Don’t get me wrong, I have loved being able to spend more quality time with the pets, but it has come with its own set of challenges. Every morning without fail, as I sit down at my desk, Oliver will come and bring me a toy to entice me to play with him. If, on the rare occasion, I ignore him, he will get up to mischief, steal something he KNOWS he shouldn’t have (e.g., scrubbing brushes, sponges, shoes, razors?!) because it results in me furiously running after him trying to take back the contraband. Attention is attention, whether it is good or bad.
As the saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog, but you can’t expect your dog to lie peacefully in a corner if they are ignored all day and get no physical or mental stimulation. So read on to see how you can implement small changes to make a big difference in both your life and your pooches.
I don’t know about you, but my dog has endless energy first thing in the morning (8 hours of sleep will do that to you). Starting your day off with a short walk will not only clear your head before you begin work, but it is also an ideal way to rid your dog of their excess energy and help to settle them so that you can focus.
You can’t sit at your desk all day. At some point you have to get up to stretch, make coffee, get a snack etc. I find that after a quick play session of ball throwing, a game of tug-of-war, or even just kisses and cuddles, Oliver readily settles back into his bed and lets me carry on with my work. So, don’t stand around while the kettle boils, grab your pup’s favourite toy, head outside for some fresh air and get the blood pumping. You will both be better off for it.
Get creative and make your own pupsicles. Freeze high value treats or chews into water or a low sodium broth like chicken or beef. Your dog will be kept busy for ages licking the treats out as the ice melts. This is also a great way to keep them hydrated and cool them down on hot summer days.
This will either be the best idea or the worst. For me, it is the worst. Oliver loves to window watch, which is fine until he actually sees or hears someone. Then all chaos breaks loose, and it sounds like Cerberus (the 3-headed dog that guards the underworld in Greek mythology) has been set free in my office. To combat this, I am trying to teach him not to bark, by using positive reinforcement and lots of treats – it is a slow process, though, and I don’t have the heart to banish him from my office.
However, if your dog does behave and simply observes passers-by and the world around him, then this is a great way to keep them entertained. Place a bed and comfy pillow to rest their head at the window and let them while the day away.
In my house Oliver really, really wants what he can’t have – which is, mainly, his brother’s toys. These are put away for safe keeping and when he eventually gets his paws on them (read: steals them), it keeps him busy for at least 30 minutes to an hour. So why not use your dog’s rebellion to your advantage and rotate certain toys every few days. This ensures that they don’t get bored with them and saves you money by not having to repeatedly buy new toys.
Tiring your dog out isn’t all about physical exercise, they need mental stimulation as well. Brain games, puzzles and enrichment toys are the perfect boredom busters as they provide your dog with a challenge and give them an opportunity to use their problem-solving skills. Certain toys are designed to play with your dog, which are great for those play breaks, and others are designed for solo play to keep them busy for an extended period, while you are working or away. Keep in mind that puzzle games come in different levels of difficulty, so start with level 1 and build your way up.
Not all dogs will enjoy the puzzle games. Some might prefer toys which can be filled with any tasty treat like wet food, fruit, yoghurt or peanut butter that they can lick out. These treat toys can even be frozen for a longer lasting treat/added challenge.
Some good solo play toys are “treat” balls, snuffle mats, lick mats and stuff-able toys.
Keeping your dog occupied and entertained does not mean that you have to go out and buy expensive interactive toys. Common household items can be transformed into amazing toys that your dog will love! A cold drink bottle can be repurposed into a treat dispensing toy by simply poking appropriately sized holes into it, filling it with treats/dry food and giving it to your dog to roll it around and get the snacks out. Spread some peanut butter/ yoghurt onto a silicone potholder and you have yourself a “licky” mat. Sprinkle some treats into a scrunched-up towel for an improvised snuffle mat. Even muffin tins and the inside of a toilet roll can be used to hide treats for your pup to sniff out.
Always be mindful of choking hazards and keep your eye out, especially if your dog is known to eat things they shouldn’t!