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17 Ways to Entertain Your Dog When You’re at Work//cdn.shopify.com/shopifycloud/shopify/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c_large.gif
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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.
If you’ve found yourself Googling “dog sitters near me” after coming home to yet another ruined pair of shoes or chewed chair, you’ve found the right place. We’ve got tons of tips for how to handle separation anxiety in dogs, and are sharing our recommendations for keeping your pup occupied when you can’t be with them.
Unfortunately, there is no way to cure dog separation anxiety quickly, and helping your dog to feel comfortable and confident can be a very long process. Luckily, a few simple boredom busters for dogs can keep your pooch occupied, at least for a few hours while you work!
Here’s a list of 17 ways to keep your dog busy while you’re at work.
1. Get A Furbo Dog Camera
We highly recommend aFurbo Dog Camera. It allows you to see, talk and toss treats to your dog from anywhere. This way you can chat with your dog while you're at work AND throw dog treats to your pup remotely! You'll even get a daily summary video with all of your dogs activities!
The Furbo is also one of the few interactive games for dogs that they can enjoy while you’re away from home. Some dogs just need a little bit of encouragement to get them to focus on something fun instead of being nervous, and this robot toy for dogs does exactly that.
2. Let your dog watch television.
There's a special channel just for dogs called DOGTV.
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.
But, can dogs watch TV? Can dogs even see a TV? Yes! Dogs can absolutely see TV, and some even find it entertaining. Some dog owners choose to leave tv on for dogs to act almost like white noise, which can help to keep your dog calm while you’re out.
For dogs that actually watch the TV, we recommend trying out one of the many free dog TV channels on YouTube, or a dog TV app. If you’re skeptical, we recommend giving it a try—you might discover that your dog really enjoys a calming video, and you’ll be able to answer when other people ask “does dog TV work?”<3. 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.
If your dog has a tendency to become hyper-focused and bark at people outside, this isn’t a good option for them. Instead, these dogs should be kept in a smaller area of the home, away from loud noises and the stress of managing the home. Remember that some dogs feel like they need to protect themselves while they’re alone, so seeing outside might make them feel they need to patrol and be on high alert.
4. Fill a hollow toy with peanut butter
Stuff the toy 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. Some examples of food puzzle toys you can find at your local pet store or on-line include the Kong Toy, the Buster Cube, the Tricky Treat™ Ball, the Tug-a-Jug™, the Twist ‘n Treat™, the Atomic Treat Ball™ and the TreatStik.
Licking activities like this are especially good for dogs whose separation anxiety symptoms include compulsive or soothing licking. These are some of the best toys for boredom since they take a long time to finish and offer your dog simultaneous physical, sensory, and mental stimulation.
Make your dog hunt for her meals by hiding stuffedfood 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 – as opposed to a negative – emotion.
6. Calm your dog!
If your dog becomes nervous, anxious, or overactive when you’re not at home, you can try these ideas:
Be aware that some essential oils are toxic to dogs, and should absolutely never be used. Some examples of essential oils that may be harmful to your dog include peppermint oil, cinnamon, citrus, and more. Be sure to do research before introducing any essential oils to your home.
B Calming Treats.
Give them a treat designed to promote rest and relaxation like all natural calming chews. This may keep your dog relaxed while you’re gone and help alleviate any barking issues that disturb the neighbors.
Be sure to test calming treats and chews before you leave home to monitor your dog for any stomach issues or possible allergic reactions.
C. CBD Oil
d. Use a dog pheromone. If you sense that being alone causes anxiety in your dog, try using a dog-appeasing pheromone collar, spray, or diffuser. Sentry makes a calming collar just for this. The pheromone released by these products is similar to one that a lactating mother would emit to calm her newborn puppies. This pheromone will be familiar to your pup and create a sense of relaxation.
Much has already been written about the calming properties of a quality CBD oil. The one from Relievet has a variety of strengths so you get exactly the amount you need for your dog. No guessing.
7. Give your dog a puzzle
There are loads of interactive dog toys on the market that will keep your dog occupied for hours. The one’s we like best are from Nina Ottosson, who makes some of the best puzzle feeders for dogs. To get at the food or treats in their puzzle, your dog will need to move pieces, use their nose, and maneuver moving parts. Available at different levels of difficulty, start easy and watch your dog start problem-solving.
If you don’t want to buy puzzle toys for dogs, DIY will do just fine! Keep reading to see a DIY snuffle mat from the Animal Humane Society.
8. 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.
Be aware that getting a second dog isn’t going to cure your first dog’s separation anxiety on its own. In fact, you could adopt a second dog that also has separation anxiety. However, many multiple-dog-owners find that their dogs eventually begin to depend on one another, so with a little time to bond, having a second dog may help to keep your first dog regulated when you leave home.
9. 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. Alternatively freeze a toy like a knotted rope in some water. As the ice melts, toys and treats become available for your dog.
If your dog enjoys lick mats or fillable dog toys like the Kong, you can also try freezing these! Adding ingredients like bone broth, peanut butter, pumpkin, hydrated food, etc. to these toys can make them much more interesting, and freezing them can give your dog more of a challenge to occupy their time.
If you’re concerned about leaving your dog with hard chews, frozen toys and treats might be a better, safer alternative.
10. Schedule a Puppy Playdate!
Schedule playdates 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 playdate with your pup. Make sure that both animals enjoy each other’s company and play well together before trying this activity. Leave your veterinarian’s name and phone number with the other pet parent just in case of an emergency.
11. Enroll your pooch in doggy daycare.
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.
Remember, you’ll need to choose a daycare where your dog will feel comfortable. If you have a dog who likes to be pampered with lots of pets and affection, they might not enjoy a doggy daycare where the focus is all day play with other dogs. On the other hand, if your dog really likes other dogs, they might not like visiting a resort where they get one-on-one human attention.
To find daytime doggy daycare for your pup, check here:
12. 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.
If you do employ a dog walker I highly recommend that you also get a GPS tracker for your dog, that way when your dog is out walking with the dog walker you know exactly where your pooch is every step of the way. The tracker I have for my dogs is Whistle. Works well, easy to use app and affordable.
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. We make our own dental chews and stand behind them 100%. Check them out here.
14. 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. Check out these awesome toys from Fuzz Yard.
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. Try this PetSafe Drinkwell fountain.
A snuffle mat for dogs works by providing sensory and mental stimulation for dogs who like to forage, sniff, and investigate. Easy to make yourself or available at many pet stores and online retailers, snuffle mats can be filled with treats, kibble, or little bits of food for your pooch to use their excellent sense of smell to find.
17. Invest in an Anti-Anxiety Dog Bed
If your pup likes to be near you more than anything else, they might benefit from an anxiety-relieving pet bed. This Calming Shag Fur Donut Dog Bed gently cradles your dog, and pressure off of joints and muscles with super-soft padding. Raised edges give your pup a chance to burrow and hide their face, and the faux fur will help them stay warm and cozy.
Relieving Separation Anxiety in Dogs FAQ
Worried you’re not on the right track with your anxious pup? Take a look at a few questions other dog owners have about keeping their dogs occupied while they’re away from home.
Is it safe to leave dogs unsupervised with squeaky toys?
No. Squeaky toys for dogs can be a lot of fun, but they’re not the kind of toy you should leave your dog unsupervised with. Swallowing the squeaker in one of these toys can be very dangerous, and could easily become an emergency or send your dog to the vet. Instead, it’s better to leave your dog with toys that can’t accidentally be swallowed, and don’t have any small plastic components.
How long can a dog be left alone?
Healthy adult dogs should be able to manage around 6 hours alone, maxing out at around 8 hours. If your dog has separation anxiety, it may take time to work your way up to being gone for this amount of time. If you need to be gone longer than 6 hours a day, hiring a dog walker or taking your dog to doggy daycare might be your best option.
Is it okay to leave a dog with separation anxiety alone?
Yes! Dogs with separation anxiety might take time to learn how to be alone, but that doesn’t mean you should give in to their anxiety and stay home in the meantime. Your dog will need to learn how to be alone, and you will need to leave the house without them.
Using some of the techniques to keep your dog busy that we’ve shared above can help to alleviate some of your dog’s anxiety symptoms while you’re away, and help them to build a tolerance for being alone.
Does leaving the TV on help dogs with separation anxiety?
Sometimes. Dogs, like people, are all individuals with unique personalities and preferences. This means that some dogs will really enjoy having TV on while their humans are away, others won’t care either way, and some might even become more agitated from the extra noise and visual stimulation.
Ultimately, you’ll need to try leaving the TV on for your dog to find out whether it will help their separation anxiety.
How do I start leaving my dog home alone?
Our best advice is to start slow. Start by leaving your pup at home for just a few minutes at a time, working your way up to an hour. Each time you come home and show your dog that you will always come back, you’ll help to build their confidence.
A word of advice: try not to make leaving home a big deal. When you leave, don’t say goodbye for too long, give them too many kisses, or turn it into an event. Simply leave calmly, and return the same way. Less commotion during transitions can help reduce any possible anxiety for your dog.
Rocky Kanaka is an entrepreneur, pet rescue advocate and dog dad to a rescue boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a terrier mix named Zoey. He's also a pet chef and owner of The Dog Bakery, which specializes in dog birthday cakes and fresh baked dog treats. His three dogs can't get enough of the dog cakes and treats!
Lorna Paxton Ladd is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast of The Dog Bakery. She loves spoiling her 3 rescue dogs with dog cakes and jerky. A 15 year veteran in the pet industry, her aim is to educate pet parents on the best recipes, products, tips and tricks to optimize the human/canine bond. Her favorite product at The Dog Bakery are the customizable dog birthday cakes.
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