Unlike cats, dogs always need stimulation. While cats can happily go about their daily lives without significant human interaction, dogs thrive on companionship and following their master.So when you leave your dog at home during the day, do they have the right toys and enough food to keep them occupied?
Dogs are naturally scavengers, so when they become household pets, they lose the opportunity to freely hunt and roam around. Every dog needs their daily exercise and this can be hard to attend to when you aren’t around to take them for walks or have a game of fetch.
Since dogs have been domesticated, their natural instincts have been neglected to an extent. Many dog breeds were developed for activities like hunting or transporting while some were trained to become sniffer dogs. Do you know what your dog’s breed was introduced into society for?
- Irish Setters were bred as gundogs in Ireland originally. They originated in the 18th century.
- Boxers were initially bred as guard dog and messenger dogs. Some Boxer dogs were even enlisted in WWI to serve and assist soldiers.
- Greyhounds are still used today as racing dogs. They were bred in the Middle East and North Africa to hunt faster game like hare, foxes and deer.
- Jack Russells originated in the 1800s and were bred to assist with hunting foxes and small game. They are a working terrier, so are naturally active and alert.
- Husky dogs are best known for being sled dogs. They originated in Siberia and used to comfort and protect small children in tribes that habituated in snowy or sub-zero climates.
- Beagles were trained hunters. They were originally bred way back in the 1700s as a scent hound to hunt hares and rabbits.
- Rottweilers were initially bred to herd and drive cattle. Even today they are still used as working dogs in the police force, in customs and in the army.
- Golden Retrievers were originally bred for hunting waterfowl like ducks and birds. Over time they became a far more popular domesticated pet, so most of their hunting instincts have been out-bred.
- Daschunds are the smallest of all the hounds. They were bred to trail wild boar and hunt tunnelling or burrowing game like rabbits.
- German Shepherds are an intelligent and hardworking breed that originated in the late 1800s. They were originally employed as herding dogs and today are widely recognised as police and military dogs.
- Dalmatians are an all-rounded breed, initially used for hunting and performing. Dalmatians were commonly used at the circus as performers because of their high intelligence. Throughout history they have also famously worked as firehouse dogs alongside firefighters.
- Border Collies were originally Sheep Dogs, they would spend their days herding flocks into pens which involved plenty of running and barking.
Ultimately, what we can take away from this is that dogs were always meant to be up on their paws – be it herding or hunting, all dogs have the natural urge to be active. Nowadays in a modern era where dogs are domesticated and kept as pets, having a human master is convenient for them but we cannot always tend to our dog’s every needs. In some cases, this explains why dogs are becoming obese – we are happy to feed our pets but unfortunately we can’t always make time to exercise with them or play with them.
Dogs make excellent companions – that’s why you adopted one! But to really appreciate your hairy mate, it is important that you keep them occupied and happy. While you can’t be with them 24/7, you can set them up with the right toys and food so that when you aren’t around they can be left to their own devices and be content in your absence.
So how can you detect when your dog is bored?
Signs of boredom in dogs.
Your dog will start showing obvious signs if they are uninspired or under-stimulated. There are a number of things they may start doing, so use this checklist
Your dog is completely entertained by chasing their tail.
- Nothing seems more amusing than the extension of your spine! It is very waggy though, someone ought to show it who is boss!
They’re staring at you or staring into the distance.
- If you find yourself playing the staring game with your dog, it is a sign that they are waiting for you to entertain them with something.
WHINE, WHINE, WHINE!
- That squeaking noise isn’t coming from the traffic outside – that is most definitely coming from your canine looking for attention.
Your dog is grooming themselves a little too much.
- Those paws they’ve been licking really don’t need THAT much grooming.
They are digging up the garden.
- No! Not the petunias!
They’re following you or aimlessly stalking.
- Is that your shadow? Nope, they’re just following you around the house.
How to keep your dog entertained indoors
Work on tricks or training
When you get time with your dog, try teach them a new trick. This is an engaging activity that promotes bonding time and stimulation for both you and your dog.The more time they spend learning, the more rewarding your time together will become. Valuable tricks will come in handy in the long run, for example teaching your dog to go fetch the newspaper is something that may take a little time at first, but will certainly be useful and time-saving in the future!
Rotate old and introduce new dog toys
Dogs will always love getting new toys. Owners can vouch for the fact that with every new toy comes an hour of uninterrupted playtime and unrivalled excitement. Of course you can’t keep buying your dog an endless supply of toys so try looking through the garage or in the cupboard for toys that your dog hasn’t played with in a while. Old favourites are always bound to spark renewed excitement in your dog.
If it is time for a new toy however, consider which toy your dog will enjoy the most when they are left to their own devices. If your dog is a serial chomper, they may like a toy from the chewers range. If they become easily bored with basic chew toys, perhaps they’ll enjoy a puzzle toy more. If your dog just wants something to cuddle then getting them a plush toy is just as effective. Consider which toy they will benefit from the most. Consider which toy they will benefit from the most.
If you have more than one dog in the family then in most cases they can happily entertain each other or play together. They have the benefit of companionship when there’s another dog at home, so they don’t feel completely left out. In these situations, tug of war toys or balls are ideal because it involves two or more dogs at the same time. This is ideal for keeping your whole litter out of trouble and up on all fours playing together.
Play Hide and Seek
If you’ve never tried playing hide and seek with your dog you are certainly missing out. As long as your dog knows how to sit and stay, then you can play! Start in an area of your house and command your dog to sit and stay. Walk away to a different area of the house, hide and call your dog’s name. Reward them each time they find you and continue to play until they get the hang of it. Hide and seek is a very interactive game that gets them sniffing, running and looking all over the house.
How to keep them entertained outdoors
Outdoor entertainment is easy when there are birds to chase and cats to spy on. Of course this sort of distraction wears thin quickly so you may want to consider some of these options.
Introduce your dog to other dogs and people. Part of being entertained is socialising, so take your dog down to the park or meet up with a friend at a dog friendly café. This acclimatises them to being around other people. Dogs who are not socialised properly to other pets and people will generally suffer from anxiety or develop aggression as they age. There are plenty of dog friendly cafes to try and it doesn’t hurt to let the staff know that it’s your little mate’s first time out in a café if you’re at all nervous about bringing them to a new environment.
Ultimately, being outside is the first step in keeping your dog entertained. As we’ve learned, it is in most dogs’ nature to be active, so playing games and socialising outdoors will come naturally. Just like humans, as we like to catch up with friends and make new ones, it is equally important for dogs to have the same opportunity. Even if your dog isn’t the most playful in the pack, they will still benefit from having a quiet sniff or if they’re very anti-social an awkward growl with another dog.
Make outdoor games a part of your play routine. Nobody invented the game of fetch, it came naturally to dogs! They’re born retrievers and they have loyal and playful spirits. Frisbees are a lot of fun to play with in wide open spaces, especially on the beach in summer - but if a regular ol' stick or disc just doesn’t cut it anymore for your dog, perhaps consider upgrading to something a little trendier like a Chuckit. Check out our favourites;
How to keep your dog entertained while you’re out.
First and foremost, if you leave your dog home alone during work hours, it is a great idea to schedule your daily walks in the morning before you leave. This means that they can sleep off exhaustion for a few hours once you head out. If you can’t manage to find the time to take them out in the morning (let’s face it - we aren’t all morning people and there’s only so much coffee can do!), then try fit in a quick game of tug or fetch – anything involving play that you can manage to fit in before your working day.
Usually when you’ve gone to work or when you’re out on a short day trip, your dog will try sleep off most of the time in your absence. It is important that certain stimuli and toys are available to them while you’re gone, so they have the option of playing or sleeping. It may not seem like it but when you aren’t home during the working day, it feels like a very long time to your dog when they’re left with limited resources. As a quick-fix, there are a couple of different solutions you can implement immediately…
If your dog is left in a particular area of the house, try leaving the radio or television on for them. It may sound a little silly, but having the sound of voices or music can soothe and calm some dogs. There is evidence that the relationship between sound and dog behaviour exists – sound or music does alter your dog’s mood and health. Indeed, certain acoustic stimulation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in dogs, especially when they are alone. Plus the sounds may even ward away the cat burglars from your home!
Interactive Dog Toys
- Aussie Dog Toys
- Kong Stuff’n Treats
- Dog Chew Toys
The Aussie Dog Toys range include a few very durable and entertaining toys that will keep your little mate occupied for hours. They are unique and made especially for dogs who are on their own during the day. Their selection includes toys that can be installed easily outdoors or indoors. Whether your dog likes playing tug or chase, there is a toy that will encourage them to play while you’re gone.
Interactive dog toys are an ideal way to keep your dog occupied because they reward them while you’re gone. By adding a little bit of Kong Stuff’n Treats to a Kong toy can keep them occupied for a very long time. In some situations even a little bit of peanut butter stuffed inside any rubber toy with a treat centre will do the job. They will be gradually rewarded for their playfulness throughout the day.
While it is convenient to load up the Kong toys with kibble, biscuits, treats or the pre-made mix, we’ve heard some dog owners have their own recipes – share yours with us in the comments section.
Chewer toys will prevent your dog from chewing away at the furniture or on your shoes. While you’re gone, if they have access to chew toys they are far more likely to play with them and not become destructive towards household items.
Providing the basics
It is very important that you leave fresh, clean water available for your dog. If you decide to leave them kibble, consider an automatic feeder. These feeders generally have self-timers or set and forget functions that allow you to control how frequently the feeder releases food.
When leaving your dog alone, dog treats like biscuit bones or meat-based treats, only supply them with treats that are easy to eat. Pigs ears and most rawhide treats are the most convenient to leave your dog with on their own. Some treats are a little more elaborate and if they are scoffed down, can prove to be a choking hazard. So if you leave your dog for a few hours with a snack, make sure it’s something that they’ve eaten before and ideally try to leave them with one that is relatively soft and easy to chew.
Ideally, your dog should be supervised during play time and when they are chewing away on a snack so when you do get the opportunity to be with them, monitor their eating and playing habits to ensure they haven’t done something they shouldn’t have.
It is critically important as a responsible dog owner that you continue to keep your dog entertained. Leaving your dog home alone without any sort of stimulus is a sure fire way to send them stir-crazy. After all, everyone wants to be greeted home at the end of every day with a happy dog - not a grumpy bed-bound canine. By equipping them with the right toys in a positive environment, they will be able to keep themselves occupied when you aren’t around.
Equally so, it is imperative that your dog stays occupied when recovering from surgery. It can be a challenge trying to interest your dog in something after they’ve been through an experience like surgery, especially if an operation has left them physically restrained or restricted. Consider alternatives to the E-Collar such as dog onesies or bandages as a start. Good physical recovery starts with a good mentality for recovery. This includes playing brain games and puzzle games which involve no physical exertion for your dog. While we cannot verbally convey to dogs that they are on the mend, you can help them out by playing quiet games with them while they recover. Every vet will recommend your dog ‘take it easy’ after their surgery and while this is important, it doesn’t mean that they should be banished to their bed for the next 3 weeks. Light and moderate exercise or a little bit of quiet play will stimulate them mentally and physically so their recovery will be far quicker.
Happy dogs make good companions, so when it comes to keeping your little mate content make sure that they’re entertained in your absence. Leave them with plenty of food and toys that you know will keep them occupied.
Most importantly, when you do return home set aside some time to spend with your dog. It doesn’t necessarily have to be spent playing with them, you could groom them, teach them a new trick or take them out for a walk. Whatever you do, your dog will really appreciate that you’re spending time together.
Finally, here’s how to tell when your dog is entertained:
- Their tail is wagging
- They are panting
- They are quiet and not whining or barking
- They have long, restful sleep.