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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.
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 behaviours like chewing, barking and bathroom 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 wardrobe. If you live in a small apartment, a baby gate or playpen provides a secure boundary, but can easily be folded up and stashed out of sight. Check out our article on the best indoor playpens to find a great option for your home.
Some dogs 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.
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 bins or replace them with dog-proof models like this touch-free stainless steel trash can
- Put away shoes, clothing, kids’ toys and anything else you wouldn’t want your dog playing with (or putting in their mouth) while you’re not around
- Set the thermostat to 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.
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 sofa. But if you’re using a crate or small spare room, a dog bed will make all the difference.
This water-resistant orthopaedic bed is perfect for the ageing or arthritic dog. Add a blanket for burrowing and maybe one of your own old t-shirts for extra comfort.
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 colour and light can provide welcome entertainment during the day!
Sounds are another good addition to your doggy zone, as soothing classical music or nature sounds may calm anxious dogs.
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 slow feeder 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 favourite stuffed animal, ball or other toy around—as long as they aren’t prone to destroying stuff in your absence.
We’re not suggesting you spy on your dog but, well, maybe we are? 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, as well as a treat-dispenser that lets you reward good behaviour from afar (see video above).
If you’re going to set up a designated dog room, you might as well get creative! The internet is full of examples—you could get lost in a Pinterest search for hours! 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.
Featured image via Michael Beezy Barber’s Facebook