It can be difficult to leave our dogs at home when we go to work, and even harder to keep them entertained.
That’s because unlike humans, dogs can’t stay busy by themselves!
We can read a book, watch television, or go outside for a walk.
But your dog is all alone.
That means it is up to you – their loving owner – to provide entertainment.
Fill your dog’s day with fun while at work 9-5 to keep them (and you) happy!
Written by Jen, proud owner of a 3-year-old Great Dane/Poodle mix named Luna, who is her once in a lifetime “heart dog.”
Jen specializes in the care and training of large dog breeds. She particularly enjoys working with Great Danes (for their big, goofy natures) and Poodles (for their intelligence).
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Be Careful. A Bored Dog is a Destructive Dog
Why bother putting effort into planning interesting activities for your dog? Well, it can save your home from serious damage, for one thing.
Often, when pet parents leave for work dogs are left by themselves in the house with no supervision.
Of course, this is an opportune time for pups to get into trouble!
The American Kennel Club highlights some common problems that can arise when a dog is extremely bored. Signs and symptoms include:
- Chewing on furniture
- Ripping into the garbage bin
- Barking nonstop
- Having potty accidents on the floor.
Unfortunately, keeping your dog in a crate doesn’t solve these issues entirely.
Even crated dogs can grow so bored that they become self-destructive.
With no objects to turn to and take out their frustrations on, they are prone to excessive licking, anxious pacing, panting, and chewing on their nails or the metal crate bars… all of which are unhealthy habits.
She is three years old now, but when Luna was a puppy, oh boy…did she ever love to dig and chew!
So, very quickly we learned tips and tricks to keep her entertained.
Save your home and your dog from any damage with the following simple to implement ideas.
Best of all? Most of them won’t cost you a penny!
Can I Leave My Dog Alone All Day?
Now, before we begin…a word of advice. Dog trainers don’t suggest leaving Fido for 8-10 hours per day without any human interaction.
Firstly, they should be given a chance to empty their bladders.
Secondly, they run the risk of developing separation anxiety.
Whenever possible, try to visit halfway through the workday at lunch. Or, have a neighbour, friend, or dog sitter check in on your pup.
A dog can technically be left home alone all day.
However, it’s not recommended.
Dangers of Leaving a Dog Alone for Too Long
There are very real dangers associated with leaving a dog alone at home for too long.
Physically speaking, they can run into all sorts of problems. For example, a dog who is not crated when their humans go out has free run of the house…and endless time to get into trouble!
Bored dogs will try find ways to entertain themselves.
As they roam from room to room, they might try to open doors and cabinet cupboards.
Think about your kitchen, for instance.
While your pup probably wouldn’t dare to open the garbage bin with you at home, they may grow curious in your absence.
It only takes a few seconds for them to eat rotten food, chicken/animal bones, toxic fruits, etc.
In fact, your pup could get very sick…and you would never even know it, until you came home!
If you absolutely must leave a dog at home, always secure the garbage and close doors firmly.
Likewise, bathrooms and bedrooms are danger zones for dogs.
Cleaning chemicals and bottles of shampoo/products can be poisonous. Then there are all those little miscellaneous choking hazards, like earplugs, charging cords, soap, jewelry etc.
The best way to prevent a trip to the emergency veterinarian?
Keep you dog entertained the correct way! Here is how!
Super Fun “Boredom Buster” Ways to Entertain Your Dog
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to rid your dog of boredom.
In the following sections, I will share some of Luna’s favorites.
Open the Blinds for Maximum Views
The easiest and cheapest way to keep your pup smiling throughout the long workday is simply this… draw open the curtains.
A window is a gateway to the outside world. People walking by, critters like squirrels, and passing cars all provide visual interest and mental stimulation for your dog.
Got a small breed dog?
Think about positioning a soft cushion just for them beside the window. Bonus points if it’s high enough to see clearly.
Alternatively, you can get one of top rated pet steps.
Change the Channel to Doggy Television
Did you know?
Many subscription networks and streaming services offer TV for dogs.
These are channels that have been specially created to contain video footage meant to capture your pup’s interest.
If you are going to be out of the house for a little while, turn on the TV and put the volume at a medium level.
YouTube has awesome free videos, such as this one titled “8 Hours of Birds and Squirrel Fun for Dogs.”
It has accumulated over 8 million views – wow! No wonder this is so popular. Bored dogs love watching the exciting screen.
(My girl Luna especially enjoys any videos that feature the sound of chirping birds).
Play Sniff and Seek Around the House
This is hands down one of the best ways to entertain a dog.
Before heading out the door in the morning, grab a handful of kibble or treats.
Then, when your dog is distracted/sleeping/out in the yard, hide the bits of food in various locations all around the house.
Some good spots include:
- behind sofa pillows,
- in corners of the room,
- on dining table seats,
- or anywhere within reach of their muzzle that is safe and easy to access (no where up high or near electronics, please!)
Remember, dogs use their noses.
Sniffing comes naturally to them.
It’s a highly engaging activity that will keep their brains and bodies both mentally and physically stimulated for a fair chunk of time.
Get a Treat-dispensing Toy for Yummy Entertainment
Treat-dispensing toys are a worthwhile investment. They come in all shapes and sizes.
For example, some are basic balls that release snacks as they are rolled around by playful paws.
We particularly enjoy Nina Ottosson puzzles. Hide N’ Slide is by far Luna’s “must-have” toy! At only $25, this has been a fantastic investment and we recommend it highly to all our doggy friends.
Other more sophisticated software can be activated by your phone from work, allowing you to speak to your dog through a microphone or camera before shooting out a treat.
In addition to providing delicious food rewards, treat dispensers are attention-grabbing. They give your dog something to look forward to since the kibble is released slowly and on a timer.
Your dog will stay occupied and entertained, one bite at a time.
Hire a Dogwalker or Schedule a Visit
Just because you are at work all day doesn’t mean everyone else is.
Do you know somebody who adores canines, but for whatever reason can’t have a dog of their own?
If you know and 100% trust this person, they could potentially make a great weekly or daily visitor for your lonely pup.
Even a 10-minute drop in to say hello, give hugs and kisses, and fill up the bowl with fresh water will be appreciated by a bored dog.
We are lucky to have family members who Luna has known since she was a teeny tiny puppy that are willing to come by on the occasion we get stuck in traffic or late at work!
Similarly, most neighbourhoods have a local dogwalker.
A quick loop around the block is enough to add much needed adventure to a small breed dog’s day.
For bigger dogs, ask about signing up for longer “pack walks.” Of course, make sure the other dogs are friendly and fully vaccinated first.
A good dog walker will offer to provide references.
Provide LOTS of Exercise for a Sleepy Puppy
It’s no secret that a tired dog is a content dog.
If your dog has been properly exercised before work, then they will likely be fine to snooze away the hours.
Set your dog up for success early each morning.
- Go for a walk.
- Have 30 minutes of playtime in the backyard.
- Physical activities like fetch, frisbee, chase, and tug-o-war are all fabulous ways to burn hyper energy.
Ideally, by the time you are driving off in the car, your dog will already have settled down for a nap in their bed.
Impossible to Be Left Alone? What to do with Dogs When You Work All Day
Understandably, some dogs simply cannot be left alone. Maybe they have severe separation anxiety. Or have health issues that demand constant supervision. Of course, your dog is your fur baby!
You want to do everything possible to ensure they are happy and safe while you are off working 9-5.
In these cases, it can be helpful to do the following:
Enroll in Doggy Daycare
Signing up for doggy daycare is a great way to keep your dog entertained during the weekdays. There are many benefits to paying for this service. At the top of the list is peace of mind for you.
Never worry about what your dog is doing at home, if their sad howling is bothering the neighbors, or feel rushed to dash home at lunch.
Instead, know that they are being watched by a team of canine experts.
Doggy daycares also offer a safe place for pups to socialize. They get physical exercise, cuddles, treats, regular bathroom breaks…pretty much everything they could ask for!
Dogtopia recommends choosing a doggy daycare that suits your dog’s needs and having your dog assessed beforehand to make sure their behavior and comfort levels are a good match. Many facilities offer both half day and full day programs.
4 Additional Ideas to Keep Your Dog Busy
Use Slow Feeder Bowls or Treat Puzzles
A second idea is to feed meal and treats right before you leave. Bowls designed to slowdown feeding will occupy your dog as you quietly leave for work. Ideally, they’ll eat and nap away the morning!
Treat puzzles (like the Nina Ottosson ones available worldwide) are fantastic for occupying dogs who enjoy a mental challenge.
Practice Obedience Training Before You Leave
Got thirty minutes before you must catch the bus? Why not use this time to work on some obedience skills? It’s a proven fact that mental stimulation is just as important for tiring out a dog as physical exercise.
Keep them busy before you go, that way they can relax until you get back.
Give New Toys / Rotate Old Ones
Finally, dog owners can keep their dog entertained while at work by offering new toys every few days.
A brand-new stuffed plushie or rotating schedule of soft chews will excite your dog, thus keeping their minds “on” the fun stuff and “off” missing you!
Personally, I give Luna an antler to chew for 20 minutes before I leave the house.
She knows the routine – fun “chew time” while her fur mom (AKA me) has coffee, then the antler goes away and she settles down for the morning until her lunchtime walk rolls around.
As much as we would love to be with our dogs 24/7, it’s just not possible for working people. Luckily, our pets don’t have to suffer. All it takes is forethought and planning!
Get Them a Fur Sibling
Of course, not everyone can (or wants to) add a second pet to their home. However, if your family has been considering getting another cat or dog, this could be a fantastic way to give your #1 fur child a friend to play with while you are at work.
Just be sure to really think it through.
Do you have enough time to train them?
Will somebody be able to visit throughout the day and provide bathroom breaks?
Can you afford two doggy daycare spots?