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Leaving your dog home alone is hard on both of you. It’s tough to leave that sweet face behind! But the truth is, your dog can handle short periods of alone time just fine, especially if you set up a “dog-safe zone” to keep them comfortable and entertained.
Whether it’s a well-appointed crate or an entire spare room, read on to learn everything you need to create the perfect dog zone for your best friend. A dog room is also helpful for creating a sense of security when they’ll be cared for by a pet sitter.
1. The room itself
A dog zone doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, many dogs prefer smaller spaces. Quiet, comfortable, enclosed spaces remind them of their ancestral dens. In addition, limiting your dog’s access to the rest of the house may prevent unwanted behaviors like chewing, barking, and potty accidents.
Almost any spare space in your home can double as a dog room: a laundry room, spare bedroom, or even a large walk-in closet. If you live in a small apartment, a baby gate or playpen provides a secure boundary, but can be folded up and stashed out of sight when you’re home. This freestanding wooden pet gate can be moved from doorway to hallway as needed, making it a practical choice for a home with fewer rooms.
Some dog do better with even more limited access, like dogs with separation anxiety. That’s where crate training comes in. Pick up a basic dog crate and deck it out with all the comforts your dog needs to relax during the day.
2. Safety first
Once you’ve chosen your doggy zone, it’s time to make it safe. If your dog is older, you don’t need to do much beyond the obvious cleaning up. But if you have a young, rambunctious, or anxious pup, you’ll want to take steps to dog-proof the environment:
- Store cleaning materials and and food in another room, or up high behind closed cabinet doors (click here to learn about potentially hazardous household materials)
- Tape down electrical cords, or hide them behind furniture
- Remove trash cans, or replace them with dog-proof models like a touch-free stainless steel trash can.
- Put away shoes, clothing, kids’ toys, and anything else you wouldn’t want your dog playing (or putting in their mouth) while you’re not around.
- Set the thermostat for a comfortable temperature, and don’t leave on unnecessary, dangerous space heaters
Hopefully, your home is already outfitted with a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide monitor, but take this as a reminder to do a battery check.
3. A place to lay their head
Dogs spend about 50% of the day sleeping, so comfort counts! Make a soft, relaxing bed the focal point of your doggy zone. Of course, if it’s the living room and your dog is allowed on the furniture, you can just let them lounge on the couch. But if you’re using a crate or small spare room, a dog bed will make all the difference.
A water-resistant orthopedic dog bed is perfect for aging dog. Add a blanket for burrowing, and maybe one of your own old t-shirts for a sensory reminder of you.
4. Soothing sights and sounds
A friend of mine always leaves the television tuned to Animal Planet for her dog. Dogs may not be able to follow plot lines on TV shows, but the color and light can provide welcome entertainment during the day!
Sounds is another good addition to your doggy zone, as soothing classical music or nature sounds may calm anxious dogs. As a bonus, if you live in an apartment with sensitive neighbors, a sound machine can mask noises your dog makes during the day.
5. Something to do
Dogs need mental exercise as much as physical, and just because you’re not home doesn’t mean you can’t challenge their brains. No dog zone is complete without stuff to keep your dog busy.
These puzzle and activity toys are a great addition to your dog room:
- Kong toys: the classic. Fill them with breakfast kibble or treats, or make a frozen goodie for extra challenge.
- A seek-a-treat puzzle toy challenges your dog to use their nose and paws
- A treat ball toy gives them something fun to chase around the room (plus a tasty reward)
- If you’re crafty and frugal, make your own puzzle toy at home.
It’s also a good idea to leave your dog’s favorite stuffed animal, ball, or other toy around, as long as they aren’t prone to destroying stuff in your absence.
6. Surveillance gear
We’re not suggesting you spy on your dog, but, well, maybe we are? Pet webcams let you check in on your pet while you’re away, and a basic model won’t cost too much.
If you want to get fancy, the Furbo Dog Camera features two-way audio so you and your beloved can hear each other’s voices during the day, and a treat-tosser that lets you reward good behavior from afar (see video above).
7. Creativity & imagination
If you’re going to set up a designated dog room, you might as well get creative! The internet is full of examples, like the colorful, space-saving laundry room remodel pictured above. You can install a dog den under the stairs, turn a closet into a puppy palace, or create a luxury crate with affordable DIY materials.
Of course, dogs don’t need anything fancy. The most important thing is that your dog zone be a safe, comfortable place for your best friend to hang out while they await your return at the end of the day.