Like humans, dogs are social creatures who need the company of others for the majority of their day.
Living a life of lonely isolation can cause anxiety, depression and stress which can lead to destructive and other behaviours which we may deem unacceptable or inappropriate.
Day care is often used when puppies are young because owners understand that a puppy cannot hold it’s bladder for very long and that socialisation is important. As the puppy gets older and is able to control his bladder, he is left alone for longer periods of time which can be distressing for him, especially if he has been used to company.
Similarly, dogs get used to your company over the holidays and can become distressed when you go back to work and leave them alone again.
Just because a dog does not trash your house or bark while you are out does not mean that he is not lonely or bored in your absence. Many people who use doggy-cams find that their dog is pacing back and forth or crying quietly while they are away (behaviours you would never know occurred without the camera).
So what can you do?
Puzzle toys and other environmental enrichments can entertain a dog for a period of time, but they are only a short term substitute for the company he really needs. Likewise a TV or radio left on can provide some comfort and background noise while drowning out noises from outside which may lead to barking in response.
Another animal in the house may be worth consideration, as the species of company is less relevant than the company itself, though this has it’s own challenges. If things don’t go to plan and you might end up having two animals in separate lonely isolation.
Owners might consider a dog-walker or friend who can nip in and let him out for a pee or a quick walk. This may meet the dog’s physical needs by allowing him to go to the toilet and maybe walk for a while, but it does not address the fact that he has only a short period of company before he is returned to his isolation.
Day care is a good way to give your dog the company of other dogs and humans while you are out. Play, walks and socialisation help challenge a dog physically and mentally, which is great for their well-being. Even if day care is for only part of your dogs day, it can be enough to give them some of what they need to be happy. This being said, not all dogs are suited to day care – some find it just too much of a challenge and, like people, some dogs just don’t get along with others. Just because dogs don’t get along with others does not mean they don’t need company of some kind, so alternatives will need to be sought.
However you choose to live your life with a dog, his welfare needs to be considered too, so you can both enjoy your life together.