Every dog reacts differently when you leave the house, whether it’s for a quick grocery run, a full day at work, or a longer vacation where you leave them with a sitter. Does Max jump on a forbidden furniture or stick his nose where he shouldn’t? Does Lucy take a quiet nap on her bed or wait by the door barking until you return? While some pups can handle the space, others become upset when left alone. Some even suffer from separation anxiety that causes them to act out, leaving you to clean up their mess.
It can be tough to identify the cause of their bad behavior, which is why seeking advice from experts is your best bet. While some dogs behave destructively out of boredom, others do so out of fear. You’ll need to take a personalized approach to determine what’s right for your dog, and these puppy professionals from different backgrounds have tons of advice to offer on keeping them happy and occupied.
Anxious dogs might benefit from this
veterinarian-recommended weighted jacket, while an active pup will be able to burn off energy before you leave with this indoor ball throwing toy that a certified trainer swears by. Take the time to read through their suggestions below, and stock up on a few items and a few tips so that you’re ready the next time you have to leave your precious pooch at home.
A Flirt Pole To Help Your Dog Release Energy Before You Leave
Diana Ludwiczak, a K9 Scent Detection Trainer with
Doctor Sniffs Bed Bug Dogs, emphasized the importance of properly exercising your dog to reduce anxiety before you even leave the house. “If your dog does not have a chance to release their energy through running, jumping, and playing…They will be more inclined to be sad when you are away,” she said. This interactive flirt pole toy is a great way to sneak in some cooperative playtime before work or a long outing: Your dog can sprint, jump, and chase the durable lure toy to release some energy, and it’s also a great tool for training.
A Tennis Ball Launcher To Really Wear Your Dog Out From Fetch
If your dog is more of a fetch player, consider this
ball launcher to really let them run around and play. Load the launcher up with two tennis balls, and take Buddy to the park for a healthy game of fetch. The further back you pull the lever, the further it tosses the ball, so you can customize your efforts for your dog’s size, ability, and energy level. It even has hands-free pickup to continue the game without getting your hands covered in dirt and slobber.
The Classic Toy That You Can Fill With Treats To Keep Your Dog Busy
After exercising her four dogs, Ludwiczak likes rewarding them with a special toy before leaving the house. She pre-fills and freezes a
classic Kong toy with a mixture of healthy treats inside so it’s ready to go as she’s walking out the door. “The dogs go crazy over this,” she said. “Now whenever we leave, they actually look for the Kong.” She noted that since your pup will already be tired from the exercise, the KONG should be enough to keep them occupied until they fall asleep.
A Popular Pet Camera To Help Ease You & Your Pet’s Anxiety
Chyrle Bonk, DVM with
petkeen.com, knows how hard it can be to leave your dog alone, especially if they’re anxious or prone to destructive behaviors. “Leaving an anxious pet at home can simply be heartbreaking, for you and your pet,” she explains. “You want something to make them more comfortable in your absence and also give you the peace of mind that they’re doing OK.” The Furbo dog camera and its accompanying smartphone app help you keep an eye on your dog. You can move the camera around as needed, talk to your pup through two-way audio, and even give them treats. The sound of your voice (and a special reward) can help soothe their nerves until you get home, which is why this device has over 20,000 five-star reviews.
5 This Extra-Long Leash That Gives Active Dogs Room To Run
Julie Burgess, a Certified Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) for
SeniorTailWaggers.com, reinforces making sure your dog has had a chance to let out their energy and bond with you before you leave them alone. “When dogs get proper physical exercise, they are far less likely to be sad or anxious,” she explains. She suggested taking your dog on at least two long walks a day, allowing them to play with neighbors’ or friends’ dogs, or bringing them to a dog park if they can handle it. This long nylon leash extends up to 30 feet long, giving your dog the space they need to wander while still keeping them contained and reinforcing recall commands in public areas.
An Indoor-Friendly Fetch Toy For Endless In-The-House Fun
“If you can’t get your dog outside or to the park as often as you’d like, use this
ChuckIt! Indoor ball for exercise and indoor playing,” Burgess says. It’s plush, lightweight, and slightly larger than a softball, so it won’t damage your home while you and your furry friend play together when the elements or your schedule don’t allow for outdoor time.
This Soft Rolling Toy For Damage-Free Indoor Playtime
Another toy that Burgess recommends for indoor playtime is the
Chuckit! indoor roller toy. Similarly to the ball, this toy is durable and lightweight, but has a donut-shaped design for dogs to hang on to or to roll it around the house. Unlike hard balls that can leave damage, Burgess says this soft toy will protect the surfaces of your home, even when you’ve got an energetic player on your hands.
This Interactive Puzzle Toy To Give Your Dog A Brain Exercise
Maybe it’s dumping rain, or you live in a small space with no room for your under-stimulated pup to release their energy. There’s another option to wind them down before you leave them home alone: This
interactive puzzle game. It engages your dog mentally, forcing them to use their nose and paws to release treats. “Many dog owners don’t consider brain exercise to be exercise. But when your dog is mentally tired, they’re still tired,” Burgess remarks. “This interactive puzzle game toy for your dog is a fantastic option. Why? There are four different levels, from beginner to expert, and various configurations to keep your dog’s interest.”
A Weighted Treat Dispenser Toy With Adjustable Difficulty
Another mind-engaging dog toy to stimulate their brain is the
Bob-A-Lot. It’s a top choice for Burgess because of the “adjustment gate” on the bottom of the weighted toy. “[It] can be configured to have a narrow or wide opening, accommodating different sizes of treats and making it more challenging to get the goodies out,” she explains. Fill it with treats or kibble and play around with the settings to occupy your pup while you’re out and about.
A 2-Pack Of Textured Food Mats That Reduce Boredom
Not only can one of these
slow feeder mats help with mealtime for speedy eaters, Burgess also recommends it setting them up as a mentally-stimulating activity to reduce anxiety. “Lickimats are an excellent boredom buster option for your dog; they reduce destructive behavior and keep your dog engaged and happy,” she notes. “Use spreadable options like: Xylitol-free peanut butter, applesauce, canned sweet potatoes, plain yogurt, canned dog food, canned pumpkin, cream cheese, [or] pureed veggies.” These foods will settle into the surface of the mat, providing a pleasurable sensation for your dog that can help with crate training and being left alone.
A Giant Pack Of Toys With Everything Your Pup Could Ever Dream Of
Burgess advises that dogs need a wide variety of toys to play with and recommends keeping 15 to 20 on hand, a task easily fulfilled by purchasing this
18-piece dog set, which includes 15 various toys, two sets of poop bags, and a bag dispenser. She also notes that while storing all their toys in one basket will help keep your home tidy, if your dog can’t see them, they’ll likely forget they’re there. Here’s what she suggests instead: “Spread 10-15 toys out where your dog typically plays. Rotate four to five dog toys each week and stash them somewhere your dog can’t access them. The following week remove four to five different toys and repeat.” This rotation process will make old toys seem new again, and will keep them from completely overwhelming your home.
Leaving Your Dog Alone For Small Periods Of Time And Working Up
Meg Marrs, a dog trainer for
K9 of Mine, says that if your dog has extreme separation anxiety, a canine panic disorder, their terror feels very real to them. So the best way is to work with your dog slowly but surely to make them feel comfortable in the knowledge that you will come home. “For extreme separation anxiety, the only way to resolve the issue is to work on slow periods of time away with increasing increments — that means 30 seconds to start, then 1 minute, then 3 minutes, then five minutes, then back to 2 minutes, etc,” she says. “It’s certainly not easy, but it is effective.” Consider using a stopwatch to keep track of how long you’re away from your dog.
An Interactive Puzzle Toy To Distract Dogs With Something Fun And Tasty
Marrs recommended an
interactive puzzle game toy like this one as a tool for distraction for dogs who aren’t as upset when you leave. “For low to moderate cases of separation anxiety, distraction works great,” she explains. “That’s why I’d highly recommend a puzzle toy for a dog with separation anxiety — something tasty and fun to show the dog that being alone isn’t scary. In fact, it’s really fun!” There are three types of compartments in this particular boredom-busting toy, giving your dog ample opportunities to lift each lid and sleuth out where treats are hidden.
This Strategy Windmill Toy With Increasing Levels Of Difficulty
If you’re looking for different puzzles to keep your dog engaged like Marrs suggests, consider this
windmill strategy game. Start by placing treats in each of the four beakers, forcing Fido to turn the windmill to get the goods. Then, increase the difficulty by placing a specially-designed lid on each of the beakers, so he has to figure out how to get the treats to fall through the patterned holes. Once he’s fully grasped that, try mixing and matching the lids to really test his mental agility and keep him occupied while you’re gone.
This Frozen Treat Toy That Dogs Can Crack Into Easily
A frozen KONG filled with food works great to reward a more experienced dog for good behavior, but Marrs recommends this
Chilly Penguin toy for frozen treats when you’re just starting out. “It’s easier for the dog to lick up and access the tasty treat,” she states. “Fill the cavity with peanut butter, yogurt, or sodium-free beef broth and give it to your dog before you leave the house. Suddenly your dog will have something better to do than look out the window waiting for you.” The chilly penguin is even dishwasher safe, and comes in two sizes for different breeds.
A Treat-Dispensing Smart Camera To Monitor & Keep Your Dog Calm
If your dog requires an especially watchful eye, or if you’re simply curious about what they’re doing, Marrs likes the
Petcube, a treat-dispensing dog camera, which has 160 degree view and 1080p HD video. Get smart alerts sent to your phone when they’re active, and use the two-way audio to talk and reassure them. “This device allows you to monitor your dog via the camera and even shoot out treats when your dog is getting nervous, to help distract them,” Marrs says. “You can even set up the PetCube to shoot out treats every set number of minutes, turning alone time into treat time!” It’s compatible with Alexa devices too, so it can play calming music, answer questions, order their favorite treats, and more.
Slowly Work Through The Leaving Process With Your Pup
If something as small as getting your keys out stresses your dog out, Christie Catan, certified professional dog trainer and co-founder of the online dog training community
Tails of Connection, says to work through the steps of leaving with your dog. “One of the most important things we can do is work under the dog’s threshold. In this case, that means breaking the act of leaving the dog alone down into tiny component parts and working on each one gradually to avoid the dog ever showing any of those ‘sad’ behaviors,” she explains. “For many dogs, this means starting by desensitizing departure cues like putting on your jacket or picking up your wallet to decouple these actions from departures. Ideally, before you leave your dog for real, you practice leaving them for much smaller periods of time. Depending on how serious the issue is, this may mean a very methodical approach starting with literally five second departures. Some dogs may progress faster than others — there is no right or wrong — there is only the dog in front of you. Again, all dogs will benefit from people making leaving them normal and no big deal (in a gradual way), but it becomes extra important when the dog has separation anxiety.”
A Treat Dispensing Toy To Keep Your Dog Occupied With A Sitter
When leaving her dog in someone else’s care, Catan likes making sure her dog has plenty of outlets to decompress from the stress of her absence. “I generally try to set a sitter up with lots of enrichment options that I know my dog enjoys to make sure my dogs will continue to get their needs met while I am gone,” she says. This
treat dispensing toy is one such option. With a wide opening for getting frozen treats and small and large versions of the toy that can interlock for a bigger challenge, dogs can occupy and entertain themselves for hours with the Toppl.
An Affordable Pet Camera That Has Built-in Vet Chat
Catan says getting a camera to keep an eye on your dog, like this
pet monitoring camera, can be a good idea. Observing them throughout the day, talking to them via two-way audio, and consulting a professional with the 24/7 built-in vet chat will help ease your mind about any concerning behaviors, and you’ll get notifications sent to your phone instantly of any activity or abnormalities. This compact camera also has a magnet mount that can snap to any surface and has night vision capabilities.
This Drug-Free Calming Spray That Deters Stress Behaviors
Of course, easing your dog’s anxieties sometimes takes a little more effort than a new toy or tech. Dr. Jonathan Roberts, a remote veterinarian from
hepper.com, recommends this calming spray to help your dog adjust to challenging situations and curb stress-related behaviors. “ADAPTIL spray can be applied to bedding, onto crates or even on furniture,” he explains. It’s made to mimic pheromones from a mother dog, which makes dogs feel safer, calmer and less stressed. The effects last four to five hours, and Dr. Roberts notes that it’s most effective when used intermittently.
This Jacket That Applies Gentle Pressure To Reduce Anxiety
If you’ve ever felt the benefits of a weighted blanket or a long hug, then you already know how the
Thundershirt anxiety jacket uses gentle pressure to alleviate your dog’s worries about your absence. The jacket is designed to fit snugly, with straps that wrap around the chest and belly and mimic a gentle hug for your pup. It comes veterinarian-recommended (including Dr. Roberts) with a success rate of over 80% and over 21,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.
These Natural Calming Tablets That Also Work On Cats
For some dogs, anxiety and its accompanying behaviors are a momentary response to a stressful event or unfamiliar environment. For others, it’s a near-constant feeling, and
Anxitane chewable tablets can be used short or long-term to keep small dogs (and cats) calm and relaxed. “Anxitane chewable tablets contain a pure synthetic form of L-Theanine, an amino acid naturally found in green tea leaves,” Dr. Roberts explains. “[They] are a tasty option that both cats and dogs will enjoy and a great option to use in conjunction with a behavior modification program.”
This Fast-Acting Topical Ointment That Reduces Anxious Behaviors
Helping your nervous dog relax can be as easy as giving them a quick boop on the nose with this
good behavior ointment. According to Dr. Roberts, “[It] quickly helps calm anxious dogs in stressful situations while encouraging good behavior.” He further notes that this is “an effective short-term solution for fear or excitement in dogs and is applied directly on the top of the dog’s nose for optimal results.” Cover your dog’s nose in a thin layer of the pheromone ointment, and reapply as needed to keep them calm.
A Natural Supplement To Help Out In Stressful Situations
For more extreme cases or leading up to a stressful event, Dr. Roberts suggests adding these
calming supplements to your dog’s daily routine. “Zylkene is the only veterinary supplement containing alpha-casozepine, a natural ingredient derived from bovine hydrolyzed milk protein. This protein acts on inotropic GABA receptors in the brain and decreases stress reactions within 90 minutes of taking the supplement,” he says. It has a clinically-proven non-drowsy formula, but Dr. Roberts notes that it takes up to 15 days to reach full effect, so it doesn’t need to be used daily.
A Pheromone Diffuser That Makes Dogs Feel Calmer At Home
Curbing destructive behaviors at home can be challenging, especially while you’re not there. Dr. Roberts recommends this
calming diffuser to help. “The diffuser plugs into the wall, and it will diffuse ‘dog appeasing pheromones,’” he explains. “It’s welcomed as an option to provide a sense of comfort and calm in a home.” The diffuser covers up to 700 square feet, and should be plugged in in an unobstructed area near where your dog spends most of their time.