Whether it’s staying on top of feeding schedules, taking your animals out for their daily dose of sunshine or just trying to navigate leaving the house to run errands, being a pet owner is more than just snuggles and cuteness; it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Many pets experience stress or unhealthy behaviors when left alone for extended periods of time, which can make day-to-day life rather difficult for their owners in a couple of ways.
Of course, the behaviors vary greatly depending on the type of animal (cats will likely respond differently than dogs, for example) and whether or not they have past trauma that will influence their actions. Before we’re able to handle these possibly negative behaviors in our animals, we first have to understand what makes them tick.
It is generally accepted by researchers of animal psychology that animals have a very different way of perceiving time from us humans. Animal cognition researcher William Roberts that animals exist only in the present, and that they are ‘stuck in time.’ By this theory, animals are incapable of consciously revisiting memories from the past or anticipating events that have yet to come. Instead they use emotional, hormonal and instinctual cues to decide what actions are appropriate to take, instead of logic or thought. It is in this way that animals learn from past experiences.
Many pets behave differently when left alone for extended periods of time, but dogs can exhibit the most problematic behavior by far, and as such they will be the focus of the following information.
It is suggested that most dogs start to experience stress after 4 to 8 hours of human absence. Of course, when provided with sufficient food, water and a place to relieve themselves, the average time goes up, however pet owners shouldn’t leave their animals to their own devices for more than 8 hours a day at the most. Bad habits can include:
Some dogs bark or whimpering repeatedly and without pause when experiencing stress, and for pet owners living within suburban or urban areas, this can become a huge problem in the form of unhappy neighbors and formal noise complaints.
There’s nothing more frustrating than coming home to chewed up couches or pillows, scratched up fixtures or shredded rugs and a dog that just couldn’t help it.
Some dogs will instead internalize the stress they experience, and though on coming home everything may seem alright, this can lead to your dog suffering from health problems and expensive veterinary bills.
What can I do as a Dog Owner?
Thankfully for pet parents, keeping an eye on your furry friends is easier now more than ever thanks to developments in wireless surveillance and internet connectivity. Advancements in pet psychology has also yielded helpful results in the form of pet accessories that help entertain or comfort animals left at home.
Cameras and Speakers
Moving along with the trend of smart homes, many dog owners have found success in keeping an eye on their pets with already installed security cameras, and speaking to them through wireless speakers. Studies have shown that just hearing their owner’s voice can reduce stress by a significant amount in dogs and help them feel secure.
Swaddle Jackets, Crates and Toys
Though some dogs may be averse to it at first, the pressure from swaddle jackets can help animals feel safe and reduce stress. Some animals also prefer to have access to crates, but it varies greatly from animal to animal. Lastly, entertaining toys can keep animals occupied for hours on end, and ultimately, time spent playing is better than time spent stressing.