Long-haired german shepherd laying on the floor, looking sad.

How to keep your pet entertained while you’re away

Tips and tricks to keep your dog or cat from getting lonely – and mischievous – while you’re gone

If you’ve seen The Secret Life of Pets, you know that a lot of mischief can take place after a human shuts and locks the front door.

Some lonely pets’ cries are so sad and sorrowful that it breaks your heart to leave. Other frustrated pets may wreak a path of devastation, break training or bark so loudly after you depart that neighbors complain and landlords or police get involved.

Despite the fact that dogs sleep an average of 18 hours a day, you should be concerned about your pet’s waking hours when you can’t be with him.

Does your dog stress out or experience separation anxiety? There are ways to combat that; several are below. If your dog can’t be pacified, speak with your veterinarian and consider working with an animal behaviorist.

Prepare a challenging chew toy

Dogs have a natural instinct to chew. By leaving behind something tantalizing to chew, you can distract your dog from feeling anxiety over your departure. Many people use a Kong toy, which is made from indestructible rubber and can be stuffed with something dog-safe and tasty, such as peanut butter (just make sure it does NOT contain xylitol). In hot weather, fill the toy with strawberries and freeze overnight to keep your dog cool and hydrated when he works at getting the goodies out.

Get a sitter/walker

It’s not a good idea to leave a dog alone all day without having an opportunity to relieve herself. If you can find and afford a regular and reliable dog walker, your dog will get the benefits of daily exercise and companionship.

Dispense dog treats remotely

The Petzi will get your dog’s attention. By using the app that connects to a wall unit you install and stock with treats, you can call your dog’s name and see her approach. Tap the app to eject a treat that you’ve pre-loaded, watch her enjoy it, and then snap a shareable wide-angle photo.

Leave the TV sound on

Dogs find the sound of calm human voices soothing, so leave the TV or radio on when you go out. Consider tuning your set to C-Span, where there are no disruptive commercials or explosions to startle a pooch. Public radio talk shows and classical music stations also can be comforting. And if you’re going to come home after dark, leave a light or the TV picture on.

Check out doggie daycare

Does your dog like to play with other dogs? Then she might be a good candidate for doggie daycare. Visit a place to observe how the dogs are handled and whether the facility looks clean and smells that way, too. Canine customers need space to rest as well as play, need to have water available, and should be supervised when they socialize with other dogs. The big drawback: cost.

Just for cats

Consider mounting a bird feeder outside his favorite window so that he can observe winged visitors. Windows above ground level are safest for the security of your home and for protecting feathered friends against predators. Make sure the window remains closed at all times. If this turns out to be your cat’s go-to hangout and you want to really indulge him, install a heated perch on the windowsill. Note, though, that observing bird activity can cause anxiety issues in some cats. Watch carefully at first to make sure this is the best solution for your feline friend.

Adopt a companion pet

Next to you, the best company for a lonely dog is an animal friend. Choosing a compatible one is key but only if you feel that you can responsibly care for and accommodate multiple pets. If your dog likes to sniff and interact with other dogs, she may be open to welcoming a new one. And it’s not true that dogs and cats are enemies; they may become the best of friends. Learn more at Getting cats and dogs to get along.

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