When pet parents work long hours and spend a great deal of time away from home, dogs are in danger of becoming professional couch potatoes. In addition to being boring, being a couch potato is not good for your dog’s overall health and can lead to behavioral problems like digging, barking or chewing, as well as obesity and other health problems. Fortunately, there are many ways that even the busiest pet parents can give their dogs enriched and active lives.
Keeping Dogs Entertained When You’re Not Around
When pet parents are gone for long hours, dogs often become bored and take their excess energy out in destructive ways – like chewing up the couch or digging a hole in the bathroom linoleum. To mitigate these issues and keep your dog entertained and happy when she is home alone, invest in some good food puzzle toys.
Food puzzle toys are a great way to keep dogs mentally occupied and to stimulate the problem-solving portion of their brains. Although there are dozens of types of food puzzle toys available on the market, each one works by dispensing a food reward when the dog rolls, shakes, nibbles or licks the toy correctly. Because puzzle toys require patience and time to solve, dogs that get to play with these toys while their parents are gone are less likely to be destructive or become bored.
An alternative to food puzzle toys is a game of hide-and-seek made up of small piles of food around the house. If you are going to play this game, however, ensure that none of the piles are in a dangerous place (beneath a heater or near dangerous chemicals, for example) and that the dog cannot knock anything over or break delicate objects while searching for the food. Pet parents who prefer to simply provide their dog with chew toys can opt for high-density models like the Kong for maximum longevity.
Doggie and Me Time
When pet parents are around, there are many ways to keep dogs engaged or happy. Scheduling doggie play dates with fun canine companions or playing an active physical game like tug-of-war or fetch are all great ways to keep dogs physically active and mentally involved.
Certain types of dog breeds may also enjoy taking up a sport. For example, Border Collies and other high-energy herding breeds often excel at agility while water-breeds like Labradors and Spaniels may enjoy a dock jumping competition. Sports are a fantastic way to keep dogs active and engaged as they offer social opportunities, physical activity and problem-solving encouragement all in one. Alternately, you can enroll your pup and yourself in a doggie obedience class to stave off boredom and learn new things.
By providing dogs with active, time-consuming toys when you are gone and ensuring that the dog is getting plenty of physical, exciting play when you are around, you can make certain that she has an active and enriched life at all times.