Owning a dog can be one of the best feelings in the world. With the fun and love they bring to your life, dogs really are part of the family. However, there will be times that you have to leave your dog for longer than you would like, knowing how to entertain a dog at home alone can be very helpful knowledge.
Whether it is due to work or attending your kids’ football game, sometimes the four-legged family member has to be left behind and it sucks.
Of course, our favorite way is with robotic or WiFi dog toys so you can play even while you’re at work, but there is more than just this you can do.
If you’d want your dog to be happy and stay out of trouble while you’re away from home, then the tips below are ways to keep your dog engaged in your absence. But, before we get into the ideas below, let’s just talk a little bit about leaving your dog at home
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How long can a dog be left alone in the house?
This isn’t a straightforward question to answer as it will vary from breed to breed and personality. However, that said, if pushed the recommendation is no longer than around 6 hours. Ideally, dogs shouldn’t be left at home alone for longer than 4 hours, but unfortunately for most working families, this is very difficult.
Most modern pet parents lead very busy lives with jobs and children, and our dogs often end up spending a good portion of the day home alone. A lonely, bored dog will find a way to occupy the time that can be destructive to your furniture and clothes and potentially harmful to herself.
How about puppies, can they be left at home alone?
Not really, so our advice is that if you cannot commit to giving your puppy some proper love and attention every 2 hours at a minimum, maybe now isn’t the best time in your life to make a commitment to owning one. Not only may they suffer from separation anxiety, but they also need to pee a lot more, so it’s better for them and your floor.
However, it could be possible if you are prepared to pay a dog-sitter or are lucky enough to have a neighbor who is happy to pop in regularly to give little pups some love and attention throughout the day.
If you are leaving a puppy at home, just remember to “puppy proof” your house. They love sniffing out and chewing anything. They also love climbing up and falling off things, so be careful and ensure your house is safe and probably free of cushions.
When your puppy passes the 6-month stage it is probably OK to start gradually increasing the time that they spend alone, but you will be the best one to judge when your little fluffball is ready.
Preparing your house
As mentioned above, dogs love to explore and get their little snouts into every nook and cranny of your house, so it is important to make sure your house is dog-proof before you head out for the day. Here are a few tips:
- Give your dog a good walk in the morning so when you leave they are tired
- Lock away your food
- Don’t leave dirty dishes with food remnants in the sink, they will get licked
- Hade anything small enough to be eaten. It’s not uncommon to hear stores of things such as jewelry being accidentally gobbled up
- If your dog doesn’t have great bowel control and there may be poop when you return, DO NOT leave your Roomba on.
- Leave plenty of chewable toys around or expect to be buying new cushions
- Make sure your dog has access to water
Consider a dog breed that can be left alone
As with humans, all dogs are different, and some breeds are better at being left at home alone than others. If you are decided which breed you would like but know you will likely be out a lot, you may want to consider choosing a breed that is more adept at being left at home alone.
How to entertain a dog home alone
So, not you know how long you can leave your four-legged friend for, as well as how to prepare your house, let’s look at how you can keep your dog from being bored when home alone.
1. Leave the TV or Radio on
When your dog is home alone, it can really get lonely if everywhere is quiet and calm but with voices coming from the radio or TV, your pet will find it easier to relax and may not get very lonely. So it’s important you leave either the TV or radio on to entertain your pet when you’re out of the house.
2. Engage its sense of smell
One way to keep your dog excited and entertained while you’re away is by engaging its sense of smell in a treat hunt. Dogs have well-developed senses of smell and they can practically sniff out anything. And you can use this to your advantage by hiding away small treats you know your dog really loves and simply cannot resist.
Hide these goodies in places your dog does not frequent, that is, in very unusual places so your pet can use its sense of smell to sniff them out one after another.
Make sure each treat is small and not a feast so your dog doesn’t get too stuffed to search for the others. This way, your pet can be busy for hours. To avoid destruction, ensure you do not hide away the treats in places where the dog will have to tear down or rip them apart to get the goodies.
3. Get a Wi-Fi dog toy
If your canine is one that gets upset or nervous while alone and you like to always keep an eye on him. And while you’re gone, you find yourself worrying about your pet, then a smart dog toy will be ideal for you and your pet.
Smart dog toys are gadgets that help you stay connected with your dog when you’re away. They use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and can connect to your smartphone via an app.
These toys keep track of your pet’s activities and some come with cameras so you can see and talk to your dog. It lets you watch and communicate with your dog from afar with a pet camera, laser pointer toy, and 2-way audio.
This way you won’t have to worry about leaving your dog home alone because you can always communicate with it. Some Wi-Fi dog toys also have pet treat dispensers so you can feed your dog from your workplace or wherever you are.
4. Leave it an ice treat
Your dog can play with an ice treat for hours, making it a good way to keep it engaged. You can prepare an ice treat by putting some dog goodies in a small bowl of water and freezing it. It’s much better if the treats and well space on the ice.
An ice treat is an ideal source of distraction for your dog on a hot summer day, the dog will keep licking it to get to the treats, this will not only keep it busy but hydrated. And as the ice melt to reveal a treat, the dog is rewarded and this motivates it to work harder for the other treats, thus eliminating boredom.
5. Get a Puzzle games
Another ideal way to keep your dog positively engaged in your absence is by using intelligence games. Intelligence games are great for dogs, they not only act as a source of entertainment but help to build your dog’s cognitive ability.
These games can simulate actual engagement with humans and other pets and some even provide treats for dogs as a reward, further making the dog work harder, keeping it engaged and entertained in the process. If your dog is prone to boredom when it’s alone, an intelligence game is probably going to help and maybe you should get one.
Dog puzzle games usually involve a treat hidden within a gadget that your dog has to manipulate if they want to eat the treat.
The KONG chew toy is a very popular option, with a range of durabilities depending on the tenacity and strength of your dog, and there are many others at your local pet store.
Keeping dogs busy usually involves some kind of hide-and-seek factor, and there are a lot of household items that can be transformed into treat-hiding toys that can give the right amount of mental stimulation.
Think empty milk jugs, a mat with lots of felt pieces, or a muffin tin filled with treats and covered in tennis balls to block easy access to the snacks.
6. Set up a pet monitoring system
If you worry about your pet when you’re away and would like to somehow know what’s going on with it, you can set up a pet monitoring system. Almost like a smart dog toy, a pet cam allows you to watch your dog remotely, and from anywhere you are you can keep an eye on your pet.
This will help you know when your dog gets into trouble or becomes sick. Also, some pet monitoring systems allow you to interact with your pet so while your boss thinks you’re working, you can be playing with your pet. Not that you would do that 🙂
7. Hire a dog walker
Having a dog walker walk your dog is another way to keep your dog happy in your absence. Dog owners hire a dog walker for keeping dogs busy and happy in their absence. This is especially a perfect choice if you’re always too busy to take your dog out for walks, as this will help it exercise and stay healthy. So aside from keeping your pet happy, a dog walker will help it exercise and keep your dog entertained.
8. Take your dog to daycare
Daycare for dogs and pets, in general, is becoming really popular to enable pet owners to take care of their business while making sure their pets are in good hands. You can find out if there is such a facility in your neighborhood and also find out what kind of activities they offer and how your pet will fit in. This is a good choice if your dog is able to socialize and relate well with other animals.
9. Leave the curtains open
Leaving your pets home alone doesn’t mean you should make them feel confined. A simple way to keep your dog busy leave the curtains open and provide a spot close to the windows where it can sit and lookout. It also helps if you leave some doors open so your pet can move from room to room and not feel rooted to a spot. But be sure to keep rooms containing really valuable stuff locked and out of sight of any open windows.
Dogs love a good view find a window in your house that offers up an interesting view of the street or backyard. Leave the curtains open so your dog has a good view throughout the day. Set it up with their favorite things and dog food so they’re encouraged to spend time there.
You’ll be surprised how much time a dog can spend just watching the world go by, waiting for you to get home for walks.
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10. Organize play dates with a neighbor’s pet
If you have neighbors who have pets, why not engage these pets with yours so they can be playmates. This solves the problem of boredom and loneliness both for your dogs and your neighbor’s dogs or cats. Of course, you have to find out if these pets get along to avoid any form of brutality.
Final thoughts on leaving a dog home alone
As a dog owner, it’s only natural to care for your pet, and worrying about them if you’re away for too many hours is not unusual. But this doesn’t make it ideal, keeping them engaged and entertained does not only help you worry less but help your pet avoid getting into trouble, and stay happier and healthier.
Keeping your dog entertained while you’re away is vital to their mental well-being and good health.
While it won’t replace a good old-fashioned walk in the park, experimenting with these games and exercises can make it that much easier to wave goodbye to your pooch when you head off to work.
Hopefully, you will have found the above information useful, and remember to take a look at our selection of robots for dogs to see ways you can interact and play with your little fluff nugget while you are out and about.
Matt is the founder of the Little Robot Shop, who has spent much of the last decade hacking home cleaning with various robots and devices to make keeping his home clean as easy as possible. Not an easy task with two young children.
When not working on the Little Robot Shop website or YouTube channel, he works as technical support and product specialist for a fast-growing digital company. He does his best to get his younglings to code, which will be an essential skill in the future.