How to entertain your dog when you're not at home

Mental stimulation for your dog. 

Are you heading back to work after Covid? Will the kids all be heading back to school after the holidays or homeschooling? Are you out of the house for long periods of time?

Some dogs can get bored and anxious when left in a house alone. Especially when there is a change in routine or the amount of people to pat, play with or just hang out with.

Fortunately there are plenty of ways to keep your dog amused while you are out of the house. Some “boredom buster” toys and accessories can be purchased but there are also plenty of things you can do that cost nothing at all. 

Some relatively cheap or free ways to entertain your dog: 

  • A child’s “clamshell” sandpit is a fantastic tool to keep your dog entertained. They can be picked up for between $10-$20. It may also help with dogs who like to dig in inappropriate places. To encourage digging in the right place and to give your dog a challenge, bury small treats in the sand before you leave for the day. Your dog will be able to smell the treats and will have fun trying to dig to find where they are. 

  • Treats and/or food can be hidden in easy to reach places around the house. This will appeal to your dogs natural hunting instinct and lets them use their fantastic sense of smell. Make sure you don’t hide it near anything that can be knocked over or broken or you may come home to a mess.

  • In summer, blocks of ice can provide hours of entertainment for your dog. Freeze a big treat (or several small ones) in a big block of ice. You can use an old icecream or takeaway container. Your dog can push around, lick and chew to try and get them out. 

  • A plastic soft drink or water bottle is a great way to recycle and make an entertaining dog toy. Put food (with a few extra tasty treats) inside and make holes big enough for them to fit through. Your dog will have fun rolling it around to get them out, plus the crunch of the plastic makes a fun noise! Just be sure to remove the lid and plastic ring for safety.

  • Cardboard boxes can provide all sorts of fun. Hide food or treats inside and tape the box up and your dog will have to work out how to get inside. Just be prepared to clean up some cardboardy mess when you get home (this one is best kept to the backyard).

    Entertainment that costs a little more money (but can be absolutely worth it!).

  • Kong toys. These are a tried and true classic dog toy. They are great on their own or filled with treats and/or peanut butter. Try freezing peanut butter inside in summer for some cooling entertainment. As well as the classic Kong toys there are “wobblers” that you can fill with food and yout dog has to push and paw at it to make it wobble around and spill the treats inside. Make sure you buy the correct size for your dog’s breed so they get the most out of it and are safe.

  • Snuffle mats are great entertainment as well as slowing down fast eaters. They have layers of fabric to sprinkle your dogs food between. They then have to sniff, snuffle and search their way to every last morsel.

  • Food puzzle games. There are several of these on the market ranging from easy maze bowls to more advanced games that require problem solving. 

  • Other chew toys or treats are also a good way to keep your dog occupied. Rope toys hung just out of reach, deer antlers to chew on, long lasting chews and many others are available to purchase. 

  • Some things to consider:

  • Inspect the toys regularly to ensure there are no parts that can be swallowed or strings that your dog can get tangled in. 

  • Clean toys that have had food in them with with hot water. You can use an old toothbrush to get into the hard to reach places. A lot of the toys are dishwasher safe too, read the manufacturers instructions to check.

  • Be careful with the type of peanut butter you use. Use only 100% peanut butter that contains no additives. Xylitol is found is some brands of peanut butter and can be fatal to your dog if eaten.

  • When using treats or food to keep your dog entertained be mindful of calorie intake. Your dogs normal food should make up the majority of “treat” used. Store bought treats, peanut butter, and high calorie snacks should be used sparingly as a motivator. Decrease the amount of food you feed at other times when using food in this manner. 

  • There’s no simple answer to boredom that will work for all dogs. By focusing on rotating enrichment activities throughout the week, your dog has better chances of remaining calm when you’re out of the house. An occupied and content dog is also a non destructive dog and you are less likely to find your favourite pair of shoes ripped to pieces or your prize winning roses dug up.

If you are having problems with your dogs behaviour be sure to read our behavioural advice page and book an appointment with one of our very knowledgeable vets. 




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