What do you do to a dog happy and busy while you work on the computer?
June 20, 2014 7:22 PM   Subscribe

I need more ideas for what I can do to make my dog's time happier & more active/stimulating for him while I am focused on the computer doing my work.

Schedules changed recently in our household- my husband used to stay home most of the day using quite a bit of his time to play with our dog while I worked. Now he needs to go to his lab during the day and I am working from home. So now our dog gets much less one on one playtime during the day. The transition hasn't led to any behavior problems (so far) but the guilt from knowing he's missing out on the playtime he used to have is killing me. I worry he is getting bored.

What I am doing already-
1) Putting his meals into treat dispensing toys (such as the IQ ball or kong wobbler)
2) Making sure he gets a walk twice a day.
3) Taking quick breaks for one on one playtime when I can.
4) Love and pets while working and throughout the day of course.
5) Taking him to doggie daycare once weekly so he gets at least one full day of play
6) Have a selection of toys available out for him to play with.

We do not have a yard, only a very small fenced in patio. I am open to any suggestion.

What I can do to make his time happier & more active for him while I am focused on the computer doing my work?

Are there are toys that dogs will chase around even if they don't dispense food? We already dispense all his food through treat balls.
posted by long haired child to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
This isn't an immediate solution, but you could get a CleverPet. Other than that, I think you're doing plenty. Your dog wants to be with you, even if you're not necessarily interacting actively the whole time.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

You're doing plenty. Cute dog!

Is your pup able to look out a window? I work at home and my pup spends HOURS on the arm of the couch or on the middle stair looking out the windows and napping in the sun.

Also, I let her sit next to me on a pillow when I'm working. She also has a favorite spot next to my foot. She's a little spoiled, but I get to spend my breaks looking over at a happy-derpy pup, so it's worth it.
posted by mochapickle at 8:09 PM on June 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ooooh, one ear up, one ear down. 100% adorable.

I agree that you're doing plenty, but I think to keep him stimulated you should actually spend some of your quick breaks *training* your dog to do fun and interesting things. Training is very stimulating, rewarding, and tiring for a dog, so it is best done in short bursts, which is perfect for your situation. Instead of being bored while you're tapping keys, he'll be conked out because you broke his brain teaching him how to distinguish right from left, put his toys away, or learn to fetch his favorite stuffies by name.

Rotating toys is also a good thing. Instead of laying them all out every day, switch them up. Suddenly fuzzy fox ball that he hasn't seen in two weeks is a reason to celebrate.
posted by xyzzy at 9:27 PM on June 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

My husband buys our dogs rawhide "bones" and they lie at his feet and happily chew away for hours and hours while he's at his desk.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:40 PM on June 20, 2014

You are doing pretty amazingly, remember dogs sleep a lot so you don't have to provide stimulation for every minute of the day, dogs are omnivores but have a carnivores tendancy to nap a lot if their bellies are full. Make sure they have a comfy napping spot, or 2 and they'll nap happily. If you can have one near you for distracted ear rubs while you are working and one where they can watch the world go by most dogs are in heaven.

If your dog is a bit high energy a nice long walk in the morning will encourage quiet kong chewing and napping.

Maybe switch up the food toy with a kong stuffed with some peanut butter or cheese or what have you. Rotating toys works great, and if you spend a few minutes during a break working on some tricks or training that will make the dog happy because it will have your attention for a few minutes and it will learn something new.
posted by wwax at 9:49 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My terrier is very fond of short breaks to chase a laser pointer.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:06 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you're already doing a lot! I mean, a lot of dogs (mine included) hang out alone all day most weekdays. You sound like an involved pet owner. Don't feel guilty!

I agree that adding in some training will help, and that rotating toys helps keep them interesting. Also agree that rawhide bones will keep a dog entertained for hours. I had to be careful with one dog who had a sensitive tummy as they upset her a little bit, but as long as I didn't do two days in a row she was fine.
posted by radioamy at 10:16 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dogs are very adaptable. They are easily able to learn that with Person A we do this and with Person B we do this. Don't feel guilty! You are being a fabulous pet guardian.

My two border collies sleep all day while I'm working (I work from home). We run, we walk, and we play, of course, but when I'm working they know this is Quiet Time.

Anything you do to break up the day will be welcome, and if you don't have as much time on some days as you do on others, your dog won't mind.

Another fun thing to try might be hiding the food toys. So the dog has to find it first, then work the food out of it.

I have some fetch toys with Velcro and I put a treat in the middle and then they have to bring me the toy so I can open it.

We also do nosework games with the "official" scents from class (though we do not follow all the rules they have - I just wanted a fun thing to do at home), and agility in the yard and we're learning Rhino, Doughnut, and Scorpion (toy names - find the right toy, get a treat!) and this works with colors as well (dogs don't distinguish exact colors but they can learn the differences - so far we can do yellow and blue), and my dogs will also pick out a box with mint, basil, or lavender if I indicate which scent I want. These are all fun little things to spend 2-4 minutes on once or twice a day (or once or twice a week - dogs have great memories!).

If you want more details on the steps for these, send me a message or get some books. I recommend Dog University and the 101 series by Kyra Sundance. I have all of those and they make for some hilarious moments with my two. :)

Your dog is SO CUTE. :)
posted by AllieTessKipp at 10:42 PM on June 20, 2014

You might also look into puzzle toys if your dog is not a toy destruction machine. http://shop.kyjen.com/hide-a-bee-large.html

And some for food, in case you have not seen these: http://www.nina-ottosson.com/
posted by AllieTessKipp at 10:47 PM on June 20, 2014

Your dog is frickin adorable. How long are your two daily walks? The first one should ideally be tiring enough to earn you several hours of non-destructive self-entertainment (toys etc) and sleeping. If that's not the case, increase length and strenuousness of walks.

If boredom really is the only concern, not to worry. It's ok for your dog to be a little bored when you can't be doing one-on-one stuff.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:13 AM on June 21, 2014

Dogs will let you know when they're bored. Mostly because they get destructive or are jumping off the walls. People are too quick to give human emotions and human perspectives to animals. Don't imagine it's as if a human child was with dad all day long and is now getting less attention with you working during the day. Even my hyper miniature pinscher enjoys some downtime during the day. Again, not a human child so not every minute of the day needs to be programmed with activities. You're doing plenty so if he lays down by your chair don't think "he's bored" but rather "he's enjoying the company of his leader".
posted by Aranquis at 2:23 AM on June 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Instead of one day weekly, could you possibly do one hour at day care or a one-hour dog walk (by you or someone you hire) per day? Like maybe lunch time? Or even early morning?

Other than that, the main thing I think is to let routine and predictability take over. I think that's very soothing to animals, to know what's going to happen next 'first she's going to pour her coffee, than she's going to pick up the leash, then we're going for a walk, I'm going to poop, then we're going to come back, and I'm going to take a nap' etc. Even down to listening to the same music.

Your dog is pretty psyched you're around. Although obviously dogs don't compare lives, it's awesome that you are home all day, so even if you can't do an hour of day care or get a daily dog walker (you might be able to find someone inexpensive, even) just your being around is great and it sounds like you're doing a good job as it is.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:33 AM on June 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hang a kong toy up and put some (in Australia - vegemite) but in the states some other savory paste (marmite? promite?). Keeps puppies going for hours.
posted by mattoxic at 3:42 AM on June 21, 2014

My wife just suggested - and it's a good one - get another puppy
posted by mattoxic at 3:44 AM on June 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I work from home, I do most of the same stuff that you're doing already (except for the trips to daycare) and she is just fine and I've been working from home for the last year.

But, that doesn't really answer your question, so...

In addition to play breaks and short training sessions you can play "find it" which is a bit of both as I suggested in a similar question here.

We also have a neighbor who has a dog (his is on the left, mine is the one on the right) who he drops off for the day every once in a while. My dog likes to wrestle with other dogs more than anything else on this earth but the neighbor's dog really just likes to lay around. So, despite the fact that the neighbor's dog doesn't do much, my dog LOVES IT when he comes over for the day.

So maybe you could find a neighbor who has a size compatible dog that they could drop off with you a couple days a week and the two dogs could wear each other out all day. You just might want to have the first day be one where you could keep an extra close eye on them. I have a webcam setup in my living room so I could watch them from my office.
posted by VTX at 12:12 PM on June 21, 2014

Just going to say that I fell for the "get another puppy" advice. Although we adore our second dog (as well as our first), it is not less work. It is much, much, much more work.

In addition to treat dispensing toys, we hold lots of "seek & find" games all over the home, including the ol' standby "Hunt for dinner" (kibble hidden all over the place, with a baby gate in place to separate the two dogs). Wears them out quite a bit. I also do a fair amount of brief "clicker training" sessions throughout the day (10 spins, 10 play deads, 5 stays, etc). The brain work for clicker training wears them out a lot. The main challenge is that clicker training requires careful planning & prep on my part. ; )

Our mutts have also learned that my work time = their nap time. They curl up and sleep through the workday quite happily (with brief-ish interruptions for morning & afternoon walks). We trained this by "busting them for being good", calmly giving them treats when they are being mellow and resting. It took time for their puppy energies to wane enough to make it possible for them to rest quietly all day, but it works out well. By dinnertime, they are fully rested and ready for loads of evening adventures. Frankly, it would have taken less time to teach one dog this process rather than two.
posted by apennington at 5:25 AM on June 23, 2014

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