6 Ways to Keep Your Dog Entertained While You're at Work

Pet Health

Tammy George

A dog at home while its owners are at work, looking out the front window.

If you feel guilty when your dog gives you those sad puppy eyes, you’re not alone. Most dogs don’t like being left at home by themselves while you’re at work.

Some dogs pass the day by sleeping for much of it; they're capable of sleeping more than humans; an adult dog can sleep between eight and 13.5 hours per day, and elderly dogs can sleep even longer. They spend their day moving from one spot to another snoozing in the sun and keeping an eye out for their human. A dog’s active time can be less than 20% of its day.

A bored dog is often a naughty one. Some dogs keep themselves busy by finding mischief. They might dig a hole in your garden bed, destroy the garden hose or a shoe that has been left outside. Some dogs prefer to annoy the neighbours with constant barking or howling when left alone. Other dogs will only bark through the gate at the postie or courier driver.

Some may spend their energy trying to escape from their yard when left alone. They may scale the gate or dig their way to freedom to look for an adventure on the other side.

Luckily, there are a few tricks for relieving your dog’s boredom or putting a stop to their naughty tricks. 

#1 Leave Your Dog Treats

Like humans, dogs like to eat to fill in time. Food can be used to keep your dog mentally stimulated and entertained. For some dogs, mental stimulation is more important than physical exercise.

Treats with a Side of Mental Stimulation 

Rather than leaving your dog a bowl of biscuits, make them work for the treats by filling a kong. Your dog will need to move the kong around to dispense the biscuits.

If you have time in the morning, you could make a treasure hunt for your dog. Hide treats or toys all over the house or garden. It may take some dogs a few days to understand there are treats hidden (and some may never get the hang of it) but most will enjoy the thrill of hide and seek.

A table with some dog treats to help keep your dog entertained while you’re at work.

Treats on Time Delay

Automatic treat dispensers can keep dogs entertained during the day, even when you’re not there. Some dispensers allow the owner to record their voice telling the dog that the next round of treats have arrived.

In summer, leave your dog a cold treat by freezing a two litre ice cream container filled with water flavoured by stock and pieces of meat. The ice block will help keep your dog cool as they lick the ice or revisit the block as it melts throughout the day. 

Treats in the Sandpit

If you have a sandpit or empty garden bed, use it to bury treats or dog toys. A clever dog will go searching for the toys and treats until they’ve found them all.

A dog digging for treats in the backyard to keep itself entertained while its owners are at work.

#2 Hire a Dog Walker

If you struggle to find time to walk your dog before or after work or you’d prefer to break up your dog’s boring day, organise a dog walker to visit. Give your walker access to the backyard or house so they can take your dog out for a walk around the neighbourhood while you’re at work.

A dog walker can tire your dog out so that they’re less likely to get into mischief for the rest of the day. 

Professional or Local Walkers? 

You can organise a professional dog walker to drive to your home and walk your dog. But you may also be able to get a local person by putting out a message on your suburb’s Facebook page. If you have a child on your street who is old enough to walk your dog, you could ask if they would like to earn some pocket money after school.

A dog walker walking a dog on a path to keep it entertained while its owners are at work.

#3 Company for the Day

For some dogs, it doesn’t matter how many treats, toys or tricks you organise for them, all they want is human companionship for most of the day. 

Doggie Daycare

For those people who prefer not to leave their dog at home unattended, there are doggie daycares available. They work in a similar way to daycare for young kids. You drop your dog off on your way to work, your dog is entertained and cared for, then you pick up your pet on the way home from work. The cost can add up quickly but for people whose dogs are destroying their backyard or causing a nuisance to the neighbours, day care may be a worthwhile investment.

Informal Daycare

One way to keep the cost down is to find a friend or family member who would like some company during the day and is willing to have your dog dropped off at their home. Many grandparents look after their children’s fur babies as a precursor to grandchildren. They get to see their children each day when they do dropoff and pick up and they have a dog to hang out with if they don’t have their own. 

Local Dog Owner

If there’s a dog at the park that your dog enjoys running around with, speak to the owner and see if you could organise for the dogs to spend the day with each other at one of the houses. Make sure the first few days at each house is while the owner is at home so they can be supervised. The dogs may be great friends on neutral territory but not so friendly when it’s their yard and toys they’re having to share.

A dog at the park with a tennis ball in its mouth.

#4 A View of the World Outside

If you can add some variation to your dog’s day, that’s all the entertainment they need. Most dogs are sticky beaks and love watching what’s going on outside their front door or back gate. 

For the Inside Dog

Some dogs spend hours each day looking out a front window to see who is walking past and to bark at the postie. Leave a blind or curtain open in the front room that allows them to see out and they’ll enjoy watching what’s happening in their front yard. Your dog will also act as a good security system, making sure no one breaks in!

Not all dogs show interest in the TV but some will sit and ‘watch’ it for hours. Leave the TV on while you’re out if your dog is an avid TV watcher. 

For Outside Dogs

If your dog stays outside for the day, consider installing a gate they can see through or cut a window big enough for them to keep an eye on the street. You’ll have the added deterrent of a guard dog to scare off any potential intruders.

A dog sitting inside the house looking out the front window to keep it entertained while its owners are at work.

#5 New and Rotated Toys

Most dogs enjoy playing with some kind of toy. Some dogs prefer something soft and fluffy they carry around gently while other dogs want something they can rip apart and destroy. If your dog is a chewer, you may need to invest in toys that are almost indestructible.

Leave your dog with a few different toys to play with. Not all dogs are interested in toys if there isn’t someone there to throw it or play tug of war with.

Like kids, dogs can get bored seeing the same toys day in and day out. There’s no need to buy new toys all the time, it’s easy to just rotate toys. Dogs quickly forget what toys they have if they’re not in sight so put some toys away then swap them over and they’ll have fresh new toys to get excited about.

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#6 Adopt a Companion Dog - With Care!

Many dog owners think the answer to their dog’s boredom is a playmate but this doesn’t always work out as they planned. You need to be sure that your dog will accept a furry companion.

They may like the status quo where they’re the top (or only) dog and don’t appreciate a new dog coming into their house. If the two dogs are prone to fighting, you’ve added to your doggie dilemmas, not fixed them! One dog can make the other dog’s life miserable if they assert themselves as the leader.

If you can, check your existing dog’s tolerance to a new dog in their house before you adopt a new dog. Many dog owners have adopted or bought a second dog only to find they don’t get along and one has to be rehomed. For others, they fix the first problem of a bored dog only to find the second dog is naughtier than the first and they’ve created a new problem for themselves.

A dog running through the park with a tug-o-war toy in its mouth.

Not Sure if Your Dog Is Bored or Not?

If you aren’t sure what your dog does all day while you’re at work, you can install a security camera to find out. A motion sensor camera will film their daily activities whenever they’re in the camera’s range. Check out their antics so you know if they misbehave or not.

Need Health Insurance?
We've got you covered.

Call 1300 134 060  or Get a quote  ›

Peace of Mind with Pet Insurance

If you have a furry friend that thinks every object is edible, there’s a high chance your dog will need to see a vet one day. HIF Pet Insurance provides peace of mind that your pet is covered for treatment should they have an accident or illness. For more information, call us on 1300 070 946 or email hif@petsure.com.au.

Tammy George

Please note: Tammy's blog is general advice only. For further information on this topic please consult your healthcare professional.

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