Dogs are intensely social creatures that find it hard to spend hours alone each day. Often, problematic dog behaviors can be directly attributed to boredom and loneliness: Chewing, digging, barking, and separation anxiety. Avoid these pitfalls by giving your dog activities to keep him happily occupied in your absence. The ideal combination is one of physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Working out the body. Passing the day is easier if you’re napping. Exercise makes your dog healthier, happier, and much more calm. For absences of a few hours to half a day, be sure to give your dog a workout before you leave. Throw a ball or a Frisbee, play tug, or let your dog play with other dogs for 20–30 minutes. For absences of more than 4 hours, consider getting a dog walker (if you haven’t got one already) or, if your dog is social and enjoys the company of other dogs, enrolling your dog in a doggie daycare.
Working out the mind. Mental stimulation—providing outlets for natural canine energy—will also help to keep your dog out of mischief. Interactive toys come in the brain puzzle variety (hide-and-seek boxes), chew or dissect variety (plush toys with squeakers, Nylabones), and food puzzles (stuffed Kongs, treat balls). If you have only one dog, another good option is the MannersMinder from Premier.
Note: Separation anxiety requires expert assistance. Email us if you see any of the following: Excessive barking, urination or defecation within minutes of your departure, excessive anxiety when you’re getting ready to leave, frantic greetings when you return, digging or chewing at exit points (doors, window frames), self-mutilation, and escape attempts.