Home Alone...DOG PROJECTS
Do you feel guilty when you leave your dog with nothing to do while you are at work all day?
Some people hate to leave their dogs alone at all, and opt to take them to "doggy daycare" facilities. This can be a problem too. You can end up with a dog that can never be left alone - ever!
While my dogs are young (generally 2 years and under) I leave them crated whenever I am not home. I like to leave them with some projects to keep them busy, though I REALLY think they just sleep when I'm not home.
Some ideas for "projects"
Different surfaces to chew, like hard Nylabones, soft Gumabones, Booda Bones (edible bones made of compressed cornstarch), etc. I try to leave several different choices. I DO NOT leave rawhide or rope bones in the crate unsupervised - or anything else that can be chewed up too quickly or torn apart.
My favorite thing to leave for lonely dogs are toys stuffed with goodies, like Kong or Tuffy toys (made by the Kong Company - choose an appropriate size) or a sturdy sterilized bone (which is the ONLY real bone I recommend). You stuff these items with something irresistible. Try peanut butter, "squeezy cheese" (the kind that comes in a can at your grocery store, DO NOT use hunks of cheese, the dog may choke on them), dog food, soft moist treats, goldfish crackers, bread, etc. For more "stuffing" recipes visit the Kong web site.
The most important considerations are: 1. The dog MORE than loves the treat you chose 2. It is a treat the dog does not get at any other time 3. Test a small portion first to make sure the treat does not cause diarrhea or vomiting.
Another alternative is to use a "Buster Cube". These toys, which resemble plastic dice, are available at your local pet supply store. You fill them with dried dog food and teach your dog to tumble the cube around to get the food out. Since the treat is not messy, these can also be used when your dog is old enough to be left alone uncrated. Remember, this food is part of your dog's daily intake, so feed less at mealtime. If you like, you can feed the whole meal from the cube.
Your dog will be less stressed or worried if you also confine him (just like you do when you leave) for random and variable times while you are at home. Then confinement doesn't become a signal of being left alone. Watch for more on crate training and proper use of crates in an upcoming article.
Pam Young, LVT
Copyright 1996- 2006, Pam Young