August and September are considered back-to-school months for the kids and adults attending college. For most families, this also is usually the end of summer and vacations. For pets, this can be a stressful time. Suddenly everyone is not at home as much as they were in the summertime, and the pets are confused as they are alone for long periods of time. Their owners or kids are no longer spending so much time with them. Sometimes, boredom leads to mischief and destructive behaviors. Let’s talk about 5 solutions to help your pets fight the “back to school/work/end of summer” blues.
Food puzzles are a great way to keep pets occupied. There are so many kinds of puzzles out there, from boards to bottles, to even balls and Kong toys. If your pet is not that much into food puzzles but is still food motivated, try hiding some dry kibble around the house so they must find it. It keeps them busy searching for a while.
Here are some good food puzzle ideas for dogs:
Busy Buddy Tug-A Jug
This is the coolest toy and will keep my husky entertained for hours. It is a bottle, fill it up with your dog’s kibble and at the top of the bottle is a small hole and a rope. Your dog must pull the rope to get the food out of the hole. My husky is not the most intelligent pup, and he caught on quickly!
Dog Puzzle Toy Board
You can hide food and treats in spots on these puzzle boards, and your dog must slide or move things around to get to the treats. Check out some of these boards and watch the videos! The picture shown is a “beginner’s” level board, they can get progressively more challenging as your dog gets smart!
Stuff a Kong with goodies!
My pups love stuffed Kong toys, and it keeps them busy for hours. I generally stuff a Kong toy with some cream cheese, peanut butter, or canned dog food, stuff some food kibble in with it, and then freeze them for a few hours. Your dog then has a frozen treat that they will continue to lick it until it thaws, then they can get the kibble out of the Kong too!
Food puzzle ideas for Cats:
Indoor Hunter Cat Feeder
This is a neat toy and feeder- stick some kibble in the feeder and hide them throughout the house. Once your cat finds them, they must jiggle and play with the feeder to get the food out!
Food Dispensing Treat Ball
There are so many treat balls out there that dispense food, and I can’t tell who likes them better; my dogs or my cat! Stuff some kibble in the ball and make kitty work it out!
Kitty Puzzle Board
Check out this puzzle board; hide some food or treats in the board and your Kitty must figure out how to get the food out!
Put on some TV or Music
Sometimes a little sound is all your pet needs to not feel so lonely. Most TV’s and electronics nowadays have a “sleep timer”- so that you can leave these devices on for a period and they will shut off by themselves. You can utilize this feature for your pet too! Set up your device to play when you leave and stay on for an amount of time. This doesn’t always work for every pet, but some are calmer with a little background noise. Plus, if you live in an apartment or duplex where your neighbors are close, you can drown out the noise of your lonely barking pup. Even if your pup doesn’t bark, the sound will help with any noises your neighbors are making that could get your pup going.
Walking the dog or playing with the cat before/after work or school
Getting into an exercise routine with your pet will help tremendously with boredom as they are now on a schedule. Try walking the dog before or after work. This helps you exercise too! My routine with the pups consists of usually getting home from work, changing, and then going for a walk/jog. It helps me wind down from the busy day at work and it helps the dogs release some pent-up energy. If you have kids in the household, make exercising the pet’s part of their to-do list throughout the week when they are not busy with extra-curricular activities and homework. If you can make it part of a scheduled routine, it will become easier to form a habit. Pets adapt very well to routines and look forward to them!
If your dog is a social dog and you have the resources, how about dropping your dog off at a doggy daycare 1-2 times a week? This is becoming a popular thing! Your dog gets the exercise and the playtime they need while you are at work, and your pup will be tired and happy at the end of the day. If your dog really isn’t that social around other dogs, hire a dog walker to come and walk the dog during the week if you are too busy.
For cat owners, try taking 10 minutes out of your morning before work or school to tease the cat with their favorite toy (instead of surfing social media). If you don’t have that much time in your morning schedule, set aside time during the evening to play with kitty when things are winding down.
Chew toys or interactive toys for the pets
For some dogs, chewing on things is an outlet for boredom or stress. Sometimes, they don’t always find the proper things to chew on! There are so many kinds of chew toys available for different types of chewers, from mild to heavy-duty chewers. If your dog is not much into chewing things, what are they into? If it’s their ball- make sure they have one with them during the day when you are not home. Most dogs will roll it around to entertain themselves. Or how about an interactive toy? Here are a few ideas:
Hyper pet interactive toy
For Cats, interactive toys are a way of getting exercise as well as mental stimulation throughout their day. There are many options out there! Here are a few ideas:
Cat rolling toy with feathers
You can turn this toy on and off, and it can be automatically activated by your cat. The feathers will move and entice your cat to chase/catch it!
Interactive cat teaser board
There are a lot of neat cat teaser boards that will move around and pop feathers/balls through holes to entice your cat to catch them! Check out the videos on these teaser boards- cats love them!
Brushing up on some training/tricks
If you are too busy during the week to set aside time to exercise your pet regularly, try setting aside some time for mental exercise for them. Find a new trick to train your pet. Teach the dog to shake your hand or rollover. Hone up on the sit/stay/down commands. Teach them the “leave it” command. Work on their recall. Even cats can be trained to do tricks! Teach the cat to go through an obstacle course on command. Surprisingly, a lot of cats can be trained to fetch a toy, do something cute for food, or “shake” your hand! You can even teach your cat to walk on a harness.
Training does not have to take up a lot of time in your day either, its best to only do a training session for 5-10 minutes at a time with a pet. That way the training session stays positive and your pet will stay engaged.
Dog owners, if you are normally an active person, how about signing up for a short training class with your pup? There are many indoor training classes such as brushing up on obedience or learning a new dog sport such as agility, which can be done inside just as much as it can be done outside! Training classes are usually only 6-8 weeks long and don’t usually take up much time during your week. Check out your nearest dog training facility for fun classes they are offering. There are so many different dog “sports” to do. Check out my Dog Sports post for more info.
Don’t forget to spend some time with the pets on the weekend
Because you may only get 1-2 hours with your pet a day during the week, make sure to carve out a little chunk of time with them on the weekend. For dogs, it’s easier because you can most of the time include them in your weekend plans if you spend time outdoors. Most dogs are even happy to just go for a ride with you while you’re doing errands! For cats, make sure to include some play or pet/cuddle time in on the weekends.
Happy pets and a happy family
Bored or lonely pets develop unfavorable behaviors. Unlike humans, a bored pet cannot just turn on the TV or listen to music. Your dog may start chewing things up, excessively barking, develop obsessive behaviors, or even become restless. In fact, most dog trainers say that undesirable behaviors in dogs can be corrected with proper physical and mental exercise. Your cat depending on their age may start engaging you in play at inappropriate times or develop destructive behaviors due to not having an outlet to release their energy. Once an animal develops a habit or inappropriate coping mechanism for being bored and lonely, usually it can cause resentment in the family. Including your pets in your daily routine and giving them their own “jobs” or “hobbies” while you are at work and school will help keep them happy, in return making them a more enjoyable pet to be around and strengthen your bond with them.