Like most dog owners, there is going to be a time when you need to leave your dog home alone. If your dog struggles with being on his own, this can be emotionally difficult for everyone involved. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated while he’s on his own can keep both your belongings and your sanity intact.
It’s particularly important to keep dogs of a high-energy level mentally stimulated. Dogs who rank higher on the energy scale can quickly become bored, which, unfortunately, can cause your dog to become destructive. Distracting your dog with puzzle toys while you’re away can be a great way to misdirect his energy from something negative to something positive. There are many kinds of puzzle toys on the market today, but make sure to get more than one type so as your pup doesn’t get bored with the same one all the time.
Food Motivated Distractions
Many dogs are highly food motivated. From toys that you stuff full of peanut butter, to kibble mats, to wobbly food dispensers, owners of food-motivated dogs have quite a few options. A very popular choice amongst dog owners is the Kong. Simply stuff the rubber chew toy to the brim with peanut butter, freeze overnight, and give it to your dog right before you leave the house (this is an especially good option if your dog needs to be kenneled!) Another superb distraction for the food-motivated dog is wobble toys, which require your dog to actively knock the toy around to get the food or treats out. Wobble toys both mentally stimulate and reward your dog for his efforts at the same time. Tip: you can feed your dog his meals in a wobble toy to slow down his eating, perfect for breeds who are prone to bloat.
When working long hours, sometimes a puzzle toy or a food toy won’t be enough. If your dog requires burning some extra energy and needs a little more mental stimulation, consider hiring a dog walker. It’s crucial to find a walker that you and your dog feel comfortable with, and trust completely. Do your research, and let your dog meet each walker you interview. Once you find a good match for you and your dog, a great friendship can blossom!
If your dog gets along with other dogs and people, your dog may be a good candidate for doggy daycare! Long days of playing and constant interaction can keep your dog mentally stimulated, physically fit, and give you peace of mind knowing your dog is being supervised while you’re not around. All-day play is sure to tire out even the most energetic of dogs, and as the adage goes, a tired dog is a happy dog.
Music and Movies
Sometimes entertaining your pup while he’s at home alone is simpler than you might think. By simply leaving the TV or radio on, you can help to soothe any anxieties, and sometimes even help them stay busy. Some dogs are excited to watch the small moving pictures running around the screen, and some dogs enjoy the sound of music or voices (or other barking dogs) in the background. Just remember that your dog’s ears are far more sensitive than your own, and to keep the volume to a minimum.
Whether your dog is high energy, super-intelligent, old, or young and just learning how to be left home alone, keeping them entertained while you’re gone, is important. Keeping them busy can also probably save you a couch cushion or two! So work together with your dog to find what works best, and keep your dog as happy as possible.
Abi Pennavaria is a dog mom, avid veterinary volunteer, and co-author of Saved By The Bark blog. She enjoys sharing tips and tricks for dog owners of all breeds.