By Jenna Macnair, PetSafe Marketing Intern
Some people like to ponder what their beloved dogs do when they’re at work. I don’t. I already know. The tell-tale missing shoe that turns up behind the couch chewed-up and rendered unwearable, the scratches and bite marks decorating the doorframe that took a surprising amount of spackle and paint to disguise, the pillows strewn across the living room floor – they all point to the same thing. My dogs miss me when I’m gone, and, not unlike a small child that wants candy instead of vegetables, they act out in protest. My family has been experimenting with different methods of keeping our four-legged family members entertained for generations, and I’d venture to say that, through several years of trial and error, we’ve gotten quite good at it. I thought I’d offer some guidelines for keeping your dogs happy and occupied while you aren’t around.
Canines are highly food motivated animals, and there are plenty of toys that incorporate food into your pet’s playtime to extend the fun. The Busy Buddy Barnacle is a great example, as it has three treat dispensers for triple the fun and triple the amount of time your pet stays occupied. Another way to extend your pet’s fascination with treat dispensing toys like the Barnacle is to line the inside of the toy with peanut butter before filling it with treats. Your dog will work harder to get to the treats and spend even more time licking the peanut butter.
If you’re working with a multiple dog household, where entertaining your pets with treats can lead to food aggression and unnecessary fights among playmates, you probably want to stick to regular chew toys and stuffed animals. Making sure your pets have access to a variety of playthings while you’re away helps ensure they don’t get bored in your absence. My dogs have a plethora of stuffed toys at their disposal. Seriously, I don’t think I ever had a comparable number of Barbies when I was little. To keep them interested in their fuzzy playthings, we steal some from their designated toy basket and put them through the washing machine. When we reintroduce the stuffed animals to our dogs, they go crazy over their “new” toys.
While toys are an excellent distraction for lonely pets, the best way to make sure your dog is happy, and not destroying your home, is to make sure he’s getting enough exercise. Taking your dog on a brisk walk or jog in the morning has health benefits for you as well as for your dog. Our greyhounds take their retirement very seriously, and after a morning walk around the neighborhood, they’re ready to sleep the day away. However, if you have a high energy pet, you can’t get away with moseying around the block. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to give your pet the exercise he needs, consider hiring a dog walker to do the leg work for you. My favorite job in college was dog walking – with my dogs living several hours away, I jumped at the opportunity to take a study break and love on someone else’s dogs.
My final word of advice is to invest in a dog door if you’re able. Before we had a dog door, someone had to be home right after work or school to let the dogs out, and for a busy family that just didn’t work well. Knowing the dogs can relieve themselves and play outside while we’re gone has brought us peace of mind and led to less accident cleanup. Our girls’ new favorite activity is to lay out on our lawn chairs on the deck and get some sun. Being outside provides your dog with a new environment. If your pet gets a little too interested in the outside world, and barking becomes an issue, PetSafe has really neat bark deterrents that look like bird houses. Set one up in your backyard to keep your pet from bothering the neighbors.
Hopefully you’ve learned something new, or at least reinforced ideas you already had, about keeping your four legged friend busy during the day. Did I leave anything out? Share your ideas for keeping your pet occupied below!