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How to Keep a Dog Busy While at Work: 18 Proven Methods

Written by: Elizabeth Gray

Last Updated on June 13, 2024 by Dogster Team

jack russell terrier dog playing on treat dispensing toy

How to Keep a Dog Busy While at Work: 18 Proven Methods

As much as we might want to stay home with our dogs all day, most of us have jobs to do outside the house. When your dog is left at home alone, they can become bored, lonely, or even destructive.

Fortunately, there’s a solution to this dilemma. Keep reading to learn the best tips and tricks for how to keep your dog busy while you’re at work.

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The 18 Tips to Keep a Dog Busy While at Work

1. Leave the Television On

dogs watching TV
Image By: Javier Brosch, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Television, electricity

A simple way to help your dog feel less alone while you’re at work is to leave the television playing for them. Some dogs enjoy watching nature shows or programs featuring other dogs. Even if your dog hasn’t shown interest in interacting with the TV, the sound of human voices can be soothing and keep your pup company.

Keep the volume low enough not to disturb your neighbors, especially if you live in an apartment. Remember, your dog can hear much better than you can!

2. Offer a Kong

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Kong, tasty filling, freezer (optional)

Leaving a Kong toy stuffed with something delicious is an easy way to give your dog a rewarding task to pass the time while you’re gone. Sturdy Kongs make excellent chew toys but can also be filled with treats or food, keeping your dog busy retrieving them.

Another option is to fill the Kong with peanut butter or another tasty filling and freeze it. Your dog will be occupied for hours licking and gnawing the frozen treat.

3. Make Sure They Can See Outside

dog by the window
Image By: studio Family, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Windows, a way to see out (optional)

Giving your dog a front-row seat to all the comings and goings in your neighborhood is another easy way to keep them entertained while you’re at work. Leave the curtains open or the blinds raised on a window or door with a view outside. If your dog is small and can’t see out, either place a handy piece of furniture nearby or create an elevated space in another way.

A word of caution: if your dog is very reactive, barking and growling at people and animals they see outside, this might not be a good option for them.

4. Provide Interactive Toys

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Puzzle toys

Besides the filled Kong, there are many other interactive puzzle toys you can buy for your dog. These provide mental stimulation for your dog and give them a task to pass the time. Some puzzle toys require a bit of training before your dog gets the hang of them.

If your dog is a destructive chewer, this may not be the best idea for them, as puzzle toys typically aren’t the sturdiest.

5. Get Them Some Company

welsh corgi dogs and british longhair cat on sofa at home
Image By: LightField Studios, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • Supplies needed: Another pet

If you have the time, space, and financial ability to add another pet to your family, your dog will undoubtedly feel less lonely with a new friend. Adopting another dog gives your pup a playmate and companion for when you’re at work. If your dog is cat-friendly, you could also consider a feline friend.

Contrary to popular opinion, many dogs and cats get along quite well and can form strong bonds. However, you’ll need to make all introductions slowly and with supervision to ensure the two pets get along before you can feel comfortable leaving them alone together.

6. Hide Treats or Toys Around the House

  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Supplies needed: toys, treats, imagination

Sure, you can hand your dog some toys or treats on your way out the door, but why not make it more of a challenge? Take a few minutes before you leave for work to hide toys or treats in various locations throughout the house. Your dog will have to use their nose and brain to find them after you leave.

Finding the items will help your dog pass the time, and eating or playing will kill off even more of the workday before you come back home.

7. Freeze Treats/Toys in Ice

woman giving old dog a treat
Image By: SeventyFour, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Water, containers, treats, toys, freezer

During the hot summer months, keep your dog cool and entertained by creating ice pops with a fun reward inside. You’ll need to plan a little for this trick. Start by placing treats or a favorite toy in a freezer-safe container. Fill the container with water and place it in the freezer. Then, you can leave the frozen reward with your dog when you go to work.

Licking away the melting ice will keep them busy as they try to reach the treat or toy inside. This task can be messy so you may want to consider confining your dog to an uncarpeted room.

8. Get a Dog Camera

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Dog camera

Not only will a dog camera allow you to keep an eye on your home-alone pup remotely, but it can also help you keep them entertained. Several pet cameras allow you to talk to your pup or record a message for them to play regularly. Others allow you to feed your dog treats remotely.

Some have a laser toy built-in that you can use to play with your dog on your lunch break. A dog camera isn’t the cheapest way to keep your dog busy while you’re at work, but it can be effective.

9. Hire a Dog Walker

female french bulldog walking
Image By: Piqsels
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Reliable dog walker

If your dog craves human contact while you’re at work, consider hiring a dog walker or asking a friend or relative to visit your dog during the day. Dog walking services are pretty common in most locations, but the prices will vary. You can ask other dog owners you know if they have a recommendation.

Your vet may also know of trustworthy options. If you have a dog-loving young neighbor you trust, they may jump at the chance to hang out with your dog while you’re at work.

 10. Schedule a Playdate

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Other dogs and their owners

If you and your dog are friends with another dog and their human, consider arranging a doggy playdate while you’re at work. The dog friends can enjoy a romp in your backyard or go together to the dog park with a human acquaintance. Ensure the dogs and humans are comfortable with each other before scheduling a get-together.

If the playdate takes place at your house, make sure the other human knows where toys, treats, and leashes are kept and how to contact you if needed.

11. Rotate Toys

Bernese mountain dog with toy on carpet in living room
Image By: New Africa, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Toys

A simple way to keep your dog entertained while you’re at work is to rotate their toy supply regularly. This is a cost-effective solution because it doesn’t require you to buy more toys, and you can limit your dog’s access to the ones you already have.

Gather all your dog’s toys and choose a few to leave out at the beginning of the workweek. Swap those out every few days for others from your dog’s collection. This trick ensures your dog doesn’t get bored quickly with their toys.

12. Create a Calming Environment

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: White noise, pheromone diffuser, or spray

If your dog gets anxious while you’re at work, try making their home environment as soothing as possible. Ensure your dog has a soft, cozy, and secure place to sleep at home. Try leaving a white noise machine playing while you’re gone to block out sounds from outside that could bother your pup.

You can also spritz your dog’s bed with a pheromone spray or use a diffuser to keep them calm.

13. Make a Lick or Snuffle Mat

  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Supplies needed: Sink mat, rubber mat, fleece cloth, treats, peanut butter

For a simple but effective homemade enrichment activity, make your dog a lick or snuffle mat to play with while you’re at work. A lick mat is the simpler of the two. It merely requires you to smear peanut butter or canned dog food all over a rubber mat and leave it for your dog. Your dog will keep busy licking the tasty smears off the mat.

A snuffle mat is made from strips of fleece cloth, poked through the holes in a sink mat, and knotted at one end. The fleece fingers serve as a hiding spot for treats or kibble. Your dog must use their nose to hunt for the tasty rewards.

dog eating peanut butter
Image By: CL Shebley, Shutterstock

 14. Make a Busy Bucket

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Bucket, treats, toy, towel

A busy bucket is another way to make it more challenging and time-consuming for your dog to get their treats and toys while you’re at work. First, take a bucket and place treats and a favorite toy at the bottom.

Fill the space around them with a towel and place the bucket where your dog can get it. They will have to figure out how to get the treats and toys out on their own.

15. Offer Safe Chew Objects

a german shepherd dog playing with his chew toy
Image By: Snezhana_G, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Chew toys

Bored dogs who aren’t provided with acceptable chew objects may use their teeth on whatever they can find, placing your house and possessions at risk of destruction. To prevent this and to give your dog something to do while you’re at work, provide them with safe alternatives, such as Kongs or other long-lasting chews.

Make sure to match the strength of the chew toy to your dog’s chewing style. Light chewers need different chew toys than heavy chewers.

 16. Tire Your Dog Out

  • Difficulty: Easy-moderate
  • Supplies needed: Running shoes, fetch toys, willpower

You won’t have to worry about keeping your dog entertained while you’re at work if they’re so tired they just sleep the whole time. If you tire your dog out before you leave, they may not be motivated to leave their bed and cause trouble.

Regular exercise keeps your dog physically and mentally fit. However, following this tip may require more sacrifice on your part, as it could require getting up early to take your dog for a run or play fetch.

17. Buy a Doggy Water Fountain

Coonhound Puppy Playing With Water Fountain
Image By: SillyDogPhotos, Shutterstock
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: Water fountain, water

Investing in a doggy water fountain can serve dual purposes. You won’t have to worry about your dog running out of water while you’re at work, and a dog water fountain can also serve as a source of entertainment as your dog splashes and plays in the water.

Choose a fountain that’s easy to keep clean and sturdy enough to withstand your dog’s antics. Change the water regularly.

 18. Enroll In Doggy Daycare

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Supplies needed: reliable doggy daycare, enough money to pay for it

If your dog is still struggling to stay out of trouble no matter how many lick mats you make or treats you hide, it might be time to consider doggy daycare. This is not an inexpensive option and requires you to do some research and leg work to find a reliable pet care location.

However, doggy daycare can be excellent for your dog’s socialization skills and ensure you won’t have to worry about your pup being bored while you’re at work.

dogster paw dividerConclusion

Even with working from home becoming more common over the past couple of years, there are still many circumstances where you’ll need to keep your dog busy in another room, away from your Zoom meeting. These 18 tips and tricks are helpful whether your commute is an hour in heavy traffic or 10 steps from the bedroom to the dining room.

Remember, if your dog continues to exhibit separation anxiety or destructive behavior despite your best efforts, don’t hesitate to ask your veterinarian for help. Professional training or even medication may be required for your pup.

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Featured Image Credit: alexei_tm, Shutterstock

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