Your pets are an extension of your family. You wonder if they are safe. You worry if you have a bored dog or cat waiting at home. You assume they are lonely. You ponder if they're engaging in any destructive behaviors when left unattended.
What’s a pet parent to do? You can’t always stay home. You certainly can’t take your dog with you everywhere you go (remember, NEVER leave a dog in a car)!
We have some suggestions and have come up with five ways to “fix” your dog’s home-alone loneliness and relieve some of his separation anxiety and to avoid having bored dogs or cats at home while you're away. Short on time? We've pulled together all of the products listed in this article in an Amazon storefront called "Ways to Cure Your Dog's Loneliness at Home."
A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog
Pet parents knows that a tired dog is a happy, and probably less-destructive dog, right? Pent up energy with no outlet can result in dog boredom which can lead to behaviors like destructive chewing or excessive barking.
If you know you’re going to be out and about and that your beloved fur baby will be home alone, get up earlier or plan your day so you can take him for a long, exhilarating run (try using a great leash for running like this one) or game of fetch in the backyard, physical exercise is the key!
If the weather isn’t cooperating, you can find a way to play some rousing, fun games in the house. This activity serves more than one purpose.
- You’re tiring your pup out with mentally stimulating tasks and physical activity
- You’re having a great bonding time with him
When your dog is tired, he may sleep the day away, won’t be as lonely and might not suffer as much from separation anxiety.
Avoid a Bored Dog-Entertain Your Pet
You can’t always be at home to play fetch or scratch her belly, but you can make certain she is not in an empty, silent house. Turn on an enrichment tool like DOGTV.
Whether your dog lies on the couch and watches with rapt attention or if she is in her crate and benefits from her occasional glimpses at the programs, she is being entertained and kept company. PetHub Basic+ members get their first two months FREE!
What is DOGTV? It's a streaming service you can subscribe to and display on your television, a laptop or tablet that has been scientifically designed to give your dog mental stimulation. It's a 24/7 channel that's curated specifically for dogs.
Image by Bryn Souza
It includes relaxing videos and music that has been designed based on the ways dogs see images on a television screen. DOGTV incorporates the specific colors that dogs see clearly along with short clips (puppers have short attention spans) and tones/frequencies that are shown to be calming for dogs. A lot of science went into making tv programming to make a bored dog an engaged and entertained dog.
Remember, dogs don’t binge-watch television the way humans do. Nor do they need to watch all of the programming in order to benefit. The background sounds are soothing and will keep your dog company when you can’t be there.
Provide Food Toys
Image by Bryn Souza
Fill the puzzle toy with treats or kibble and let your dog play with it. They will be rewarded every time he “solves” the puzzle and receives a treat. This allows your pup to have its own fun while using puzzle toys or snuffle mats for an interactive option.
When you’re leaving your dog home with a toy or treat, it’s best to only use that treat when you’re away. If he has the toy every day, it won’t seem “special," and he may become bored with it and not be motivated to play with it while he’s home alone.
As with all dog toys, a pet parent needs to be mindful of potential choking hazards or damaged teeth. Keep these factors in mind when deciding which chew toys or interactive toys may be appropriate for your pup while you're away.
A snuffle mat can be hand-made or purchased online. The basic idea of a snuffle mat is a fabric base where other pieces of fabric (like felt) are connected. A pet's food or special smelly treats can be sprinkled in the mat between and under the fabric pieces, which requires a pup to use their noses to sniff for treats and their paws to dig for a reward.
It's a mental stimulation tool that feels like playtime for pets. It's great for times when a pet may be alone but can also help for dogs that eat quickly and need ways to slow down their chomping.
Image by Bryn Souza
These mats can help a pet parent decide if their pup is a candidate for dog sports like scent training. If your dog quickly sniffs out and grabs their reward, you may want to sign them up for some enrichment activities in the form of dog sports which can be as fun for the human as it is for the pet!
Line up a dog walker or pet sitter
Your dog may need human interaction and may need exercise in the middle of the day to ward off doggy boredom. If that’s the case, hire a pet sitter or someone to bring them on walks. You can use apps like NextDoor to search for for dog walkers or pet sitters in your area or you may have a friend or family member who will want to come and spend time with your pup.
There are also services like Rover.com that can match you with walkers or sitters. Additional outlets for physical exercise throughout the day can be helpful for pets, especially certain dog breeds that need more physical exercise.
If you’re bringing a person who walks or watches your pet, make sure you do a meet-and-greet prior to just handing over the keys to the house. You need to assure yourself that the person walking your dog is a good fit for you and fido. Learn more about how to find the best dog walker for your family.
Mike Linville, Founder of PetSitter365 says, “When choosing a doggo walker or pet sitter – don’t assume all sitters are created equal. Ask for referrals from family, friends or your local vet. Ask for references, do a ‘meet and greet.” Above all – listen to your gut. If it doesn’t feel like a great fit – find someone who is. Your pets deserve it.”
Use Calming Aids
If your dog is prone to high anxiety and stress you may want to incorporate the methods above, but also use some calming aids.
Your dog will appreciate the care you’re taking to alleviate his fears and anxiety while he’s home alone. He may not know what you’re doing, but he will know that he will be alright until you are back home with him, rubbing his belly, kissing his nose and spending quality time with him.
Ask your veterinarian whether your dog is anxious or stressed and whether she needs medication to address her anxiety. Some medications can be given in advance of an upcoming stressful event like fireworks a storm or trips to the vet.
Others can be given on an as needed basis when a stressful situation pops up. There are a lot of different medication options and combinations available that can help your pet maintain their chill. If you're curious about options but can't make your way to the vet, a telehealth conversation through chat or over the phone can help you to understand what medication choices may work for your pet so you're better able to talk through those options when visiting with the veterinarian in person.
PetHub offers Wellness Tools, which includes unlimited 24/7 access to veterinary telehealth for ALL the dogs and cats in your family. Learn about the times when taking advantage of telehealth can help you and your pet in this article.
Other Calming Tools
If she is not that anxious that may warrant medical intervention, you can use pet calming pheromone sprays or collars. There are calming aids in the form of chews that your dog may benefit from, too. Gear like Thundershirts can help give your pup a calming hug.
There are a lot of calming tools out there, here are 10 of the best calming aids on the market for pets!
Doggy Boredom Wrap-up for Pet Parents
Your dog will appreciate the care you’re taking to alleviate his fears and anxiety while he’s home alone. With the tools we've listed, you'll be able to recognize doggy boredom and use a dog's toys, exercise, puzzles or calming aids to help with mental stimulation. He may not know what you’re doing, but he will know that he will be alright until you are back home with him, rubbing his belly, kissing his nose and spending quality time with him.
Published on 7/31/23