Tricks and Toys to Keep Dogs Busy When They’re Alone

Our dogs can’t always come with us, sadly, and we’ve all gotta leave the house sometimes. So what does your dog get up to when you leave her home alone? Counter surfing? Couch surfing? Singing the blues? While some dogs may be content to snooze away the day, many dogs will need some extra stimulation to keep them happy during your absence. We’ve got some great suggestions for tactics and toys to keep dogs busy while you’re away.

Does your dog need company? Hint: it’s easy to find great pet care from doggy daycare to dog walking on Rover.


Table of Contents

Helping a Dog Feel Relaxed

Nicole Ellis, dog trainer and member of Rover’s Dog People Panel, recommends managing your dog’s space while they’re alone. That means reducing their potential for getting into trouble, as well as removing triggers. This can be as simple as blocking off a corner of your living room or keeping doors closed to no-go areas.

The key is to create a special dog zone for your pet with a few safe toys, treats, and comfort items. A baby gate can help section off a portion of the house if you don’t use a crate or can’t spare an entire room just for your dog.

Shut the blinds or curtains in order to reduce barking triggers.

Leaving on a fan or a white noise machine can also help cover up other noises, which can help reduce agitation.

Distractions for a Lonely Dog

Chews are a good bet.

Just be careful not to give your dog anything that will splinter. The classic Nylabone is a good option with plenty of dog-friendly flavors. We hear it promotes healthy teeth, too. 

Splurge on extra-cozy dog beds.

The more comfy, the more enticing it will be for daytime rest. You can also move or add beds for the novelty factor. Cave beds are great for diggers, while orthopedic options are ideal for senior pets.

Leave the radio or TV on when you go out.

Change up the station, too! This can help distract your dog from focusing on noises outside the house.

pet cam can be helpful and fun.

The PetCube is a fun splurge that provides a lot of entertainment mileage for both of you; be warned that it gets addictive! It lets you watch and communicate with your dog from afar with pet camera, laser pointer toy, and 2-way audio. Whaaaat.

Other popular wireless pet cams include the Nest and the treat-tossing Furbo.

You May Also Like: How Long Can You Leave a Dog Alone?

The Best Toys to Keep Dogs Busy

Pro tip: rotate toys in and out to keep things fresh and interesting.

1. KONG toys are a classic choice.

You fill the hollow toy with peanut butter and dog treats, and for a challenge, put it in the freezer. It will take more time to remove the goodies that way, which is great if your dog needs stimulation for an extended period.

You can also purchase pre-made KONG stuffings in lots of flavors that spray in like cheese whiz—yum.

KONG video: an inside peek

We recently visited the KONG headquarters and got a rare, exclusive look inside their dog-friendly operation. Watch and you’ll see why KONG continues to be a bestseller.

If your dog finds the KONG too easy, read on.

2. An interactive toy like the shuffle bone dog puzzle is extra-credit.

This takes a little training for some pups, but it’s a lot of fun once they get it down. Hide dog food under the sliders for a quick game of “Where’s the Scooby snack?” For more toys like this, see the great Swedish puzzle toy line by Nina Ottosson.

3. IQ-testers like this colorful ball toy are very popular.

This treat-dispensing sphere will keep your dog entertained for longer than you’d think. The similar Bob-A-Lot gets a thumbs-up from our larger dogs.

4. DIY enthusiasts, you can build your own puzzle toy if you’re feeling handy.

Toys to keep dogs busy usually involve some kind of hide-and-seek factor. Think: empty milk jugs, a mat with lots of felt pieces, or a muffin tin filled with treats and covered in tennis balls to block easy access to the snacks.

A Tired Dog Is a Good Dog

Exercise your dog before you leave for the day with a vigorous walk or a game of fetch. This sets your dog up for a nice long snooze. Did we mention walks? They’re key! Get some help if your schedule makes it tough.

Mental exercise can wear your dog out, too. Frequent training sessions can help calm the canine mind—and strengthen your bond.

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