Dogs love company and we love to be with them but sometimes, we simply have to leave them at home alone. So many Dogs suffer from boredom and separation anxiety while home alone, resulting in unwanted barking, trying to escape or destructive behaviours. We end up feeling annoyed or even guilty! Here are 5 ways to stimulate and excite your Dog while you’re away…
Don’t wait on your Dog developing boredom or anxiety. Instead, take a preventative approach. Walk your Dog regularly and vary your route, play games in the park or visit a Dog-friendly beach. At home together, play games of fetch or hide and seek and train your Dog to do some tricks.
If you are away from home for long period of time, you could organise a Dog walker or investigate the Doggy day care option.
When your Dog is exercised, physically and mentally, they are much more likely to settle down when home alone and snooze the day away.
Toy, toys, toys
Most Dog love a toy or two and toys can be a great way to keep them entertained when alone. The key is to rotate toys around daily. When your Dog has not seen a particular toy for 5 or more days, they tend to treat it as a brand new toy and are more stimulated to play.
If your Dog isn’t too keen on toys, start to play with the toy yourself. When your Dog sees your interest, they may well want to join in the fun and games.
Remember to make sure that the toys you select for your Dog are safe.
Food, food, food!
Most Dogs are food-driven and the way to a Dog’s heart is through his mouth! Often we feed our Dogs, at one or two daily sittings, in a food bowl. The most enjoyable part of their day is over in 30 seconds! Why not spin it out and give your Dog a job to do. Let them hunt for their food.
Hide their Doggy biscuits or treats around your home or garden. Put kibble or treats in a food-releasing toy and watch your Dog occupy themselves trying to get every last piece of food. Again, have several different types of food toys, to keep your Dog interested.
Food-occupying activities are great ways to satisfy your Dog’s drive to hunt for food. This prevents them raiding the garbage bin!
Peace perfect peace
While we often want to provide stimulation for our canine companions, it is also beneficial to provide a peaceful atmosphere, especially for those anxiety-prone pooches. Create a den-like area or two – a kennel, an open crate or an area under your deck or a table. Leave a blanket that has your smell on it.
Music and background sound can also help relax many Dogs. Classical music can decrease barking behaviour and a mix of classical and reggae calms Dogs. So, get some Bach and Bob Marley on your speakers!
Lavender is also soothing for Dogs. Grow it in your garden or have some essential oils around your home.
Owning more than one Dog, or a variety of pets, can give pets the companionship they desire. While animal camaraderie can prevent boredom, it seldom is a cure for separation anxiety as, often, it is the humans that your Dog is bonded to.
If you decide to get another Dog, do it for you, as you will be the one with the hard work of looking after two Dogs. Be prepared that Dogs of similar age may ‘argue’ constantly or bond so strongly to one another, often at the expense of a connection with the owner, that they cannot be separated.
If you try all the above and your Dog still has problems settling when left alone, then seek help from an animal behaviourist. They will help you design a program that gets to the root cause of your Dog’s issues and derive solutions that help both you and your Dog. If your Dog is particularly anxious, then talk to your vet about appropriate medication.
Our Dogs love us and we must make sure that we are giving them the best possible life at home, especially at the times that we cannot be there. One thing is certain – your Dog will give you an enthusiastic welcome home!
About the author
Dr Jo Righetti is an animal behaviourist, helping people understand pets in her business Pet Problems Solved. Jo works with a variety of companies and organisations and is a proud Ambassador of Assistance Dogs Australia and Animal Welfare League Australia. Jo lives at home with Chilli Dog (a rescue, mixed breed), 4 cats and several chickens.