If you are wondering how to occupy your dog while you are out, stop and ask yourself this question. Why am I trying to occupy my dog while I am out…? Is it to stop any of these behaviours?
- Toileting while you are gone
- Howling and barking
You don’t need to worry about how to occupy your dog while you are out.
A relaxed dog will sleep while you are out. The ancestor of the dog, the wolf will sleep for up to 12 hours a day. And that’s in the wild, where their survival is constantly in question. In captivity they sleep for longer. The wolves which get the least sleep are the Alpha pair, because they have responsibility for the pack’s survival. If your dog doesn’t think there is anything to worry about while you are gone, then it will just sleep. Conserving its energy for your return, when it knows there will be noise and movement in the house again. If your dog is toileting, being destructive or howling/barking while you are out, then it thinks it is the Alpha, and is showing separation anxiety. So rather than thinking about how to occupy your dog while you are out, you need to be thinking about how to convince your dog that YOU are the Alpha, so it can relax while you are gone instead. Read this article on separation anxiety to understand your dog’s behaviour more.
If your dog isn’t doing any of these behaviours, then don’t worry about trying to occupy it. You can leave some toys out, so if it gets the urge it can play. But chances are it will sleep and occasionally listen out for danger, or your return. And under no circumstances should you leave food for your dog, to occupy it while you are gone. Let me repeat that. DO NOT leave food, especially things like kong toys, to occupy your dog while you are gone. All you are doing is leaving them in charge of the food. The Alpha would be in charge of the food, so if your dog doesn’t already think it is boss, it won’t be long until it does!