Home-Alone Dogs: BOREDOM BUSTERS

by Camilla Gray-Nelson

NEW this month!  A guest contributor, Amber Kingsley.

Here are some clever tips, shared by Amber, to keep your home-alone, latch-key dog happy and content in your absence.  Enjoy!

TP Naughty DogIf yours is one of many where your dog stays home for eight, nine, or 10 hours per day while you go to work or school, you probably have a routine put together. Whether you’re trying to keep the dog from harming itself with no supervision–or keep your couch safe from the dog’s teeth–you likely have found a process that works well for you and your dog.

Perhaps you walk or jog with the dog right before you leave the home and as soon as you return home, preventing accidents and encouraging rest. Perhaps you give the dog access to only certain rooms in the house while you’re gone, where you’re certain the dog cannot eat or chew objects that could harm it. Some dogs have access to a fenced backyard through a doggie door. Or maybe your dog is crated all day for safety.

Dog Boredom During the Day

No matter how you ensure the safety of your dog while you’re at work, chances are you may worry that your dog becomes bored while you’re gone. A bored dog may start digging in the yard, howling and barking uncontrollably, chewing on furniture, licking a spot on its skin until it’s raw, or a host of other undesirable behaviors. And if these behaviors become a habit for the dog over time, you may start to notice those bad habits occurring while you’re at home too.

Keeping the Dog Entertained

Fortunately, dogs left at home during the day don’t have to be bored for several hours. Try these half a dozen creative ways to entertain your dog while it stays at home, but while also keeping the animal safe.

  1. Consider placing a video camera in the room where the dog will be kept, preferably a camera that allows you to speak through it. You can watch the dog via an Internet connection, keeping an eye on its behavior. And talking to it occasionally through the camera may also help the dog have a good day.
  2. If your dog suffers from anxiety during the day while home alone, soothing music may make it feel better. Leave the music player high on a shelf in the room where the dog will spend most of the day, so the dog cannot get to it and chew it. If possible, you may want to add your voice to the music, perhaps between songs, to keep the dog entertained.
  3. A nice mix of toys is a must for any dog that will stay home alone all day. Just make sure any toy you leave for the dog cannot be broken into dangerous small pieces. Consider a puzzle toy that dispenses a few treats as the dog plays with it to keep the dog entertained for a long period of time.
  4. One treat that I’ve found that will keep a dog entertained for quite a while is to place peanut butter inside a Kong (which is a nearly indestructible rubber toy with a hole in one end). Maybe place a small treat or two inside the peanut butter. Then freeze the Kong overnight, and your dog can spend time licking the frozen peanut butter the next day.
  5. Some dogs enjoy watching TV during the day, so if the dog will be kept in a room where a TV is available, consider playing programming designed to keep the dog stimulated and entertained for parts of the day and relaxed during other parts.
  6. Your clothes. If you have some old workout clothes that you haven’t washed yet, consider leaving those in the room with the dog that’s at home alone. Having your scent nearby may help soothe the dog. Just make sure they’re old clothes so you don’t worry about the dog chewing the clothes.

Test Before Employing Any Methods

It’s best to be sure your dog is healthy. For example, a dog suffering from arthritis may not exhibit symptoms unless you’re paying attention. Don’t assume that just because your dog is amusing itself while you’re away, that this is an indication of good health.

Before you use any of the methods listed above to keep your dog entertained while you’re gone, test them while you’re home on the weekend. You want to make sure the dog will be safe with the items … and you want to make sure your taste in music or TV shows will be soothing for the dog, rather than driving it toward more destructive behavior.

– Amber Kingsley, Guest contributor

Addendum from the Diva

In addition to Amber’s great suggestions above, I recommend signing up with your dog for a weekly group class of some sort, and using a few minutes each evening to “practice” what you are learning in class.  It could be an obedience class, a nosework class or a simple agility class with you practicing on homemade obstacles.  I always find that a tired mind makes for a happy dog.  🙂

About Camilla Gray-Nelson

When I started training dogs professionally, it was women who sought out my help. Responsibility for the family dog typically falls to them, after all. Their homes were in chaos; they were yelling at their dogs – and their kids – and couldn’t control either one. The life skills of personal power that I learned as a child (and assumed everyone else had, too), turned out to be rare among my clients. Since that time, it has been my personal goal to share Nature’s message of quiet power with women (and men) everywhere to help them become more effective not only with their dogs, but in their greater lives as well.

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