Most modern pet parents lead very busy lives with jobs and children, and our dogs often end up spending a good portion of the day home alone. A lonely, bored dog will find a way to occupy her time that can be destructive to your furniture and clothes and potentially harmful to herself.
Here’s a list of 14 ways to keep your dog busy while you’re at work.
1. Let your dog watch television.
Turn on your TV to the Animal Planet station and up the volume. The sights and sounds of barking dogs and mewing cats helps to stimulate your dog’s brain in a quiet house, keeping her from finding ways to get in trouble. Animal Planet is on all day while I am at work. I hope the furkids don’t mind the vet shows.
2. Provide ways your dog can look through a window or door
Open the curtains or blinds to a back window in your home so that your pooch can watch whatever is going on outside your back door. If you have a small dog or a toy breed, set a cushion or chair by the window so that your pup is comfortably able to see out. Smudge’s favorite spot is lying on the back of the couch where he has a perfect view of my neighbor’s yard, where he can watch the children play. And he shares this post with his baby feline sister, Miss Monet.
3. Fill a hollow toy with peanut butter
Stuff a Kong with your all natural all-natural peanut butter. Most dogs love the smell and taste of peanut butter and can take hours finding every last dollop in a treat stuffable toy. To provide an extra challenge, freeze the toys after stuffing them. I do this for my Border Collie mix Rue daily. He has separation anxiety and screeches when I leave the house. But with a frozen Kong filled with peanut butter, all is well.
4. Scavenger hunt
Make your dog hunt for her meals by hiding stuffed food puzzle toys or small piles of her kibble around your house.
Scatter a couple of handfuls of kibble in the areas where your dog hangs out during the day and she’ll have fun hunting her treats while you’re at work. You can also hide one of her meals or puzzle toy right before you leave home so that she learns to associate your leaving for the day with a positive emotion. Obviously, in a multi-dog household, you must plan accordingly to avoid fights among your canines. My dogs are separated when I am not home, and they are given treats without fear of disagreements.
5. Calm your dog
If your dog becomes nervous, anxious, or overactive when you’re not at home, you can try these ideas:
n Apply a combination of calming essential oils (lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, wild orange, and frankincense — whichever smells best to you) on your pet’s bedding.
n Give them a treat designed to promote rest and relaxation. This may keep your dog relaxed while you’re gone and help alleviate any barking issues that disturb the neighbors. Be very careful that a chew will not splinter if your dog is not being supervised.
6. Give your dog a puzzle
There are loads of interactive dog toys on the market that will keep your dog occupied for hours.
7. Get your dog a furry brother or sister
Adopting or rescuing another dog as a companion to your furry friend helps both animals. You give your existing animal someone to socialize with during the day and you save a life. This is entirely a personal choice on your part, but you need to ensure that any new animal coming into your home is healthy, has been vaccinated and vetted, and gets along with your dog. Reputable rescues will often allow you to foster first, and then adopt the dog of your choice to make sure the animal fits well with your family.
8. Give your dog a block of ice to play with
Place your dog’s treats or some suitable food in an ice-cream container, fill with water, and freeze. A great summer treat.
9. Schedule a puppy play date
Schedule play dates with the pets of a trusted neighbor or family member. Allow a pet parent you trust, and who owns a dog that your pet knows well, to come over and have a play date with your pup. Make sure that both animals enjoy each other’s company and play well together before trying this activity. Always supervise the play session.
10. Enroll you pooch in doggy daycare
This is a great resource if your work schedule allows a drop off and pick up time! If your dog is well-socialized and enjoys the company of other pets, send her off to doggy daycare while you’re working. Reputable pet care facilities employ staff trained in ways to keep your pup safe and active. Find one in your area that fits your schedule and schedule a tour and an interview with management and staff. Make sure you get references and recommendations from pet owners that use the facility before you leave your precious companion for the day.
11. Employ a dog walker to exercise your pet daily
Many reputable pet care facilities include a dog walking service. They send a bonded, experienced person to your home to walk your pooch on regularly scheduled visits. For those pet parents whose workdays run long, a dog walker may be the only way your pooch can get some much needed exercise. Ask your friends, veterinarian, and dog groomer for recommendations. And get references from your potential dog walker. I am fortunate to have my good friend’s son Robbie take my guy Rue for some weekend power walks. Rue LOVES his Uncle Robbie!
12. Purchase dental chews
Giving your dog plenty of her own toys and dental chews will help prevent her from gnawing on your things. Additionally, dental chews help to keep her teeth clean and freshen her breath.
13. Introduce a new toy
A new toy can add some excitement during the day while your dog is home alone. A tough chew toy that can’t be torn apart while you’re gone is best, just in case your dog likes to gobble things up. Also rotate her toys … after a day or two, put one toy away so it’s out of sight and mind, and bring out another to replace it. This will keep all of your pet’s toys fresh and exciting.
14. Add a fountain
Making sure your dog has enough water for the day while no one is home is very important, and a dog fountain can provide a constant supply of clean fresh water while also piquing your dog’s interest. Many dogs love water, and the running water of a fountain can create a diversion for your dog. Be sure to have the regular bowl of water out just in case your dog does not take to the fountain while you’re away. Cats are also fans of fresh running water to drink.
Judy Endo is the author of Paws-itive Pet Tales. A lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre area, she has been a professional dog trainer/competitor as well as a lifetime animal lover and strong supporter of animal rescue. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org