Your dog is an expert in (1) being adorable and (2) making you feel guilty. Dogs do not approve of your going out unless they get to go too and it is to the park and back. They are like children, only more furry. Between park visits, they will keep you at home, preferably in their basket, or watching squirrels together through the window.
If you do go out, they will bark and howl until get you back. They will unspool the loo paper and wrap it around the furniture, or roll it out into the garden where they will use it to spell out: “Help! Call the RSPCA” for all the neighbours to see. But follow these simple steps, and your dog will be much happier at home alone and less of a worry.
First, read out in a firm voice to your dog the Declaration of Dog Owners’ Rights. Article 1: The right to meet your human friends at a café and sit inside, thank you very much. Article 2: The right to watch a film without pausing at the exciting bit to take the dog out for walkies. Article 3: The right to enjoy a romantic dinner with your partner without your dog making funny faces. You get the idea.
Next, the essentials. Plenty of exercise. Give your dog a small meal and a big walk before you go out, even if this means hiring a dogwalker.
Plenty of water. Leave a big bowl of fresh water, even two, in case the first tips over.
A four-hour maximum. Try not to leave your dog alone for longer than this. Think of what it is like for you when you need to go to the bathroom and cannot get your keys into the door fast enough. Now imagine being a dog and not having a set of keys.
Encourage your dog to play on his own, even while you are at home. There are fun puzzle-toys for dogs, such as the Kong biscuit ball with a little hollow for hiding treats. Mental stimulation can be as important as a run in the park. Try animeddirect.co.uk or your local Pets at Home.
Make sure your dog is accustomed to being left alone. Reducing the anxiety levels will make your dog less restless and more relaxed about seeing you go.
Take it slowly. Dogs are creatures of habit. Leave your dog alone every day, starting with a few minutes at a time, then 20 minutes, then a little longer.
Act casual. Big, long hugs and anxious kisses on arrival and departure will alarm your dog. Come and go often, even picking up your keys for no reason, to play down any departure. I use the code words “See you soon” with my border collie, after taking her collar off so she knows to relax.
If you need to go away for longer than four hours, consider hiring a dog sitter for peace of mind. Or invite a doggy friend. A more mature dog who is chilled about being left at home will have a magical influence. Dogs are great mimics and if one is having a snooze, so will the other.
It is good for a dog not to become overly dependent (and good for you, too). Separation anxiety will diminish if you regularly swap dogs with good friends; non-Jewish friends will gladly help you out on Jewish holidays, especially if you do the same in return.
Leave on some soothing music (free of squeaks and meows), available on YouTube. You can subscribe free to RelaxMyDog.com. Its most popular track is eight hours long and has had more than 4 million views.