Does your dog get lonely, bored, or destructive when you leave the house? Dogs are like little kids – they need stimulation throughout the day. If you leave all day to go to work, your dogs are going to find ways to keep themselves entertained, and that might include tearing up couch cushions, digging massive holes in the backyard, or ripping up paper.
Whether your dog has separation anxiety and cries when you leave, or gets playfully destructive, here are some of the most effective ways to keep them safely entertained while you’re away.
1. Talk To Your Vet
First and foremost, talk to your dog’s vet about your situation. They’ll have some excellent recommendations for you based on your circumstances and your dog’s breed.
It’s especially important to connect with your vet if you think your dog suffers from anxiety and not just boredom. For dogs with separation anxiety, it’s a traumatic experience when their owners leave the house. Your vet can suggest ways to help your dog recover from separation anxiety.
2. Get An Interactive Pet Camera
If you don’t know what your dog does when you’re gone, a nanny cam will help you find out really fast. However, if you know your dog’s routine, an interactive treat-dispensing camera is ideal. Many people use these to help treat anxiety and they definitely help reduce boredom.
Some of the best dog cameras have a 170-degree wide angle lens, so you can follow them pretty much anywhere in the room. These cameras are designed to dispense a treat at your command using the app, and you can either speak to your pet live or pre-record messages so your dog can hear your voice anytime they activate the camera.
You can get cameras for inside the house and outdoors, which is excellent if you have dogs that prefer to spend their time in the yard.
3. Get An Automatic Ball Launcher
Dogs have simple needs. After food, water, and shelter, they need love and lots of tennis balls. Since you probably can’t hire someone to launch balls for your dog while you’re gone, the next best thing is a machine that does it automatically.
Dog ball launchers are usually battery powered (rechargeable) and can be set to launch pet-safe balls at several different distances. If you have a small dog, check with the manufacturer or other customers first because some units will be too powerful for smaller dogs.
If you have a small dog, like a yorkie, chihuahua, or shih tzu, look for a ball launcher that uses small balls, about 1.5” in diameter.
Spend a few days getting your dog used to the process of fetching and returning the ball, and you’ll be good to leave them home alone with their toy. As a bonus, you can use ball launchers anywhere, even at the park to give your arm a rest.
4. Brain-Engaging Toys
Try to keep your dog’s brain stimulated when you leave the house. If you’ve never given your dog a puzzle, the right treat can motivate them to figure out basic and advanced patterns and movements. For example, sometimes treats are hidden under pieces they have to pick up and move, or slide around. Sometimes those pieces need to be moved in a specific order or they won’t get the goodie.
Start small by training them to get the hang of simple puzzles first, and then move to something more complex. Leave them for the day with a higher level puzzle and when you get home, see if they were able to get any of the treats.
Snuffle mats are also engaging and are a safe choice to leave for your dog while you’re gone. Just make sure you fill it with something like kibble or a treat that doesn’t require supervision. Never leave your dog home alone with chew toys, whether they’re made of plastic or not. Greenies, bully sticks, bones, and rawhide all require supervision.
5. Hide Treats Around The House
Keep your dog sniffing and excited by hiding their favorite treats around the house. It will have to be something they can smell, but it doesn’t need to be a freshly cooked steak (although your dog would love you for that).
Choose a few different places each day to hide a treat and get your dog used to expecting to find goodies if they sniff around a bit.
Help Your Dog Enjoy Their Day
To reduce the sting of watching you leave for work, try running your pup around in the backyard for a bit to tire them out. If they’re exhausted by the time you leave the house, they’ll likely take a nap. Most of all, don’t let your dog get bored during the day. Leave them some entertainment and tasty treats to find. Don’t worry – they’ll still be happy to see you when you get home!