The holidays have came and gone and most of us are returning back to work, leaving our dogs back to the routine of us not being there during the day. Dogs are naturally sociable animals. Being left on their own all day is quite an unnatural (and boring) experience for many dogs. As a result, dogs left alone all day tend to get themselves into mischief as a source of entertainment. Whether that takes the form of destructive behaviour or constant barking, it’s hardly an ideal situation for either your dog or your neighbours.
Fortunately, if you’re struggling to keep your dog amused while you’re out there are a host of options you can try.
Like us humans, the more tired your dog is, the less they will fancy getting into trouble! If you’re going to be out at work for long periods of time, then one practical tip is to start the day with a long walk. Dispense with the same old boring walk around the same old roads, and instead get creative. Take your dog to new areas to mentally stimulate them. Don’t just settle for walking but also consider going for a jog, playing fetch or doing some obedience training.
The goal is to stimulate both the body and mind. Not only will your dog have the time of their life, but the first few hours while you’re away they’ll likely be recovering from all their exertions.
Your dog no doubt has their favorite toys, and making these available during the day is certainly beneficial. However, why not change things up with toys which encourage activity and concentration from your dog? For example, a Kong can be filled with peanut butter. Many dogs will spend hours trying to lick the last of the delicious filling out. Alternatively, a range of other toys will dispense small treats over time. For example, Boredom Breakers and balls filled with treats, which must be rolled around in order to gain access to the kibble.
Get creative with your choice of toys, and don’t be afraid of investing a little money into exciting new options on a regular basis. Over time you’ll build up a collection of toys which can be rotated to keep play fresh and exciting.
Some dogs find that hearing human voices during the day can help to keep them calm and encourage them to behave. Leaving a radio or the TV on quietly in the background can be beneficial under such circumstances. On the other hand, you know your dog better than anyone. A small minority of pets will find unfamiliar voices stressful, which can actually encourage barking. If in doubt, try leaving the radio on for short periods of time to see how your dog reacts. If the impact seems to be positive, then consider leaving this on while you’re at work.
Just because you’re working from nine to five doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog needs to remain alone for this entire time. If possible, try to pop back at lunchtime for a toilet break and some affection. Alternatively, see if a friend or neighbor who is known to your dog can turn up once or twice during the day. They may even be willing to take your dog out for an additional midday stroll.
If you’re concerned about how your dog behaves in your absence, or you’ve had an uncomfortable chat with your neighbors about daytime barking then consider installing a simple web cam in your property. Under such circumstances you can keep an eye on your dog from the comfort of your smart phone. You can learn plenty from such an exercise, such as which toys seem to have the greatest appeal for your dog, or what noises seem to set off a barking attack. By slowly getting your dog used to these noises over time you should be able to reduce the impact they’re having, and retain your neighbours as friends.
The Great Release
It’s all too easy to tumble through the front door after a long day at work, desperate to put your feet up. But think of your dog. You getting home is the most exciting part of their day! Reward your dog’s good behaviour with a walk they’ll be pleased with. Doing so is not only kind, but also helps to burn off some more energy after your pooch has been cooped up all day (ensuring you a nice quiet evening!).
As a final note, be aware that dogs are creatures of habit. They tend to be happiest with regular schedules, so extra thought should be applied if you’re going to be home late from work (such as when the Christmas party season rolls around). Under such circumstances try to do what you can to maintain your normal schedule – even if you have to walk your dog after work before heading out to the glitz and glamour.