Dog advice needed - How to keep my dogs happy while I'm at work?
June 19, 2011 10:08 AM   Subscribe

What can I do to help my dogs cope with the hours left home alone while I'm at work?

After a year of unemployment, I'm about to go back to work full time (I think . . . fingers crossed). My two dogs have become accustomed to being with me most of the time and now will be left home alone for about nine hours a day.

I'm looking for ideas of how to keep them from being too bored during the day, good dog toys or techniques to help them adjust.

I'm not sure it matters but here are their details just in case: one is a Glen of Imaal, about eight years old, and the dominant dog in the family and the other is a large mixed breed, about three and a half years old. Both are boys and relatively mellow.

posted by knolan to Pets & Animals (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do they have a dog door so they can go in and out whenever they want? If they do they'll be fine. They'll go on daily adventures chasing butterflies and napping in the sun. If not, and it's possible to put one in, do. It would change their lives and your life too.
posted by wherever, whatever at 10:15 AM on June 19, 2011

What happens when you leave for a few hours now? Do they seem ok with your absence? If they're ok for an hour or two now, try leaving them for a little bit longer, and work up to a full day. my guess is they won't notice that you're gone. :) I don't think dogs really have much of a sense of time. Mine greets me at the door exactly the same way (excitedly) whether I've been gone for 8 hours or just a few minutes to take out the garbage.

Other things - get a big Kong for each of them and fill it with treats in the morning. Hide treats around the house. Leave the TV on. Get someone to check in on them during the day. Hire a walker. If your house is set up that way, some folks swear by a doggie door so they can go in and out at leisure.

Sometimes I call home home and talk to my dogs when the answering machine picks up. I have no idea if they listen or not, but it makes me feel better (and kind of weird, but whatever.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hire a dog walker to come and take them out once a day. Agree with the dog door, though when you aren't home, all they are going to do is sleep anyway.
posted by TheBones at 10:20 AM on June 19, 2011

Or come home for lunch and take them out for a walk.
posted by TheBones at 10:21 AM on June 19, 2011

If you can distract a dog for about an hour, they will forget you even left. Go to the pet store and look for treat puzzles. Your dogs will smell the treats, but will have to be challenged to get to them. Generic peanut butter is an amazing incentive in this regard. After their snack, they'll probably just go to sleep for a while; that's what dogs do most of the day anyway.
posted by Gilbert at 10:23 AM on June 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

My parents leave the radio or the TV on all day for their dogs, since they usually have music playing or the TV's on when they're at home. Whether this would be any comfort for your dogs depends on what your daily habits were.

Generally though it's good that you have more than one dog, they will keep each other company just fine.
posted by ergo at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2011

Dog walker/dog door is a great idea. I definitely would say that your dogs sleep more than you think they do, though. Depending on the dog breed and personality, dogs are often really good at waiting and just snooze around until you get home. Spend some good time with them when you are home, be sure to take them on some nice evening and early morning walks.
posted by belau at 11:16 AM on June 19, 2011

Oh, and congratulations on the full time work!
posted by belau at 11:19 AM on June 19, 2011

If your dogs don't fight over food, Kongs are great. I use a pastry bag to fill them with canned dog food and freeze 'em - puppy popsicles! No muss, no fuss. A gallon Ziploc bag with the corner cut off will work instead of a pastry bag. Just cut down the amount of food you're feeding at other times.
posted by Thistlemouse at 8:21 PM on June 19, 2011

Well my guilt level has definitely decreased since reading your answers. Thanks for that!
I do have a dog door but a very small backyard. They are ok now when I leave for awhile, then return. Will definitely get kongs and try to find some puzzle toys for them

THANKS for your help!
posted by knolan at 6:48 AM on June 20, 2011

Depends on the neighborhood you live in, of course, but I would never ever allow my dogs completely free reign to my backyard by way of a dog door, especially if they've never really been left alone for long periods of time. You never know what could happen with them getting out or getting bitten by something. I have had friends whose dogs have gotten out of a gate that should have been closed and been hit by a car or never seen again. One of my friends came home from work to find her dog almost dead from a snake bite, and the dog is still suffering the consequences today. That risk is not worth the benefit they would be getting, in my opinion. I second getting a dog walker if you think your dogs will need it, but my pup has an abnormally small bladder and has no problems holding it for a full day as long as she is taken out just before we leave and after we get home.
posted by kro at 12:41 AM on June 21, 2011

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