Working dog moms and dads hustle every day to provide for their pups. Unfortunately, that means leaving those adorable balls of fur home alone for most of the day. The guilt is real, and few bosses accept, “But my dog is sad!” as an excuse to take the day off. Some dogs handle the lonely work week better than others, but that doesn’t make leaving any easier. What does make it easier is knowing you’re doing everything you can to make your dog’s life better. Here are a few creative ideas to entertain your dog during those long shifts.
#1. Set Them Up For a Snooze
Dogs need about 12-14 hours of sleep a day, and puppies can sleep an impressive 18 out of 24 hours. You can’t expect your dog to sleep all day if he’s not tired, however. You can help him feel sleepy during the day by waking him up early to go for a walk. If walks aren’t your thing, play a game of sunrise fetch. Yes, you’ll dread your early alarm, but your dog is worth it. He’ll be much more content to sleep after he’s had a chance to tire himself out. You should also invest in a dog bed that’ so comfy, it’ll instantly lull your dog to dreamland.
#2. Turn on the TV
If your pup gets bored easily, keeping the TV on may be an easy solution. It’ll entertain your dog, and hearing a human voice may help him feel less lonely. According to National Geographic, dogs are fully capable of recognizing the images they see on TV. So if there’s a show about dogs, they’ll see the on-screen pups and maybe even react like they’re in the room. Some dogs love watching TV and can be entertained by their favorite shows for hours. There are even specific channels, like DogTV, that play programs adapted to the canine brain. They run in the dichromatic color scheme best for doggy vision, and they show images based on what dogs like.
#3. Play Music or an Audiobook
If you don’t want your dog addicted to daytime television, test out his love for music. The radio will work, but you need to be careful about what you let your dog listen to. A study done with a large group of rescue dogs showed classical music can keep dogs calm, but loud, grating music can have the opposite effect. You don’t want your dog rocking out to heavy metal while you’re away. Another study found reggae music is also pleasing to the canine brain. The science of sounds for dogs has even spread to audiobooks. Audible has an entire collection of audiobooks specifically chosen and narrated to entertain dogs and keep them calm.
#4. Provide Live Entertainment
While some dogs can be enthralled by the TV, others aren’t interested in those two-dimensional figures. They prefer the excitement of live entertainment. As long as your dog doesn’t become overly excited or agitated at the sight of a person walking down the street or a dog out for a walk, consider leaving the curtains open during the day. Arrange a comfy chair that gives him the height he needs to see out the window, and let him watch the world go round. If you’re nervous about your dog reacting to something he sees, start him off with a window facing a quiet side of the yard or neighborhood. Remember to keep the window closed! You don’t want your dog bursting through the screen when he sees a squirrel.
#5. Leave Out Interactive Toys
A squeaky duck can be loads of fun, but it’s not likely to keep your dog’s attention when he’s by himself. Interactive toys, on the other paw, are designed to entertain your dog and stimulate his mind. Most of these toys are treat-related and motivate dogs to play for a tasty reward. There are plenty of treat-dispensing toys that roll, bounce, wobble, and spin. Fill one up with food before you head out, and let your dog work for his breakfast. You can also try a snuffle mat for safe indoor entertainment.
We do NOT recommend leaving your dog with chew toys while he’s alone! Even toys that are the appropriate size for your pet can break and cause unfortunate accidents. There are many puzzle toys meant to entertain your dog that don’t go into his mouth. Look for a dispensing toy that doesn’t use removable parts your dog can chew or swallow. You may need to help him learn to use it at first til he gets the hang of it!
#6. Stage a Scavenger Hunt
Even if you don’t have any interactive dog toys, you can still engage your dog with food while you’re gone. A scavenger hunt is a great way to do this. Every day before work, take a few minutes to hide bits of your dog’s breakfast around the house. Choose places that are safe and won’t cause your dog harm if he gets overeager in his search. Teach him the “find it” cue, and let him loose to hunt for his dinner when you walk out the door. Not only will this distract him while you make your exit, it’ll also get him moving and thinking for an extended amount of time. After he’s found all the food, he’ll be happy to take a post-hunt nap.
#7. Teach Him Games He Can Play By Himself
Playing with you will always be more fun than playing by himself, but it is possible to teach dogs to play while you’re away. If your dog is obsessed with playing tug, you can make a tug area by attaching a safe tug toy to something sturdy and stationary. He might not know what to do at first, but show him how to pick up the toy and pull. It’ll give him an outlet for pent up energy when the work day seems to drag. Some dogs can even learn how to play fetch on their own. Teach him how to drop his ball down the stairs or down a ramp and then chase after it. You’ll need to be sure there’s plenty of room for your dog to run with no breakables in his path. There are also automatic ball launchers that could work inside if you have a big enough space.
Sniff Diggy Nose Work mat is a super popular tool that dog owners use to exercise your dog’s mind and body. You simply hide treats or kibble insides the cloth strips. (NOTE: you should never leave your dog alone with any toy unless you’re certain they will not eat it!)
#8. Invest in an Interactive Webcam
Technology is catching on to the dog lover’s plight, and pet webcams are now a popular home addition. There are plenty out there to choose from, and they allow working dog moms and dads to remotely check in on their little ones during the day. For the best experience, find a camera that allows you to talk to your dog through a speaker. You can chime in to tell him how wonderful he is or distract him when he’s about to do something naughty. Some of the cameras even dispense treats and come with remote-operated lasers. This one on Amazon has lots of great reviews!
#9. Go Home for Lunch or Hire a Dog Walker
You need to take a lunch break anyway, why spend it in a crummy cafeteria? A visit from you in the middle of the day, even if it’s 15 minutes, will give your dog a break from monotony. It’ll also give him a chance to empty his bladder. If a lunchtime visit from you won’t work, consider hiring a dog walker. You could even ask a friend or neighbor to drop in for a few minutes and entertain your dog. Your dog will love the company and the extra loving and exercise will do him good.
#10. Try a Doggie Daycare
Doggie daycares are great for people with busy work schedules and high-energy dogs. They’re literally in business to entertain your dog while you’re at work. Dog owners drop off their fur-children in the morning for a fun-filled day of playing with other dogs and people. By the time they’re picked up in the evening, they’re pleasantly exhausted. Daycare programs can be pricey, but most people agree the money is worth the peace of mind. Instead of your dog dreading every day left alone, he’ll look forward to spending the day with his friends in a place he loves.
#11. Adopt Another Dog!
If your dog gets along well with others, a permanent playmate could be a good idea. But before you run off and adopt the first cute face you see, make sure adding another dog is the right decision for your family. Double the dogs means double the food and vet bills. It also means two dogs to exercise and the potential for two dogs’ worth of damage when things get rowdy. At the same time, another dog means double the doggy love. Your two fur buddies can keep each other company while you’re away and help each other stave off loneliness. Always remember, however, you shouldn’t leave two newly acquainted dogs alone together right away. They need time to get to know each other first.
Stay at home pup parent may be your dream job, but you don’t need to be fraught with guilt when you’re forced to spend the day at work. Go down this list and try out the ideas you think will best entertain your dog. Remember to always prioritize your pup’s safety and don’t leave him free to roam the house if he’s bound to get into trouble. Many of these ideas can work in a crate as long as your dog is properly crate trained. If all goes well, he’ll stay happy during the day and be waiting with a wagging tail when you come home.