Dear Miss Behavin’: Last week we adopted a dog as an early Christmas present for the kids. We had a great week together, but decided to leave Hanky home on Christmas day when we went to visit the grandparents. We came home to find that he had gotten into the trash, chewed up some throw pillows, and had an accident on the floor. We clearly need some work, but how do you train a dog to behave when you’re not around?
First of all, congratulations on your new dog! Everything you described is pretty normal dog behavior, so don’t fret too much. Any dog left home alone can become bored, and may take it upon himself to find something fun to do, like chew up a throw pillow or investigate the trash. This is particularly true for a newly adopted dog who is still figuring out the dos and don’ts of his new home.
Your best bet for now is to manage the situation and set Hanky up to succeed while you’re gone. Take him for a nice long walk before you leave so that he has plenty of time to fully relieve himself. This should also help him burn some energy so that he is more relaxed and less inclined to look for mischief.
You’ll also want to do some dog-proofing. Like baby-proofing, put child locks on your cabinets and garbage cans, and put up baby gates so that Hanky doesn’t have full run of the house. You may even want to put those throw pillows in a closet for now. Leave him with a comfy bed, and a few puzzle toys stuffed with treats or frozen peanut butter. If you provide him with fun and stimulating activities when you leave, he will be less inclined to seek out entertainment on his own.