Dogs are social creatures; most possessing the ability to become instant friends with any animal or human they come across. This is one of the most enduring and heartwarming characteristics that our four-legged best friends are blessed with at birth. However; the same trait that makes them so lovable also makes it difficult to leave them alone. Dogs can become lonely rather quickly. While a cat may not even notice you have left until hours, or even days have passed, a dog notices immediately and is usually distressed about it. Lonely dogs can be a problem for many reasons.
A lonely dog can get themselves into trouble chewing expensive household items or doing their business in inappropriate places.
A lonely dog can act out; finding inideal ways to spend their pent up energy in small confined spaces. And worse; a lonely dog is never a happy dog.
We all want to give our pets all the love and attention they need to thrive but it’s simply not possible to stay home with our dogs all day, every day. When the time comes that you need to leave you pet alone, here are some clever tricks for keeping them entertained.
There are a few really creative ways you can treat your pet while keeping them entertained. First; you can purchase a few treat puzzles. There are several different variations of these products on the market. Despite small differences between models, they all basically do the same thing. The puzzle is a toy that you put a treat in but before your pet can get to the treat they must move the pieces of the puzzle a particular way to expose the goodie hidden inside. You can place several of these throughout your house and most dog breeds will love spending some time and creative energy figuring out how to open them up.
Pro-tip: If your pet is new to these toys, it is best to help them out at first while you are home so they know what they are meant to do. Otherwise you may leave one of these out with the best of intentions and your dog will never even think to play with it.
Another way to hide a treat is in an ice cube. You can freeze treats in ice cubes or even freeze entire bones or toys in blocks of ice. This is fun for most dogs because they are able to see their treat inside but they must first figure out a way to get to it. This is best done an an area that can accommodate the water of the melting ice.
One final way you can keep your dog entertained with a treat is to spread some healthy nut butter in a hollow toy. Many pet owners already have hollow toys on hand they can utilize but if not, these affordable toys are available just about anywhere pet supplies are sold. Simply load the toy up with some peanut butter and hide it somewhere in the house. Your dog’s senses will guide him there and it will take him a good amount of time to lap up all the hidden goodness.
A Place with a View
Dogs love to observe everything that is happening around them. Any dog owner can attest to their furry friend’s undying curiosity and lack of subtlety in their nosieness. An easy way to keep them entertained is to lean into that desire.
The most obvious way to do this is by opening the blinds, allowing your pup to see everything going on outside. This may seem too simple but it can do wonders for distracting your dog. They will likely spend hours in front of the windows watching cars, other pets and just being plain curious. Even if nothing much happens in your neighborhood, a view to the outside world will always be better than just staring at the walls.
If your pet has access to the yard while you are away, you can exercise this same concept with your fence. Providing peepholes for them to look through can help them entertain themselves. Of course, always be safe when cutting holes in fence lines. You do not want to risk your pet getting out or hurt in the cut fence. There are some helpful guides online if you are interested in learning more.
Finally; turn on some tv. You can do this in addition to providing them with a view. Some pet owners have found success in purchasing a two way pet viewer that allows you to see your pet and them to see you while you are away from home. Others prefer to use DogTV but even the good old Animal Planet can help keep them entertained.
Note: Some dogs won’t enjoy watching TV and the sounds from it being on all day can upset them. It’s important to understand your dog’s breed and his/her likes and dislikes. Don’t do anything that may add additional stress to their time away from you.
Let Them Exercise
Another great way to distract your doggie friend when you can’t be around is with exercise. These methods are great because not only will your dog be having fun but they will also be getting the exercise they need to be healthy. There a few ways to help them burn their energy reserves.
First, you can throw the ball around in the morning and wear them out before you leave. If you are heading to work or a night out it can be helpful to take the time to exercise your dog before you drive away. Taking them for a walk to a dog park or playing fetch in the backyard can wear them out a bit before it’s time to go. This will leave them with less energy while you are out and make them less likely to get bored.
Dog walkers are another wonderful resource. This is particularly helpful if you know you will be gone for an extended period of time, such as a long weekend. Dogs will feel much better if they get regular human attention and are able to freely run and play outside.
By the same token you can schedule playdates with other dogs in the neighborhood. Many dog owners will pair up and pet sit each other’s pups from time to time. This allows the dog to not only have human attention they crave but also they will be able to play with a doggie friend. They likely won’t even notice you’re not around because they will be having that much fun.
We shouldn’t overlook the effectiveness of new toys. Dogs love to chew toys, bones and squeakers. Sometimes keeping them entertained for a short time alone just takes have a new toy on hand. And if nothing else it is a great tool to add to your arsenal to use to help keep them happy and calm while you are out. Certain smart dog toys nowadays even help exercise your pup while you’re away, which means less energy to expel when you get home and are ready to relax.
Put It All Together
No single one of these ideas are going to keep your pet happy all the time. No matter what tricks you are using your dog is going to miss you. You are their entire world. However; understanding why pets get lonely and what needs aren’t being fulfilled when you aren’t around can go a long way in helping you develop a plan to remedy the problem. Try a few or all of the above to keep your dog entertained when you are away. But remember to give them extra love before your leave and when you come back. No matter how clever the trick, there will never be a replacement for YOU.
About the Author: Abi Pennavaria is a dog mom, a volunteer veterinarian, and co-author of Saved By The Bark blog. She enjoys sharing tips and tricks for dog owners of all breeds.
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