Our dogs can’t always come with us, sadly, and we’ve all gotta leave the house sometimes. So what does your dog get up to when you leave her home alone? Counter surfing? Couch surfing? Singing the blues? While some dogs may be content to snooze away the day, many dogs will need some extra stimulation to keep them happy during your absence. We’ve got some great suggestions for tactics and toys to keep dogs busy while you’re away.
The best toys to keep dogs busy
Pro tip: rotate toys in and out to keep things fresh and interesting.
1. KONG toys are a classic choice. You fill the hollow toy with peanut butter and dog treats, and for a challenge, put it in the freezer. It will take more time to remove the goodies that way, which is great if your dog needs stimulation for an extended period! You can also purchase pre-made KONG stuffings in lots of flavors that spray in like cheese whiz—yum.
2. Clever dogs may enjoy a straight-up puzzle. An interactive toy like the shuffle bone dog puzzle takes a little training for some pups, but it’s a lot of fun once they get it down. Hide dog food under the sliders for a quick game of “Where’s the Scooby snack?” For more toys like this, see the great Swedish puzzle toy line by Nina Ottosson.
3. Other options for toys to keep dogs busy include IQ-testers like this colorful ball toy, which will keep your dog entertained for longer than you’d think.
4. Treat-dispensing toys don’t stop at the KONG. The big version of the Bob-A-Lot gets a thumbs-up from our larger dogs.
5. The Petcube is a fun splurge that provides a lot of entertainment mileage for both of you; be warned that it does get addictive! It lets you watch and communicate with your dog from afar with pet camera and 2-way audio. Whaaaat. Other popular wireless pet cams include the Nest and the treat-tossing Furbo.
6. DIY enthusiasts, you can build your own puzzle toy if you’re feeling handy. Toys to keep dogs busy generally involve some kind of hide-and-seek factor, so get creative! Think empty milk jugs, a mat with lots of felt pieces…
7. Create a special dog zone for your pet with a few safe toys, treats, and comfort items. A baby gate can help section off a portion of the house if you don’t use a crate or can’t spare an entire room just for your dog. This zone should be comforting, as well as full of happy distractions. That leads us to…
Distractions for a lonely dog
1. Chews are a good bet. Just be careful not to give your dog anything that will splinter. The classic Nylabone is a good option with plenty of dog-friendly flavors. We hear it promotes healthy teeth, too.
2. Splurge on extra-cozy dog beds, like this popular orthopedic pet mattress. The more comfy, the more enticing it will be for daytime rest. You can also move or add beds for the novelty factor.
3. Leave the radio or TV on when you go out. Change up the station, too! This can help distract your dog from focusing on noises outside the house.
4. Shut the blinds on the busy side of your house and leave them open on the quiet side for some wildlife viewing.
5. Leaving on a fan or white noise machine can also help cover up other noises, which can help reduce barking.
A tired dog is a good dog
1. Exercise your dog before you leave for the day with a vigorous walk or game of fetch. This sets your dog up for a nice long snooze.
2. Did we mention walks? They’re key! Get some help if your schedule makes it tough.
3. Mental exercise can wear your dog out, too. Frequent training sessions can help calm the canine mind—and strengthen your bond.
If your dog is especially anxious when you leave, check out our separation anxiety tips for more great ideas.
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