Pet care: How to train your pet to stay alone - Hindustan Times
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Pet care: How to train your pet to stay alone

Jan 09, 2023 07:23 PM IST

Leaving pets at home, alone or with caretakers, can be heart-breaking. Your furry friends can become despondent, barking or yowling all day without a break.

As we head back to work after the Covid-19 pandemic, many pet parents struggle with leaving their dogs, cats, birds and lizards at home, alone. This is similar to how the parents of human children feel, when they cannot spend as much time with their kids as they did during the lockdown. And a pet animal is almost as helpless as a human baby of two years age or less. (Also read: Pet care: To coat or not to coat your dog this winter)

Pet care: How to train your pet to stay alone(Pixabay)
Pet care: How to train your pet to stay alone(Pixabay)

Covid taught us one thing above all – that life is fleeting, and family matters above all. Our pets are family members adopted by us. They provide us love and affection, security and companionship. Pet owners lovingly call themselves fur moms and dads, because of the attachment they feel towards their 4-legged adopted children. It’s no wonder then, that they treat their pets like children too, providing them with comfortable beds, cute clothes, the best food and treats, and unlimited attention.

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But leaving them at home, alone or with caretakers, can be heart-breaking. The same beloved pets become despondent, barking or yowling all day without a break. They tear up the furniture, destroy books, clothes, and almost anything they can reach. How many of you have come home to chewed up sofas, doors, or electronics, because your dog did not like staying alone? Neighbours and your landlady start complaining about the noise and smell. Fauna police can show up at your doorstep demanding that you give up working and stay at home instead. It is very stressful for both you and your pet.

Every person is dealing with this in their own way. Some look for jobs that allow remote or hybrid working conditions. Others quit their day jobs and take gigs or start small businesses they can do while staying home. An enterprising few find a way to take their pets to work with them. Almost no one tries to train their dog or cat to actually remain calm and quiet when alone, even though it is possible to do so.

How to train your pet to stay alone

Yes, you heard that right. It is possible to train your pet dog or cat to stay alone for a few hours without you, happy in their own space with ample food and water to keep them satisfied. They can even do so without making the house dirty or getting destructive. If you have a suitable crate for your pet, you can train them to treat the crate as their personal den – a safe space where they can relax without any worries. There are many videos available online on YouTube or Instagram that can teach you how to do this. Good dog trainers can also help you. If your pet has a calm temperament and is potty trained, you won’t need the crate after a while and can let them roam free in your house when you are out.

Things pet owners should not do

1. Hit or punish your pet if they make a mess in the crate or house. It is your responsibility to provide them with a safe space, keep them well hydrated and take them for regular walks. It is also your opportunity to train them better if he makes a mistake. No rolled-up newspapers please.

2. Lock your pet in a crate for a long time. 4 or 6 hours at a stretch is okay depending on how much they like staying in the crate, but no more.

3. Buy a crate that is too small. The kennel or crate must be big enough so that the pet can comfortably stand, lie down on its side, and turn around inside without touching the walls or the roof. The more comfortable they are, the less wasteful your investment will be.

4. Buy a crate your pet can and will chew their way through. More than your financial loss, your pet may lose its life because of the plastic or metal it eats.

5. Keep the crate in a busy place in your house, or outside near the gate. You want your pet to relax, not stay alert the whole time they are in there.

6. Keep your pet in a closed room without proper ventilation, or exposed to the sun, or without sufficient heating and cooling depending on the weather. Heat stroke in summer, pneumonia in winter, or even asphyxiation is possible, which can cause your pet to die.

Tricks to make your pet child comfortable, calm their anxiety

As with children, patience and understanding are important to make your pet feel comfortable without you. The duration of separation should be increased gradually in small increments, say 15-30 minutes every two days. The degree of separation should also be increased gradually, by first serving the pet’s food and water in the crate with the door open, then closing the door without locking it, then increasing the duration when they stay locked inside. If you see anxiety-driven behaviours like scratching or chewing the door, chewing of their bed or bowl, trying to escape, barking or howling, go back to the last state where your pet was comfortable and start again.

At some point, you may even want to invest in an automatic bark collar to keep your dog calm and quiet. This is a last resort and preferred because it is harmless if used correctly, and gently distracts the dog from its own anxiety-driven behaviour. Many brands are available in the market, so make sure to buy a reliable one, read the instructions, and test it thoroughly before putting it on your dog.

There is a solution to almost every problem you face with your fur babies, provided you have the money and time to invest. So go ahead and plan your outings and work safely without them, while you make the investment needed to keep both yourself and them happy.

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