things to make the process of leaving him home alone after his morning walk less traumatic:
He sometimes gets a kibble and frozen peanut-butter stuffed KONG toy (decrease your dog's additional food intake accordingly) when he's left alone for a long time. We put it on the floor but he's not allowed to approach it until after everyone leaves – so he usually can't wait for people to go away already. Peanut butter is reserved for this occasion only – he never gets it under other circumstances, so it's a special "home alone" treat. Frozen beef marrow bones serve the same purpose, except he'll spend at least two-three hours with them when the KONG takes 20 minutes at best.

We also have a phrase associated with leaving him, so he doesn't get excited when people start putting shoes on and then disappointed – "Watch the house!" in his case. His tail stops wagging immediately upon hearing it and it's heartbreaking.

We hide one of his favorite treats somewhere in the house for him to find during the day. We've had to get creative and the locations keep getting increasingly difficult because he's amazingly good at finding them, and these days he'll systematically sniff every square inch of the house to find his treat. That keeps him occupied for a while and appears to tire him mentally as well, especially if the treat is in a tricky location, like at the top of a door that he needs to push with his nose so the treat falls down.

But really, he mostly just enjoys sleeping in our bed, uninvited, looking out of all the windows and occasionally stepping out on the upstairs deck to tan if the weather is good and I leave the door open.
posted by halogen at 1:11 PM on April 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

My little dog is at home all day while I'm at work. It's a long time. I feel bad about it, but...he seems to do just fine. Maybe 30% of the time when I come home he wants to cuddle (jumps in to my arms, licks my neck, etc), but usually he just acknowledges me with a knee lick or two, lets me hug him, then goes right back to playing like he was doing before I walked in.

There are a few factors at play here:

1) My dog is litter box trained, so he can pee and poop himself throughout the day whenever he needs to.
2) My dog has always been a really independent player. (On the weekends, when I'm home all day, he generally just wanders off by himself to do his own thing. Unless I'm ACTIVELY PLAYING with him (as in, full on wrestling with him) he seems to prefer to play on his own.)
3) This is how it's always been so he doesn't really know another way.

My dog has (nearly) free reign of the house. I close off all the side doors and block the couch/tv area with a gate, but otherwise he's got a huge living room/hallway/kitchen space to roam around in.

He also has LOTS of toys of various stripes. A few chew toys, a few stuffies, a few squeaky things, some ropes and stuff, and more than a dozen tennis balls. He plays with EVERYTHING and seems to be most entertained by playing soccer (he'll hold a stuffy in his mouth and drag it around while kick/chasing a tennis ball).

I think a lot of this is going to come down to individual dog personality, but my advice would be to provide plenty for Apple to do during the day. And leave her something (a blanket or a pillow or a t-shirt or something) that you sleep with so she can bury herself in something that smells like you while you're gone.
posted by phunniemee at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Truman also gets a high value treat every time I leave the house. Me leaving=duck jerky.
posted by phunniemee at 1:15 PM on April 30, 2013

You need a dog-walker if you work long hours and/or your schedule is inconsistent. I make less than $35,000/year and live in a really expensive city, and I figured it out because I really had to. I know that a lot of pro dogwalkers are expensive, and doggie daycare is ridiculously so, but what about paying a local student to walk her in the afternoon? Or something like that? Can you go home during lunch and take her for a quick walk around the block?

I don't know much about little dogs, but I've heard that they don't have the champion bladders that big dogs do. My 80-pound boy can hold it for a loooong time, but he has a bigger bladder than I do, probably.

My dog is not terribly interested in stuffed kongs, but those should keep her busy for a while. Make layers of food - peanut butter, kibble, canned food, etc. - to keep the excitement and discovery going.

Even if you don't crate your dog, don't give her the whole run of the house. She's not going to exercise by romping between rooms, but the empty space might stress her out. Also, I don't know how high your dog can jump, but be aware of anything tempting above the level she usually jumps. Loaf of bread on the counter? Maybe put it in a cabinet. Etc. My dog doesn't sniff around when I'm home, but when I leave him alone, he's like, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT'S UP THERE?!????

But other than the bathroom issue, I think you might be surprised at how easily your dog adjusts. Dogs don't have a very accurate sense of time. I left for a week and came back and my dog was like, "Oh, it's you." I went for a forty-minute run this morning and my dog completely lost it when I got home.

She's probably just going to sleep all day. But she might need to pee.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:15 PM on April 30, 2013

Why is a doggie walker out? My sister had a neighborhood kid come by every afternoon to let the dog out and to play with her for a bit. Sissy paid $10 per week.

But nthing that as dogs get older, they spend a lot of their days sleeping. So it's not like she'll be all freaked out and moping.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:17 PM on April 30, 2013

Growing up we would often leave the radio on "for company."
posted by oceano at 1:18 PM on April 30, 2013

How much does she do during the day when you are home. I am willing to bet she sleeps most of the time and that is what she will do while you are at work. I would suggest a nice long walk in the mornings if that's an option to encourage sleeping, and another one in the evening to stretch her legs and let her have a good pee and a poop, a tired dog is a good dog, and a nice treat just as you are leaving so she associated you going with getting a yummy frozen kong full of treats.

Some nice indestructible toys or balls, maybe put a worn shirt of yours in her bed for the first few days so she has a place she feels secure. The only problem will be peeing, if she's used to being able to go out during the day when she needs to go, you might want to work on building up her holding on skills a little by slowly making the time between pee walks longer instead of expecting her to hold it 7 hours from the get go.
posted by wwax at 1:22 PM on April 30, 2013

You may have a little recidivism at the end of the day, but dogs can't really tell time all that well. 70 minutes and 7 hours aren't dramatically different as long as their bladders are okay.

My husband works at home full-time and I am around on weekends and the occasional weekday, and while our dogs enjoy having access to the back yard, they really spend most of the time sleeping. They sleep in his office, they sleep under the dining room table where I work, they sleep outside, they sleep on the couch or the bed or the hallway if we're both home and they can't decide who they want to sleep next to. When we're not home, the only difference is that they're gated into one room so that the kitchen and bed pillows don't pay the price of their occasional boredom.

If your dog is especially energetic or anxious, I would encourage a puzzle toy of some kind to play with and burn off some steam, especially if it distracts them from you leaving. Since yours does have a history of separation anxiety, you might do some tapering beforehand to make sure she's not going to get destructive.

You can also, if you have a webcam or a laptop with a built-in camera, spy on your dog all day just to ease your mind.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:23 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: we're not terribly worried about her bladder, she won't pee if it's raining and had held it for more than a day when it was really storming. Dog walker is out because of the neighborhood. There are no professionals around. We have very few youths near by and almost all of them belong to cultures that are terrified of dogs. We're moving hopefully this summer so that may change.
posted by Blisterlips at 1:25 PM on April 30, 2013

Is there a computer in the house on which you can leave a webcam on to see what she's up to? That will give you a much better idea of how she's handling it. That's how we figured out that our dog is more anxious when given free rein of the house.
posted by supercres at 1:42 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Poor little apple will be alone for a good seven hours five days a week. So what do we do to make it easier on her?

Just try to be as consistent as humanly possible in your comings and goings. Uncertainty makes many of us nervous, including dogs.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:04 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

We leave our dog inside without a dog walker for 7+ hours every day. We use 2 main strategies to keep her as happy as possible:

-awesome, time-consuming treats as people have mentioned above. Our dog is a lot bigger than yours, so this might not be quite right for Apple, but we fill a bunch of old marrow bones with wet dog food at the beginning of the week and freeze them so we always have something to give her as we walk out the door.

-long, exhausting walks before work. We run around, we sniff things, we do tricks, etc. The goal is to get doggy to flop down immediately upon re-entering the house. Honestly, I think some mornings she's glad when I leave so she can finally get some rest.

Also, remember that dogs are masters of emotional manipulation. My dog will stare at me with her saddest eyes as I walk out, but if I look back through the front window 15 seconds later, she's happily chewing her bone and couldn't care less that I'm gone.
posted by juliapangolin at 3:21 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a friend you trust who could swing by in the middle of the day to check on her?

Is getting a second dog a possibility? (I've got four, so I'm biased that way. Our dogs seem much calmer when the whole pack is home together. I suspect they just sleep at each other all day, but at least they have company.

Leave the TV on Animal Planet?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:41 PM on April 30, 2013

Maybe I'm a terrible dog owner - and I don't think I am - but seven hours is nothing to sweat. Tons of people with 9-5 jobs leave their dogs at home for longer than that. I work inconsistent and sometimes long hours and that's why I need a dogwalker, but your dog should be fine.

I also always feed my dog right before I leave. He sort of notices that I'm leaving, but he's too busy eating to freak out about it.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:59 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I had a mid-size dog growing up. My mom went back to work when I was in elementary school, so both my parents ended up working 9 - 5 jobs far away from home.

My dad would give our dog a really long morning walk and then leave him in the garage in an outdoor dog kennel. [1] He had a dog bed, some treats (which he ate immediately), some bones (which he didn't), and a radio (he didn't like toys, or we would have given him a bunch). We put some vinyl under the kennel so if he really needed to go, he could. When it was too cold to leave him in the garage, we left him in his regular crate in the house (we couldn't trust him to be alone in the house or he would eat ALL THE FOOD [2] and break ALL THE STUFF). [3]

My brother or I (usually my brother, because I was a lazy kid), used to walk him when we got home. He was fine. He just slept all day and was really happy to see us in the afternoon.

The key was to leave/come home at a consistent time, and to not make a big deal out of leaving. If someone needed to run an errand after work/school, we'd come home and walk the dog first.

[1] We didn't have a fence and originally wanted our dog to be able to be outside, but he was a terrier mutt who loved to chase/hunt/kill small animals [4] (and was quite capable of digging himself out), so he had to stay in the garage if he didn't have supervision.
[2] He stole an entire turkey off the counter once when we were in the kitchen. He also stole entire boxes of donuts and hid them behind the couch.
[3] Knocking over garbage cans was his FAVORITE THING.
[4] Tomato juice doesn't work on skunk smell; it will just turn your dog pink.
posted by topoisomerase at 6:09 PM on April 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

I agree with everyone suggesting tasty treats (omidog! Marrow bone) as part of your routine when getting ready to step out the door. Sometimes, I think we are the ones with seperation issues. My partner is gone all the time, my work happens when it happens. So, sometimes Toulouse is with me constantly, goes everywhere with me and then sometimes I have to leave her for 8 to 10 hours by herself. At first, I was really worried about her being alone, but if your dog has been in "the pack" for awhile, she will be just fine. They adapt easily to routine. Except one time, her friend Misty (the BEAST) stayed with us for a week. We heard from our neighbors that they howled all day long, but when Misty left, Toulouse did not do that anymore. ( Be careful of who your dogs friends are! ;) ).
posted by SteelDancin at 7:40 PM on April 30, 2013

Yeah, n-thing you're making far too much of it. If you want to do an experiment, turn on some form of camera in the house to record what she does while you're gone. Most often dogs sleep. They sleep like 13 hours a day. I think you'll find she's weird a bit for a week or so, and then what will most likely happen is that she'll just naturally adjust so that she's awake when you are home.
posted by nevercalm at 8:49 PM on April 30, 2013

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