We all wish we could spend all our time with our dogs, but unfortunately the vast majority of us have to work! Being out of the house for long hours during the day can be boring for the dog and equally stressful for owners while we wonder what our canine buddy is getting up to in our absence.
Other than hiring our fantastic walkers at We Love Pets for a visit, and a wander and play outside, how can you ensure you’re keeping your dogs amused whilst they're home alone?
Easy DIY treat dispenser toys
We Love Pets Stroud and Tetbury branch owner, and Vet Nurse Sophie Baldwin recommends saving cardboard juice cartons and filling them with a few treats. The cartons make a noise when the dog is shaking them around trying to get the treat out, and, if the dog wants to it can shred it up to get to the treat.
During the warmer months, you could freeze ice cubes and leave them scattered around the kitchen floor. Even the worst crafters can do this one! They are fun to chase and play with as they melt and skid around the floor – and will keep your mutt hydrated and cool, too. You could even freeze something like a gravy bone in one of them so as it melts or is crunched, a treat is revealed!
Aside from ready-made activity feeders, which can be pricy and can break easily, you could make a homemade feeder from an empty water bottle with the lid taken off – this can even be suspended at dog height. It’s better for the environment as you’ll be recycling plastic rather than just throwing it away, and it is much harder for the dog to destroy.
Vet Dr Craig Waldon says “if a dog has access to outdoors – with appropriate security and shelter of course – you could scatter some of their food on the lawn so that they have to find it”.
Another DIY option is to create a snuffle mat. They can provide hours of fun for your pooch, and are incredibly simple to make. All you need is a rubber mat with premade holes and a couple of blankets cut into long strips which you then thread through all the holes at random and finally tie securely. Just sprinkle treats in and on the mat between the blanket strips, and let your pup do the rest…
Television and music as a distraction
Believe or not, TV for dogs is a thing! You can sign up to Dog TV’s official streaming service for 24-hour television; programming scientifically developed especially for dogs. Hey, we all like to be a couch potato once in a while – and dogs are no exception!
There have been various studies that have shown that playing classical music to dogs can reduce negative behaviours associated with anxiety and stress, and increased behaviours associated with relaxation. So next time you need to pop out for a few hours, why not leave a little Classic FM playing for your debonair hound to enjoy? You could also try leaving this relaxing eight-hour long playlist on YouTube, if you don’t have access to a radio.
FaceTime your dog!
Okay, so it’s not actually FaceTime, but The Petcube is just as great. Not only can you monitor your dog visually whilst you are away, but you can actually interact with them audibly too! But not just that, you can play with them using a laser pointer. It has a mobile app which you can share with your friends and family, so they can interact with your dog from anywhere too! Your pet need never be lonely again. There is a great video explaining it on the Petcube website.
Food dispensing toys
There are many great options around currently – the Kong is a very popular example and there is a brilliant range of products designed for all breeds of dog. You can also purchase a wide variety of treats and fillings to go inside the Kong toy, and change them up regularly to keep your dog interested.
If you would prefer something to promote more movement, particularly if your dog is of a breed that requires a higher level of exercise than others, then the BusyBuddy Kibble Nibble is a great option. There’s also the Nina Ottosson range, which provides great puzzles too for mental stimulation.
Hide and seek games
Try hiding some of your dog’s favourite things around the house for them to find. You can practice this while you’re at home to help your dog become familiar with searching for treats.
By training them to play scavenger hunt-type games, you can hide their toys and treats around the house and communicate the start of the game with your pooch before you leave.
Make sure you’re changing up the hiding locations on a regular basis so they don’t get bored!
Start the day with a high level of activity
If you tire your dog out before you head out for the day, there’s less chance of it getting bored and restless while you're out at work. Perhaps you could wake up half an hour earlier and take your dog for a brisk walk or run. If that isn’t possible, even a ten-minute play out in the garden will go some way in reducing destructive behaviour while you’re out.
Ensure your dog has access to a window with a view
Imagine sitting inside all day staring at the same four walls. Boring, right? If you ensure your pooch has access to a window with something going on outside, it’ll make the time pass quicker for him or her. If they don't fancy playing with toys or hunting down treats (hey, we all have lazy days) and just want to chill out, watching cars, bikes and people go past is more exciting than staring into space! If your dog is of a smaller breed, ensure they have access to a chair or similar with a comfy blanket and pillow to sit back and relax on while they watch the world go by.
The options really are endless
By ensuring your pup is entertained while you're out and about by providing it with boredom-busting enriching activities, mental stimulation is guaranteed and the potential for unruly behaviour is decreased. Enrichment is proven to reduce stress, increase confidence and encourage attentive play – so it’s a winner all round.
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