We all know the feeling of having to leave your dog home alone. You’re all set, ready to go and just before you do you have to say goodbye to your precious pooch. They stare at you with those puppy dog eyes, begging you not to leave. How adorable they look makes it difficult to leave the house guilt-free.
There are many ways that you could try to reduce the guilt you feel when having to leave your dog home alone. Giving them something else to focus on other than you will mean you do not always get to see the sadness in their eyes. Instead, you could leave the house knowing that they are happy, excited and stimulated by another activity.
It is important that your dog is not bored when home alone, as sometimes this can lead to destructive behaviour. However, this is not the case for all dogs. Some dogs when bored might simply become unhappy in their day to day life if they are left alone regularly for long periods of time.
Ensuring that your pooch has something to do when you’re not there, other than sleep and drink, will keep them healthy.
In fact, keeping them entertained when they are home alone helps to:
- Keep them active
- Boost their intelligence
- Keep them happy
- Lower their chances of suffering from separation anxiety
I’m going to share with you 12 ways that you can keep your pooch entertained when they are home alone. Hopefully these will work for you but please keep in mind that all dogs are different, so some may work for your dog better than others. Try to base it on what you already know about your pup.
George the Cockapoo loves being outside but he’s pretty relaxed inside.
1. Playing them music
Music can affect the behaviour of your dog, just like it can affect our moods as humans. The Nest reported that music that sounds angry can affect your dog’s behaviour and make them annoyed or anxious, yet classical music soothes and relaxes them. They also reported that your everyday pop music does not have an affect on them and their behaviour does not change.
If you want your dog to feel relaxed because you know they become anxious when you’re gone, try playing them some classical music to calm them down. Perhaps it’ll put them right to sleep!
When I lived with Nelly the Cockapoo, we used to leave the radio on for her when we went out. This was because she would be left alone for a few hours at a time and we wanted her to have some sort of company and sound when on her own.
Remember that dogs communicate through sound, which is why they are particularly sensitive to it. Having the radio on could create a more normal atmosphere for your pooch so that they do not feel lonely.
Charlie, the Westie that I look after occasionally, listens to the radio through his owner’s Alexa. Although he is a very independent dog, it does help him when they are not at home for long periods of time. If you have an Alexa, you just have to say: “Alexa, tune into Radio 1”. Obviously you can choose your radio station depending on where you live and what you want your dog to listen to.
You can also play music through:
- An actual radio
- Google Home
- CD player
- Apple HomePod
The music can stimulate their brain or relax them, meaning they are thinking less about when you’re going to be home.
2. Treat puzzle ball
There are so many great puzzle balls for dogs out there. They work by stimulating your dog’s brain as they have to find their treats. It usually involves moving the puzzle ball around the floor to try and work out the best angles for the treats to release.
On some puzzle balls, you can change the level of difficulty for your pup. If you know they have already mastered one level, you might consider switching it up so that it takes them longer to work out. This can keep them entertained for ages, depending on the level of difficulty, the amount of treats and how intelligent your dog is.
Most dogs love treats, so why not reward them for building on their intelligence?
If you’re worried that your dog will get too used to one specific puzzle ball, you could branch out and look at other puzzle toys for dogs. This way, you are able to alternate the toys so that they do not get bored of them.
However, all the times that I have either given a puzzle ball to a dog myself or seen others use it, the dogs have never been bored by getting treats out. These types of toys can keep them active too, especially if it involves them trailing it around the floor and following it until a treat falls out.
Oz the Cocker Spaniel is happy playing with sticks out in the garden.
3. Hiding treats around the house
Dogs are very good with their noses and enjoy to sniff around new, familiar and old smells. If your dog has particularly strong instincts when it comes to things around the house, you might want to consider entertaining them by playing treat hide and seek.
Before you go out, keep your dog entertained with something in a different room to where you will hide all of the treats. While they are busy, try hiding some of their treats around the other rooms in the house.
Obviously, if you keep your dog in one particular room or crate when you’re not at home, this might not be the best game for your dog to take part in. However, if you let your dog roam free, try to hide their treats in places that are easy to get to without causing damage, but not so easy that the game will be over in two minutes.
For example, if you have hidden one in their toy box, try hiding the treat at the bottom or inside one of the toys if they have holes. Or if you hide it by their bed, try to put it in a place where they have to dig in their bed slightly.
It might also be worth hiding a range of different sized treats to make it a little trickier. Make sure that they are treats that are strong in smell so that they have the urge to hunt for them.
If you are worried about your dog causing a big mess or destroying anything, perhaps try this game supervised first to see if it will be a good fit for when you’re not there.
4. Kong toys
Kong products tend to be robust, easy to use and entertaining for your dog. A classic Kong toy allows you to stuff the inside with treats, both hard and soft. It can take your pup a long time to get through it, depending on what is in there and how eager they are.
Kong toys also come in a range of sizes. The bigger your dog, the bigger the Kong should be.
We used to give Nelly the Cockapoo one of these when we were going out because it would keep her happy for a while. We used to mix together small treats and peanut butter and stuff this inside, as it made it last longer for her. It would also mean that the treats stuck to the side, making it more difficult for her to get out.
Before giving your dog any food other than dog food and treats, make sure that they can have it. There are plenty of doggy alternatives to human food. We only used to give Nelly peanut butter as a small treat, so do make sure that a food product is right for your dog before allowing them to have it.
Charlie the Westie loves a new squeaky toy – he enjoys to try and destroy them.
5. Make your dog a new toy to play with
If you’re worried that your dog is getting bored of his toys, try making your own out of things in your house. This way, your dog feels like they are playing with something new and interactive that stimulates their brain further than their current toys do.
We often used to tie socks together for Nelly, which she loved because they were stretchy and had different thicknesses.
If you’re not feeling crafty, you could simply buy some cheap dog toys from a store and give your dog one before you leave. Alternatively, you could rotate which toys your dogs have when. For example, if you know there’s a particular type of toy that they love to play with for hours, try to give them that when you go out.
Alternating their toys means that they get a variety and feel that there is something different to excite them.
6. Dog camera
Dog cameras seem to have come into fashion in recent years and more people are buying them to see what their pup gets up to when they’re not there.
This is useful so that you can see:
- What your dog is doing
- How much time they spend sleeping
- Whether they get up to any mischief
- How bored they are
- Their general behaviour when alone
There are some dog cameras that allow for two way audio so that you can speak to your dog at times that are necessary.
This dog camera is on the slightly more expensive scale however, it does allow for more interaction. If you have an Alexa device, this product allows you to have voice control.
This type of product lets you see what your dog is up to, feed him treats and talk to him. The product also has sensors on it, so it alerts you when your dog is barking.
A dog camera can be useful for more than just checking up on your dog… You can interact with them if you notice that they are not as entertained as you like them to be. They will recognise your voice and try to respond to you. No doubt they’ll enjoy a treat or two as well!
7. Automatic ball launcher
If you want your dog to get more exercise, either inside or outside of the house, it might be worth investing in an automatic ball launcher. This way you can make sure that your dog gets the exercise he needs when you cannot be there to provide it yourself.
When choosing an automatic ball launcher, try to make sure that it is safe for both indoor and outdoor use if that is what you need it for. If you have a large garden, your dog will love playing fetch where he could stretch his legs.
For the colder months, an automatic ball launcher would be handy if it has a short throwing range. This is if you have the space indoors, of course!
Depending on how much you spend on one of these, the quality can range. The more you spend, the more features it might have, such as:
- Rest periods to make sure your dog is not exercising too much
- Sensors to make sure nobody is within range of being hit
- Adaptable launch ranges
When buying one of these for the purpose of use without too much human interaction, make sure that it is fit for that purpose and that you have a good amount of space for your dog to run after the ball.
Nelly would always sit at the top of the arm chair, right by the window.
8. Digging toy
Many dogs have a natural instinct to dig. Some dogs just cannot help themselves when they see a stick that they want to pry from the ground. If your dog loves to dig, you could try giving them an indoor digging toy to play with when you’re not there.
Nelly used to love hiding a toy or bone underneath a duvet or blanket and then try to dig for it. However, she’d come back for it a couple of hours later and dig for it then, as if she had forgotten whereabouts she had hidden it!
This toy by iFetch has several different pockets that allow you to hide treats or toys in. It allows your dog to dig within the toy to find which pocket it is in. This will keep your dog entertained for a while as you can put multiple treats in and increase the difficulty.
9. Build an obstacle course
This one may sound a bit silly but if you have the right tools, your dog might love it if you build them an obstacle course. Whether that’s making a tunnel out of cardboard (as long as you can trust your pup not to chew it up) or using plastic stools as a small jump, you could create a small and fun play run.
If you have a big garden, you could invest in play tunnels and jumping poles for your pooch. A little bit of time and effort while you’re there will have them used to how they work. Perhaps when you’re not around, your dog will enjoy a run around the garden using the obstacle course.
10. Put on a doggy film
As I said previously, dogs communicate with sound and that is how they understand other dogs. Whether another dog is in danger, is happy or excited, another dog understands that. The same goes for when they see animals on TV – they can understand what is going on between dogs.
Although not all dogs respond well to dogs on the TV, others will be comforted by what they see on screen. It might be worth putting on a film or TV programme that involves other dogs while you’re out so that your pup does not feel alone.
Even if your dog does not actively watch the film, it still provides a background noise that might make your dog feel at ease. Make sure it is nothing too startling as you do not want your dog to get riled up while you’re out.
Unfortunately, this never worked for Nelly as she would go ballistic whenever she saw any animals on TV. She would run up to the TV stand, get as close to the TV as possible and bark non-stop. Once we told her to stop barking, she would shyly walk away but growl under her breath as she did not like seeing them.
George’s favourite toy will always be his burger.
11. Invite your dog’s best buddy over
If there’s a particular dog that your pooch enjoys the company of, you could always try a playdate where they get to spend quality time together.
Make sure that both dogs are comfortable around each other and have spent enough time together before leaving them alone. This way you will have established their behaviours around each other and whether they get along well.
If they do get along well, they will likely enjoy the time spent together if you and someone else are out. Dogs live for company and it is good for them to interact with their own kind on a regular basis.
12. Freeze food
In the hot weather, something cold is incredibly refreshing. Dogs get even hotter than us because they are covered in fur, so during any hot weather it’s best to keep them cool.
Your dog would probably absolutely love ice cold treats to cool him down. To be honest, he’d probably enjoy an iced cold treat at any time of year if it were yummy enough. The good thing about frozen treats is that they will last longer than tiny treats that your dog will wolf down.
You could try creating and freezing some doggy popsicles and giving one to your pooch when you go out. Alternatively, they might enjoy an ice cube that they can lick. They are bound to keep your dog entertained for a little while and they may not be so heartbroken when you have to leave.
Oz will play with any toy that is thrown his way.
That’s only 12 things that could keep your dog entertained for a while when you leave them home alone but there are plenty more that you can try.
Remember that not all of these will necessarily work for your dog as it depends on what they like and dislike, as well as the space you have at home.
To summarise what I’ve spoken about in this article:
- Dogs communicate via sound, so they understand what other dogs’ barks are saying
- You can craft your own obstacle courses out of things in your home
- A dog camera is a way of communicating with your pooch and checking that they are okay on their own
- Dogs have a natural instinct to dig
- There are a range of puzzle balls that have varying difficulties