Unfortunately, we can’t take our furry friends with us everywhere, and there will be plenty of times when you’ll need to leave your ridgeback home alone.
There are a few important things to understand when leaving your Rhody alone, firstly how long is too long, the potential negative effects of it, and how you can make your Rhodesian ridgeback more comfortable when he’s by himself. All of which will be covered below.
Most Rhodesian ridgebacks can be left alone for around 3-5 hours without any issues, assuming they have had plenty of prior exercise and mental stimulation. Keep in mind that all ridgebacks have their own tolerance.
Can Ridgebacks Be Left Home Alone?
The short answer is yes, adult ridgebacks can be left alone, and they tolerate it surprisingly better than many other breeds out there.
But of course, no ridgeback actually wants to be alone, so this is not an ideal situation for them to be in. That’s why it’s crucial to always limit the time he spends alone whenever possible.
Additionally, your ridgeback will have his own tolerance to being alone, which is something you’ll need to figure out slowly over time. I’ll discuss this in another section below.
What about puppies? ⭐
Ridgeback puppies should not be spending much time alone. For example, when you first bring your pup home from the breeder at around 8 weeks of age, he should not be left alone at all for at least the first few weeks.
Puppies are more fragile than adults, not just physically, but also mentally, and it’s crucial that they have either their canine mother, siblings, or you with them. This provides them with emotional support, security and keeps them calm.
Puppies that are left alone can become scared, frightened, and this can really affect them mentally at such a young age. This could possibly be a catalyst for behavioral issues down the line.
Puppies that are slightly older (around 6-8 months) can now start to spend some time alone, but still, it needs to be limited.
How Long Can a Ridgeback Be Left Alone?
In general, adult ridgebacks can be left home alone for around 3-5 hours without causing them too much stress.
This amount of time can be affected by a few variables.
● Has your ridgeback received at least an hour of intensive exercise before being left alone?
● Has your ridgeback also received some form of mental stimulation like command training?
● Has he received at least 30 minutes of your undivided attention (general interaction)?
If your ridgeback has received sufficient exercise, mental stimulation, and some quality time with you BEFORE being left alone, then he’ll be calm and ready to take a nap while you’re gone. In this case, 3-5 hours will be a breeze.
If you wake up, feed him, but then leave immediately, he’ll have all of his energy and get frustrated very quickly. This will bring his limit right down and many negative side effects will happen quickly.
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How long can puppies spend alone?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s not as simple as leaving a ridgeback puppy home alone.
In the first few weeks after bringing your pup home, he shouldn’t be left home alone at all. He’ll need to know you are constantly with him.
When your pup is around 6-8 months, he “should” be able to tolerate 2-3 hours alone, but again, it’s best to limit it as much as possible. And the few hours before he’s left alone can make all the difference (exercise, stimulation, quality-time).
Pups are not yet mentally mature, and being left alone is a stressful event to have to deal with. Avoiding stress and potential mental issues is super important if you want a well-behaved, happy, and calm Rhody down the line.
Negative Effects When Ridgebacks Are Left Alone Too Much
There are some serious implications to leaving a ridgeback home alone too long and too often.
The stress and frustration caused by being left alone can result in the following:
● Destructive behavior
● Aloofness and increased aggression
● Lack of obedience
● Harder to train
● Isolation distress
● Separation anxiety
● Chronic stress
● A nervous, unstable ridgeback
That’s quite some list. And all are very hard to deal with, especially separation anxiety, which some experts claim to be incurable once developed.
This is why it’s crucial to never push a ridgeback past their personal tolerance of spending time alone. And this “personal tolerance” is completely unaffected by what you do before leaving him alone. Some ridgebacks just can’t handle being left alone, no matter how much exercise or stimulation they receive beforehand.
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Finding Your Ridgebacks Tolerance
So how do you find out your Rhody’s personal tolerance and threshold?
Well, unfortunately, it’s not an exact science, and it’s more so about trial and error, and being extremely aware and observative of your ridgeback when you come back home after having been out.
Signs you’ve been gone too long:
● There are signs of destructive behavior (scratching at doors to destroying toys or chewing furniture)
● You can hear whining as you arrive home
● He seems overly anxious or nervous when you arrive
● Tail between the legs
● Urination on the floor despite being let out before you left
Analyzing his overall demeanor (and the state of your home) when you come back can tell a lot about how your ridgeback handled being left alone for that amount of time.
Signs that he was fine:
● He’s still sleeping or laying down
● He looks calm and rested (stretching)
● He’s happy but not overly anxious or jittery
● No urination
● No evidence of destructive behavior
Additionally, if you notice anxious or erratic behavior from him just before you leave the house, this could also indicate that he’s already spent too much time home alone on previous days. And he’s now anticipating the same thing to happen.
If you notice anxiety before you leave, your routine must be adjusted quickly, as this is a common sign of developing separation anxiety.
Once you get a handle on how long your ridgeback can remain happy and calm while you’re out. It’s important to stick within this limit. And pushing it will likely result in some of those serious implications outlined above.
If you don’t mind a small investment, you can remove all of the guesswork by getting a pet camera. Essentially an indoor CCTV camera that you’ll be able to log in from your smartphone and have eyes on your ridgeback. This way you’ll see whether he’s laying down peacefully, or destroying your expensive couch!
Should Your Ridgeback Be Kept In a Crate?
I have many owners asking me whether they should keep their ridgeback inside a crate when home alone. And the answer is that it depends.
The crate, when introduced correctly, will act as your ridgeback’s very own Airbnb, and that’s what it’s supposed to resemble. His very own den that he loves.
And if this is the case, then leave his crate door open for him to choose and if that’s where he feels most comfortable then he’ll go there, and be content. When he wants to stretch his legs or lay somewhere else, he can.
If, however, his crate was previously used a time out zones, a punishment, or he got shut in there with resistance, it’s likely going to cause him a lot of stress and anxiety being shut in there alone. Therefore this isn’t a good idea.
The answer is to keep him wherever he’s most comfortable and of course, safe. Sure, the crate provides safety, but if it stresses him out then it’s absolutely not a good place to keep him.
If he destroys rooms while you’re gone, that doesn’t mean he needs to crated, it means you’re gone for too long or he hasn’t be sufficiently stimulated before you left.
As for puppies, this advice completely changes and they should always be kept in their crate while you are gone. Again, puppies shouldn’t be left alone anyway for long periods of time.
Keeping a Rhodesian Ridgeback Happy When Home Alone
Let’s run through a list of tips and tricks to keep your Rhody as comfortable as possible while alone..
1. Plenty of exercise & stimulation before
To have the best chance of your ridgeback remaining calm and content, he must have a good chunk of his energy expelled before you leave.
At least one hour of intensive exercise will make a big difference in his ability to be okay when alone.
Additionally, mental stimulation in the form of training, or even just your general interaction is a must. Remember your ridgeback is a working dog that needs to have his mind exercised, just like his body. Without this mental exercise, he’ll never truly be tired.
2. Hire a dog sitter or friends and family
The ultimate way to keep your ridgeback happy when you aren’t there, is to of course, have someone else there!
Due to how important this is, dog sitting has become huge, and it’s actually a very common service that’s probably available in your area. Of course, do your due diligence checks as to who you hire, but most companies offer reviews and even the chance to interview the person before hiring.
This takes effort and time to set up, but it’s the ultimate answer to this issue. Nothing beats having company.
3. Provide interactive puzzle toys
Interactive puzzle toys like the kong classic or my favorite, the star mark bob a lot, can keep your ridgeback thoroughly entrained for a solid 30-60 minutes while you are out.
There are many styles of puzzle toys on the market, but some require your assistance, I find that the slow feeder types like the star mark bob a lot are perfect for unaccompanied entertainment.
To make this toy effective it’s worth using some high-value treats instead of his kibble, otherwise, it might become boring quickly.
4. Leave the radio on
It’s true that leaving the radio or TV on will help a dog when left alone. But likely not for the reason you think.
It’s not because your ridgeback adores the sound of the local radio host’s voice. It’s because the radio noise helps drown any background noise.
Noises outside whether it’s traffic or people walking by will keep your ridgeback on high alert and will prevent him from resting. If the radio or TV is left on, it will help to drown out some of that external noise.
5. Provide a comforter
The sense of smell for a dog is anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times better than ours. This makes their sense of smell their main way of navigating life and can influence how they feel.
Nothing reassures your ridgeback more than your own scent.
So, if your Rhody doesn’t have a huge chewing issue, leave him an unwashed t-shirt of yours in his crate or bed. As he will have a potent source of your scent, it may even trick him into thinking you’re still there.
This might not be appropriate for puppies as it could be a choking hazard.
6. Keep him in a calm room
Whenever you leave him home alone, it helps for him to be in a room that’s the quietest and free from outside distractions.
Some Rhodies actually like having a window to look out of, but for most it will only be used as a security post, keeping them on edge.
Much like how the radio drowns out outside noise, so too can being in a more appropriate area of the house.
7. Get a pet camera
This was mentioned earlier, and because it’s so advantageous, it’s worth me putting it here too.
A pet camera will allow you to have eyes on your ridgeback at any moment from wherever you are. You will instantly see if he’s okay or not, and you’ll be able to react accordingly. You might not be able to leave work, but you could call a friend to pop in.
Some pet cameras even have two-way video capability and audio allowing you to actually see and speak to your ridgeback and him to you too. For what they cost, they provide a huge benefit and I highly recommend considering one.
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