I wish I could just stay at home and hang out with my dog all day. Unfortunately, the boss doesn't seem to like it very much most of us inevitably have to leave our dogs at home by themselves while we go to work.
It's not all such a bad thing. Dogs need their alone time too, when you are at home, you can see how much time they spend sleeping, or lying in the sun or just laying on the couch. It is only healthy that your dog learns to spend some time on their own.
Our job is to make sure that we provide our dogs with stimulation while we are away and a nice amount of play time when we get home from work. If you learn how to entertain your bored dog while you're at work, you will have a happy dog who will lovingly greet you after a long day.
Why dogs are destructive when home alone
You can read in an earlier article that I wrote about why dogs may become destructive, but here is a summary of why your dog may be destructively chewing everything in site.
Puppies are extremely playful and investigative. It is an important part of social development and an important ways for dogs to learn about their environment. It is a normal behavior for puppies to investigate their environment by sniffing, tasting and chewing.
Puppies are around 2 months old when their puppy teeth start coming in. Then between 4-6 months when their milk teeth fall out and are replaced by the adult teeth. This is the start of the destructive stage. Puppies will chew to help their teeth go through this process and to help relieve sore teeth and gums.
Some dogs may chew because they receive attention, even negative attention, when they chew. You may be inadvertently rewarding the behavior when you give them treats or talk to them in order to get them to stop chewing.
Chewing and destructive behavior may also be a response to anxiety. Dogs that are confined in areas where they feel insecure may dig and chew in an attempt to escape. Dogs that are anxious may turn to chewing as an outlet. Chewing may help relieve a dog of tension or anxiety.
5. Dental health
It is important to a dogs health to keep their teeth, guns and mouths clean. Just as we brush our teeth, dogs chew to
As your puppy grows up, 6 - 12 months, they start to following their instincts. They begin to try hunting for food, protecting their families and themselves.
7. Exercises jaw muscles
Just as we run or go to the gym, dogs chew to exercise their jaws. Chewing can last for months, even years, and increasing regular and physical exercise can help to redirect the need to chew and be destructive.
A lonely or bored dog will be more destructive and chew for longer periods of time. Dogs are looking for ways to occupy their time and are finding things to do.
Your dog will practice chewing on what you teach him to chew on. If he can't find an appropriate item to chew on, he will use what ever he can find in stead.
Dogs will look for something that smells good, tastes delicious and feels good in their mouth, they will want to come back for more.
Dogs can develop obsessive chewing disorders . When we allow our dogs' habits to progress to the point of obsession we are creating a very frustrated, unhappy dog.
How to entertain a bored dog
It is very important to correct boredom in dogs. Your dog will not be happy or mentally healthy if your dog is at home alone for hours on end with nothing to do all day.
Much of the time, we just need to wear our dogs out, particularly younger dogs. As your dog gets older, they will most likely have less energy and required less exercise.
Always make time for your dog! You may need to get up an hour earlier, you may need to get in the car and drive to the park, you may need to put on Ugg boots or take an umbrella. Just do it. By not making time to exercise your dog, you will have a bored, unhappy dog.
But.... Yes, I hear you saying, not all of us are runners, and yes that is me included. I have a high energy dog, even though he is little, Tiger the terrier needed a lots of exercise when he was young. He is nearly 12 now but I still keep him active and wear him out.
If you run, great, you dog will love it. If you don't or can't run, here are a few option for you to still get your dog exercising and burning off energy. My Big tip is to provide variety in your daily exercise.
1. Walk around the neighbourhood
Go for a 30 - 60 minute walk. I vary the walk between a good pace and letting Tiger stop and smell the flowers (and dog pee). Smelling is your dog's favorite thing. By letting your dog spend some time smelling, you are activating him mind and letting him work out what has been going on in the neighbourhood all week.
2. Go to the beach (or river, or lake)
So this really is Tigers favourite activity. Your dog will love playing with the other dogs, splashing in the water. Swimming and running on the sand will really burn that excess energy.
I have had to modify this a little, my Tiger isn't really a Dog's Dog, and not really a fan of playing nicely. Over the years, I have found quiet beaches, sometimes private beaches that I get permission to use where there are fewer dogs to deal with. We can still have fun on the beach with less stress.
3. Play at the dog park
The dog park will again allow interaction with other dogs but provide variety with some nice green grass and a few trees around the explore. Again I find quieter parks and take a ball to throw. Tiger ends up running miles playing fetch. If you have a high energy dog use a tennis racquet or ball thrower to get more distance.
What about when my dog is home alone?
So, this is the next part of the puzzle. After you dog is well exercised, they should be satisfied for hours. A dog will generally sleep well during the day and his mind will be thinking about all those smells and little doggy conversations that was had at the dog park.
Before you go to work, you can prepare your dog for the day ahead. Here are some ideas to keep you dogs entertained while you are away at work.
1. Interactive dog toys
These don't have to be expensive but a toy that creates a challenge for your dog. Some dogs are smarter than others, but most interactive toys will allow you to make it harder for experienced or smarter dogs.
2. Kongs, chews and fill toys
Kongs are the most popular toy to leave out for dogs and there is a reason why. Yes, Kongs really are a great way to keep your dog busy. Fill the Kong or similar toy with peanut butter or his favourite sticky food and leave it out just before you leave for work.
3. Hide treats around the house or yard
Play a little game of hide and seek for your dog. Hide the treats around the house or yard and try not to let your dog see where you put them. I use dog biscuits, fill toys, quality raw hide or Tigers all time favorite treat, carrots!!
4. Open windows or peek holes in the fence
A dog can be stimulated by just watching what is going on around the neighborhood. Open the windows so that your dog can see cars drive by, birds flying around and all the coming and goings of your neighborhood. If you have solid fencing or gates you may consider a peek hole so that your dog can see out.
5. Build a doggy look out
While looking through the fence is fantastic, another fantastic way to keep your dog busy is to build a lookout that allows your dog to look over the fence. Use some old tables or boxes that will allow you dog to gain some height and see what the neighbors are doing over the fence.
6. Turn on the TV or radio
Turning on the radio or tele will provide your dog with some background voices to get your dog listening and thinking about the sounds. It can also help to soothe and calm your dog if your dog tends to be a little anxious or uptight. Choose some easy listening or classical music to calm your dog and provide a relaxing environment.
7. Organise a play date
You may find that your friends are in the same boat as you when it comes to leaving their dogs at home while at work. A fantastic way to help you both out is to share doggy play dates. You will find that the dogs play, sometimes ferociously at first, but once the excitement is over, they calm down and laze about for much of the day. When they start to feel bored or destructive, there is a little friend there to play with.
My friend does this once a week with her dog Trixie and the neighbor across the street. By the end of the day, both dogs are exhausted. As a double bones, this also gives you a day off from taking your dog out for a run or walk.
8. Make a mega ice cube
A great home made interactive toy is a Ice Block Treat. Fill an old ice-cream container water and fill with your dogs favorite treats. Freeze until hard. Check the container from time to time and move the treats around so that they get evenly spread within the ice block.
This will keep your dog working hard to free the treats. This is a particularly good treat in summer to keep your dog cool, although the ice will melt quickly. If you have an inside dog you may want to try using a large bowl like this dog below from tablespoon.com.
9. Rotate your dog's toys
If you are anything like me, your dog has more toys than a pet store. Rather than put them all out at once, only put out a few and rotate the toys every day or two. This will keep your dog interested and intrigued in the toys for longer and get excited when the new toys come out.
A bored dog will not be a happy dog. They will become naughty, destructive and sad. It is important to entertain a bored dog while you're at work or going to be away from home for an extended period of time.
Spend time with your dog each day and think about your dog before you go out. Make sure that your dog has enough food, water, toys and has had some good exercise or even a quick walk to relieve that pent up energy.
A happy and healthy dog will be a joy to be around. Smile!!