Keeping your home-alone dog entertained

Create a stimulating environment for your dog when they're home alone. Read on for creative DIY puzzles, smart toy suggestions, and the importance of interaction with dog walkers or pet sitters.

Keeping your home-alone dog entertained
Photo by Jude Infantini / Unsplash

We all want our dogs to feel relaxed and secure, and with more and more of us returning to the office, providing a safe yet stimulating environment for our dogs while we're away from home is important. In this post, we'll explore the best indoor activities for home-alone dogs, ways to keep your dog entertained, and how to create a space that caters to their needs.

Understanding solitary dog behaviors and needs

Before we dive into specific activities, it's essential to understand that dogs need mental and physical stimulation – especially if they're home alone for extended periods. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior such as chewing, digging, or excessive barking, or even stereotypies such as licking or self-mutilation. Depending on your dog's breed, age, and temperament, the level of stimulation they require can differ greatly. A young puppy or older dog might be content to sleep for much of the day, while a growing puppy, adolescent, or active breed may require more activity to burn off energy.

To determine the best ways to entertain your dog, observe their behavior when they are alone and provide activities that cater to their individual needs. It's also essential to note that solitary dogs may feel anxious or stressed when left alone, so pay attention to any signs your dog may be showing separation distress. A dog behavior consultant and your veterinarian are people you can contact for help in the event your dog exhibits signs of separation anxiety.

Image by James Smith from Pixabay

Indoor activities for home-alone dogs

To create a comfortable environment for your dog while you're away, consider the following:

  • A space where your dog can move around
  • A comfortable place to relax and sleep
  • Access to toys and chews
  • Interaction opportunities (via smart toys or cameras, or drop-in visitors such as pet sitters, dog walkers, or trainers)

Creating stimulating environments for home-alone dogs

Provide opportunities for your dog to exercise their mind and body.

DIY dog entertainment and puzzles

Don't let expensive toys and gadgets limit your creativity when it comes to keeping your dog entertained. DIY dog puzzles can provide hours of stimulation at a fraction of the cost. Be sure to test your puzzles at home with your dog first where you can observe them. You want to make sure they aren't eating or ingesting anything that isn't food while solving the puzzle before leaving them alone with one. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Muffin tin puzzle: Place treats in the cups of a muffin tin and cover each cup with a tennis ball. Your dog will need to figure out how to remove the balls to access the treats.
  2. Cardboard box puzzle: Hide treats inside a cardboard box filled with soft fabric or crumpled paper for your dog to dig through.
  3. Treat-filled Kong: Stuff a Kong toy with pouches of chicken or tuna, yogurt, or canned dog food. Freezing the kong can extend the activity further.
  4. Bottle spinner: Take an empty plastic bottle and cut small incisions on its sides. Insert your dog's favorite treats or kibble in the bottle. Your dog will have to spin the bottle to make the treats fall through the incisions.
  5. Wrapping paper game: Wrap your dog's favorite treats in newsprint or old magazine pages. Your dog can unwrap the presents to find the treats!
  6. Hide and seek treat game: Hide your dog's favorite treats in different parts of your home. This not only provides physical exercise but also works on their sense of smell.

Smart toys and cameras for dogs

If you're willing to invest in technology, there are several smart toys and cameras designed to entertain and monitor your dog when they're home alone.

  1. Interactive treat dispensers: Devices like the Furbo Dog Camera or Petcube Bites let you remotely interact with your pet and dispense treats via your smartphone.
  2. Automated toys: The iFetch ball thrower keeps your pup entertained with automated fetch sessions, while the Pet Qwerks Babble Ball features various sounds to entice play.
  3. Puzzle toys: Toys like the Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel challenge your dog to retrieve hidden animals while satisfying their natural hunting instincts.
  4. Two-way cameras: The Ring camera and the Nest Cam allow you to check in on your dog and speak to them.
Image by Myléne from Pixabay

Dog walkers: Worth their weight in gold

Pet sitters, dog walkers, or trainers can provide valuable interaction and exercise for your dog while you're away. Consider asking for recommendations from friends or your veterinarian, or local pet supply store staff. Some pet sitters and walkers offer extended services, such as hikes, small playgroups, or dog park visits, which can provide additional mental and physical stimulation for your dog. It's essential to thoroughly interview any potential caregivers and ensure they have proper insurance and qualifications.

Many dog trainers offer in-home sessions while you're at work, creating a win-win: your dog gets a potty break, a fun, treat-filled training session and mental stimulation, and you get all the benefits of the training!

If your budget is tight, hiring a pet sitter or walker even once a week can give your dog a much-needed opportunity to stretch and sniff. You can also consider asking friends or neighbors with flexible schedules to drop by, or offer to trade favors with someone who can work remotely with your dog for the day!

Image by Vladan Rajkovic from Pixabay

Ensuring a happy pup at home, while you're at work

Keeping your home-alone dog entertained requires understanding their individual needs and providing a stimulating environment. Take note of the things your dog likes to do while you are home together, and see which of these can translate to enrichment activities while you're away.

Creating an engaging and safe environment for your home-alone pet is crucial to their overall well-being. By understanding your dog's needs, offering DIY entertainment or investing in smart toys and cameras, you can increase their mental and physical stimulation levels during your absence. By taking the time to develop an enrichment plan that includes the right activities, toys, and interaction opportunities, you can help prevent boredom-related behaviors in your dog.