Many dog owners are finding their dogs protesting their return to the office with destructive or anxious behavior. Dogs who previously never caused problems when left alone may have grown used to having their best human friends around and become distressed over the change in routine. In other cases, a dog who recently started acting up may have grown accustomed to the extra walks and park trips during the work-from-home day.
Puzzles and games for dogs can provide the extra mental stimulation your dog needs that they don’t get from regular plush or chew toys. Some of these toys even work with your mobile phone so you can play with your dog even when you’re not there.
Undesirable canine behavior can be exacerbated by boredom, too much energy, or general insecurity in dogs. Puzzles and games can help your dog with these troublesome behaviors in several ways.
If your dog is hyper: puzzles and games can keep them busy and help them blow off some steam by focusing their excess energy on a specific task.
If your dog is bored: engaging toys can stimulate their brain and hold their attention.
If your dog is generally restless or insecure: dynamic puzzle toys and games with moving parts can help distract them from the fact that you’re not around. They can also help the time pass more quickly until you return.
Here are some of the top puzzles and interactive games to keep your dog occupied and calm:
PupPod’s Rocker, Feeder, and Mobile App is an interactive dog game that you can control directly from your smartphone or tablet. Your dog can win treats as they play the game, and the level of difficulty increases as your dog learns how to play. Although your dog may not be aware that you’re interacting with them from your smartphone, this is a great option for humans who may be experiencing a bit of separation anxiety of their own.
2. Classic KONG Dog Toy
Classic KONG Toy is a rubber cone-shaped toy that satisfies dogs' natural urge to chew and involves mental stimulation because treats can be hidden inside. Stress-busting toys can help separation anxiety by distracting your dog. KONG toys are often recommended by vets and trainers because they are affordable and easy to use. They can be stuffed with various treats, such as peanut butter, or with dry kibble. Be sure to use the appropriate size for your dog. The KONG also comes in separate versions for puppies and adult dogs.
Note: KONG toys, along with many other bones and chew toys, should only be used with supervision. This toy can help if your dog is experiencing separation anxiety from you but is being supervised by someone else.
iFetch is a fast-paced brain game that is noise-free and can be used on any flat surface. This product comes in different sizes and configurations to meet the needs of many different dogs. . iFetch is a dynamic game that can keep a dog’s attention with gravity-induced movement even when no one is there to encourage them to play. If your dog is used to having you around to throw a ball for them, the added stimulation may help to quell their separation anxiety in your absence.
4. Outward Hound Dog Tornado Puzzle Toy
The Outward Hound Dog Tornado Puzzle Toy is an intermediate-level puzzle that can keep bored dogs busy for hours. This aesthetically pleasing toy is easy to clean and can be used to hide dog snacks or kibbles for dogs who eat too fast when they’re anxious.
5. Fable Pets The Game
The Game from Fable is a feeding toy that mimics the experience of hunting prey by stimulating dogs to search for their food. The feeding toy holds over 1.5 cups of dry food. Some dogs who have separation anxiety may be reluctant to eat when their owner is gone, and a game can distract and encourage them.
Here are some other things to consider for high-energy or anxious dogs who are having a hard time adjusting to your absence:
Let your dog “go to work” when you do. Some dogs may respond better to puzzles and games if they receive them only as a special treat when you are gone. Be aware of any hazards presented by the toys you leave with your dog when you are not home. Ensure they are safe to use without supervision if someone else isn’t present.
A tired dog is a good dog. Your dog may simply need to be exercised more. Maybe they got used to extra walks while you were home. Now that you’re back at the office they’re left with excess energy and nothing to do with it. If exercise in the morning and evening isn’t enough for your dog, or you feel like they may still be lacking in playtime, try using a dog walking or dog sitting app or having a trusted neighbor or friend give your dog some outside time in the middle of the day.
Think like a dog. Check that your dog doesn’t have anything in their environment that is making them uncomfortable. Make sure the area your dog has access to is dog-friendly and safe. Note if there may be too much or too little stimulation. In other words, even though you might find it enjoyable to have an open window to provide some entertainment over the course of the day, most dogs will find this stressful and react by becoming hypervigilant and barking excessively. Some dogs do better in smaller spaces when their owners are not present, rather than in a big, empty house. Other dogs may prefer to be left in the environment they are most comfortable in, rather than being enclosed when you leave.
Be patient. If you are suddenly leaving to go back to the office after being home, your dog may take a while to get used to the change in routine. There are several ways you can ease your dog into a routine so you can leave without stress. For example, practicing leaving your house and coming back after just 5-10 minutes can help your dog understand you will be returning.
Book an online virtual care appointment to determine what changes you may be able to make to help your dog overcome separation anxiety. You can reach a vet near you on Vetster 24/7 to discuss strategies to make sure your dog is calm and happy while you’re away.
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