One of the million things I love about my dog Hank is that, whenever I come home after a long day, he's at the door wiggling his butt with excitement over being reunited with me. But after taking him for a walk to get his energy out and then curling up together, I have to wonder how he spent the last eight hours without me. What do dogs do when you're not home? If you've always wondering what kinds of shenanigans your pup gets up to once you leave for the day, here's what an expert has to say.
"Dogs are social creatures, so typically, if left alone, they’re likely to sleep or look out the windows and keep an eye on things," Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert, tells Elite Daily in an email. "Most dogs take advantage of pet parents not being there to get a good amount of rest without any distractions."
But things aren't always so innocent. Sometimes missing you can get ruff and your angel might be more likely to get into trouble more than she would if you were there with her. According to Freeman, if your pup gets extra bored because you aren't there to give her plenty of cuddles, then yeah, she might start searching for ways to make a mess.
If you realize that your dog is experiencing a bit of separation anxiety, you probably can't quit your job and stay home with her all day, as amazing as that sounds. But a few adjustments might help cut down on her antsy moments and keep your beautiful fuzzy rugs from being chewed into scraps. "Make an effort to take them out for a walk before leaving them alone to tire them out," suggests Freeman. "Lack of exercise can oftentimes cause them to get restless and ultimately take it out on your favorite pillow." It's also always a good idea to consult your vet for extra behavioral advice, and even potentially medication, if separation anxiety is an issue, Freeman adds.
As a dog mom, I'm sure you already know that pups have very real emotions, and Freeman says they can contribute to how they react when you leave. "Most dogs immediately feel lonely and anxious when they have separation anxiety," she explains. To help your fur baby avoid getting too anxious without you, try leaving her with a Kong toy with frozen peanut butter inside, Freeman recommends, or a treat-dispensing toy.
On that note, if you haven't had a chance to explore the super fun world of virtual treat-dispensing toys, I highly recommend you check out the Furbo Dog Camera, which not only lets you watch whatever your pup is up to while you're away, but also allows you to toss her a treat remotely.
"Another big thing is to not make a big deal right before you leave and right when you get home. Don’t cue them with the big, mushy goodbyes, and then don’t get overly excited when you come home (hard, I know)," says Freeman. As tempting as it is to use lots of baby talk and say "I'm going to miss you so much" right before you step out of the door, talking to your dog when she's especially anxious or excited can make things worse. Instead, Freeman suggests, interact and reward your pup when they're calm and relaxed.
Honestly, though, no two dogs are the same, explains Freeman, so keeping your dog's "mom's away environment" as close as possible to her "mom's home environment" is key. For instance, if you always have The Office reruns on in the background on the weekends, try leaving the TV on when you're away from your dog. Or, if you have every song Brittany Spears ever recorded playing on shuffle, leave some music playing on a low volume. "Your dog will be so used to the sounds and images that it’ll provide comfort while they’re home alone," Freeman says.
If you're away from your sweet pup right now, just watch a "dogs reunited with their owners" compilation and try not to cry. I bet you can't do it.