Maggie Ellis is a model who spends her days strutting around movie sets, visiting friends at school, and doling out high-fives. Oh, and did we mention she is also a mini poodle, border collie, golden retriever, bichon blend, with a dash of shih tzu mixed in for good measure? Nicole Ellis is Maggie’s proud owner, and works as a pet safety advocate for DogVacay, a service that lets people find local, trusted, and insured sitters for their dogs. Since many Smart Alert Nightlight users depend on their devices to ensure their pets are safe while they’re away, we wanted to get some practical ideas on additional ways our users can make their pets content and comfortable at home. In this piece, Nicole shares her tips on how to protect your four-legged friends when you’re not around.
First off, how long can you (and should you) leave your dog home alone? According to Nicole, young and old dogs shouldn’t be left alone for as long as middle-aged dogs. Young dogs falls into the six to eighteen month range, while medium-sized dogs are considered old at around age eight; large dogs at around six years. If you’re not 100% sure your pet can deal with you being away, don’t push your luck. Another thing to consider is whether or not your dog goes through separation anxiety, in which case, you should begin by leaving for shorter periods of time, and then build up to longer stints. While Nicole doesn’t leave Maggie alone for more than six hours at a time, some dogs are fine for up to eight. If Nicole has to leave Maggie alone for longer than that, she books a DogVacay host or asks a friend to watch her. When leaving your pup with a friend, check to see if they have any prior experience caring for pets. Even if your friends rock, it doesn’t mean they know much about dogs or have a pet-proof home.
If you’re leaving your dog with a sitter or at a doggie day-care center, Nicole suggests meeting the people in charge beforehand. This allows you to scope out where your dog will be spending their day, and make sure that there is a loving connection between the sitter and your pet. At this session, bring your local veterinarian's contact information along with details on how to reach you. Nicole also likes to bring Maggie’s favorite bed and blanket, so she can be constantly reminded of home.
Here are some more of Nicole’s tips on how to make your furry friends happy and healthy when you’re out. While you’re reading, keep this mantra in the back of your mind:
“Each dog is different and no one knows your dog better than you.”
— Always take your dog for a walk before you leave. If your dog is tired, it usually means they’ll be calmer and happier while you’re out.
— Even at home, have your dog wear a collar that has your phone number on it. You’ll be happy you did this, in case they ever try to run away.
— Make sure you have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In case of an emergency, it’s important that you have a sticker in your window saying how many pets you have. These are available for free from the ASPCA and at most pet stores.
— Double check that your dog has water and that all doors and windows are closed. Your dog will miss you when you’re away, so don’t let them escape in their attempts to join you.
— Consider crate training if your pet has separation anxiety. Sometimes leaving a treat, like a Kong stuffed with peanut butter, is nice to leave out so they have something fun to distract them from you being gone.
— Check in on your pet while you’re out. There are a lot of nifty pet products that can help you keep your pup happy. A few Nicole like are 1) the Petzila, a device that lets you remotely give your dog treats, 2) the Whistle, an activity monitor that lets you see how active your pet is, and 3) an iFetch, a device that lets your pet play fetch while you’re gone.
And the best (and hardest) thing to do?
— Don’t make a big deal when you leave and return. Long goodbyes and hellos can make your dog feel nervous and can lead to separation anxiety. Nicole says that in order to help keep your dog calm, walk out like you’ll be back in a minute, and when you return, ignore your pooch for a few minutes. Pretending like it’s not a big deal will help them think so too.
Savor the time you’re with your pup, and follow Nicole’s advice to make sure they feel at home even if you’re miles away.
Kira Deutch is a content creator at Leeo, where she works on crafting content that brings the Leeo story to life.