Games for dogs home alone

Question:

I want to leave something for my dog to do while I’m at work — what do you recommend?

Answer:

It’s very important that your dog gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation every single day, especially if he spends a lot of time alone. Even if you can’t be at home to entertain your dog during the day, there are ways you can make sure he stays occupied and gets the exercise he needs.

Kongs — beehive-shaped rubber contraptions designed expressly for stuffing with dog treats — make for great environmental enrichment. When you’re first familiarizing your dog with a Kong, make it easy and fun for your dog to “win” his prize by putting in dry treats that fall out fairly effortlessly.

As your dog gets more adept, you can create food puzzles that are a little more challenging — for example, stuff the Kong with peanut butter or baby food and throw it in the freezer for a while before you give it to him. (If you’re worried about your dog’s caloric intake, you can actually feed him his meals this way — or at least use a portion of his breakfast or dinner kibble as Kong-stuffing material.)

“Find it” — also known as a treat treasure hunt — is another great game. Cue your dog to stay while you “hide” treats around the house. Then, as you walk out the door, tell him “Go find it!” Your dog will come to associate your departure with a tasty hunting and gathering expedition.

It’s nice for your dog to have access to a yard while you’re away, but if he spends long periods of time outdoors, protection from the sun, wind, and cold is absolutely essential.

Additionally, I strongly advise against chaining or tying him down while you’re away. When dogs feel threatened, even if it’s just a perceived threat, their fight or flight response kicks in. A chained dog, however, is literally trapped; if there is no place for him to go, he can become fearful and aggressive.