It is important to provide your dog with ways to entertain and occupy themselves when they are home alone. A bored and frustrated dog can look for ways to entertain themselves which may result in unwanted behavior. This can include nuisance barking, destructive behavior and even escaping if they are outside. It can also result in a dog feeling lonely and depressed.
A good way to ensure your dog chooses to spend their time do fun and enriching activities to set up activity areas in different parts of the house or backyard. Each activity area can be anything from a simple engaging toy to a box full of smaller items. See dog enrichment box below for more about this. Don’t expect your dog to automatically be interested or know what to do in each activity area. You may need to spend some time with your dog when you are home to introduce and teach them to engage in the various activities.
Here are 21 ways for your dog to entertain and occupy themselves when they are home alone.
Enrichment activities for the home alone dog
Mental stimulation and challenges are a great way to prevent your dog becoming bored. Mental exercise can also tire a dog just as much as physical exercise. You can learn more about providing mental stimulation and the six categories of enrichment for dogs here.
Dog enrichment box
To make an enrichment box you simply need a larger cardboard box, some smaller boxes, empty toilet rolls, and newspaper. Put treats the toilet rolls, smaller boxes or wrap in newspaper and fill the box up. You can also put in a chew toy or stuffed Kong so they have something to settle done with when they are finished.
You may have a mess of shredded paper to clean up. But what is a few minutes of tidying for hours of fun and enrichment for your dog?
Watch the video to see how to make an enrichment box for your dog
Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs and has many benefits. These include keeping them occupied and dental health benefits. The chewing action also releases endorphins to your dog’s brain giving them that feel good stress relief and calm feeling.
To learn more about the benefits of chewing and the best chew toys for dogs see here.
Digging is also a natural instinctive behavior for dogs. Digging can also be an unwanted behavior for many dog owners. You can’t eliminate an instinctive behavior, but you can redirect it. If your dog is outside during the time they are home alone provide a digging pit and hide a chew bone or their favorite toy in it to encourage them to use it. For inside dogs, you can provide them with activities and toys that simulate the digging behavior.
For more on this see best dog toys for diggers.
Interactive puzzle toys are one of the best ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment for your dog. These generally involve your dog having to work out how to get a treat or food stuffed inside out and can keep your dog busy for a long time. For the best puzzle toys for dogs see here.
Kongs for dogs
The Kong is an essential for every dog. They have multiple uses such as stuffing with food or treats giving your dog a challenge to get to the goodies. They also double as the perfect chew toy for dogs. Kongs are also great for a fun game of fetch when you are home as there unique shape means they bounce in unpredictable directions.
To learn more about how to use a Kongs for dogs see here.
A Snuffe Mat is another great way to provide for your dog’s natural digging instinct and to provide mental stimulation and relieve boredom. A Snuffe mat is a mat that is made of fleece and you can hide dry food or treats into it.
If you are someone that is good at crafts you can try to make one yourself or check out the range of Snuffle Mats at Amazon.
Dog toys that move on their own
There is a range of dog toys that shake, rattle, roll, vibrate and make a variety of intriguing sounds. Many of these are self-activated. All you dog has to do is touch the toy with their paw or nose and away it goes. Many dogs love these type of toys as they relate directly to their natural prey instinct.
To learn more about dog toys that move on their own see here.
A dog’s sense of smell is one of their main senses. By stimulating the nose you are stimulating the brain. There are a number of ways a dog can do scenting activities when they are home alone. If your dog is outside in the backyard while you are out, try splashing a small amount of beef or chicken stock around the section. You only need to splash a small amount of the stock in various places. This will keep your dog intrigued and occupied for a long time.
Another scenting game whether your dog is inside or outside is to hide treats and chews for them to find. You can also do this with a stuffed Kong or puzzle toy. This way they get the fun of locating the toy and then get to work on the challenge. The first time you do this show your dog that you have hidden the goodies so they know to look for them.
Gadgets for the home alone dog
There are now many gadgets available for dogs that can keep them occupied and engaged or that allow you to interact with your dog even when you are not there. Here are some of the best gadgets for the dog who is home alone.
This automatic rolling treat ball from Petgeek is activated by a soft touch from your dog and can last for up to 7 hours. Requires two AAA batteries and goes into sleep mode after a period of no activity.
Provides physical exercise and mental stimulation as they figure out how to release the treats. Can hold up to 380ml of kibble or small treats(sized up to 0.3 inches). This is ideal for the home alone dog also.
View the Petgeek Automatic Rolling Ball on Amazon,
The iFetch Frenzy is the only dog puzzle toy that doesn’t use treats. The ball itself is the reward. Your dog drops the ball into the top and scrambles to find it as it randomly rolls from 6-12 feet out of 1 of 3 chutes at the base.
There’s no launching, like our other iFetch ball launchers. This product allows dogs to quickly return to the real challenge: the mental game of guessing where the ball will appear next.
See the iFetch Frenzy on Amazon
Automatic Ball Launchers
Fetch is the favorite game of the majority of dogs. I am sure you have had the experience of your dog wanting you to throw the ball just a few more times. With an Automatic Ball Launcher, they can play fetch by all by themselves. This will require training them to put the ball in the funnel initially, but once they know what to do they are away and fetching. Read “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs” to learn more
As discussed above, digging is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs. The iDigg is the first dog toy that has been specially designed to cater to your dog’s natural digging instinct. You simply hide their favorite toy or treats in the flaps and let them dig away to uncover the hidden treasure. Not only will the action of digging help burn off pent-up energy, but the mental challenge of working out how to get to the goodies will help to tire them also.
The GoBone is the ultimate motorized dog chase toy. Just touch the GoBone and it will keep your dog entertained for up to 8 hours. Alternatively, you can use the app to control the GoBone yourself. This makes for a fun game for both your dog and you. The GoBone is tough and made from durable materials. However, if your dog does chew it you can get a replaceable exterior cover.
To make it even better for your dog you can place treats inside the wheels. Even more reason your dog will love one.
For more dog toys that move on their own see here.
Interactive cameras for dogs
With a pet camera, you can check in to see what your dog is up when you are not there. They also allow interaction with your dog ranging such as two-way communication. This way you can talk to your dog and they can also send notifications to your phone if your dog is barking. Some of these cameras even allow you to dispense a treat to your dog or have a game with the built-in laser pointer.
For the best pet cameras for dogs see here.
Other fun activities for the home alone dog
Tug of war
A lot of dogs love a good game of tug of war and it is also an excellent strengthening exercise for dogs. All dogs should do some type of strengthening exercise. It is not just for breeds like Pitbulls or Staffies. This type of exercise has many benefits including burning off pent-up energy, burning fat to help maintain a good weight. It is also beneficial in building muscle to give support to tendons and joints. The following three suggestions are ways in which a dog can play tug of war by themselves.
A spring pole is simply a spring connected to a rope that hangs from a tree branch or beam with a lure or toy attached to the end. This allows your dog to play tug of war with him or herself even if you are not there. Popular with a lot of dogs and particularly terrier type breeds like the Pitbull that loves a good game of tug of war. Obviously, this is best for dogs that are kept outside when they are home alone.
This pole tug toy is a variation on the Spring Pole with an added twist. You may remember the old pole tennis sets many of us had as kids. This is similar in that the pole goes in the ground and your dog can play tug of war with it. When they let the ball go it bounces and swings around in all directions creating a great game of chase thanks to the spring in the pole. It is designed for dogs between 5lbs to 59lbs. The height of the pole can be adjusted to suit the size of the dog playing with it. It is reasonably robust and does come with a lifetime warranty. However, for the really strong and powerful breeds, I would recommend using a spring pole.
Staying with the tug of war theme, this one is for the small dogs and can be used indoors. This is attached to the ceiling with a strong Elephant hook and can be removed easily when not in use. It comes with a bungy cord and a plush toy that has a squeaker to arouse their interest. You can attach other plush toys also if your dog as a particular favorite.
A Jolly Ball is a nearly indestructible ball for dogs that they push and chase around. They come in a variety of sizes, styles and are also available with a handle or rope attached for tug of war. These are particularly popular with high energy breeds such as Pitbulls and Staffies. They are also ideal for herding breeds such as Border Collies and Blue Heelers as they cater to their natural herding instinct. It is like sheep herding without the sheep.
Don’t expect to just give your dog a Jolly ball and for them to know what to do. You may need to spend some time teaching them how to play with it. This is simply done by rewarding them every time they push the ball.
View Jolly Balls on Amazon
Check out the video to see what great exercise and fun they are for dogs.
Lots of dogs love to chase the water from the hose. With this dog water sprinkler, they can play this game without you. This device attaches to your hose and has a paw pedal so they can turn the water on. Ideal for when the weather is hot keeping them cooler and providing access to fresh flowing water to keep them hydrated.
The Kong Wobbler holds a good volume of dog kibble or treats to occupy your dog for a reasonable amount of time. Because of its unique shape your dog can bat it with their paws or nose sending it off in all directions dispensing food. It is also ideal for dogs that gobble down their food too fast as it makes them work for their food.
View the Kong Wobbler on Amazon
View to the world
If your dog is inside when you are at work or out of the home it is a good idea to give them a view to outside by pulling the curtains open. It is probably best to do this with a window that faces the backyard as you don’t want them barking at any people or other dogs passing by.
Leave the Television on
Some dogs really do enjoy watching television especially if there are dogs for them to watch. If your dog is interested in watching a bit of TV consider leaving it on for them. Maybe a good dog movie or Animal Planet may make good viewing for them.
Summary – Entertaining a dog home alone
I hope you have discovered at least one or more good ways of providing enrichment and keeping your dog occupied when you are out. If you know of any other ways to keep a dog occupied when home alone feel free to comment.
For a Complete Guide to Leaving a Dog Home Alone see here.