Disclosure: Dogs of Australia is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we sometimes earn an affiliate commission at no added cost to you. Learn more
Do toys help dogs with anxiety?
There’s nothing more frustrating than a dog who struggles to be home alone. The barking, the destructive behaviour – it’s all not exactly great.
Here’s my personal opinion about toys for dogs home alone: In many cases they unfortunately miss the point and therefore often don’t work.
One of the best things a responsible dog owner can do, is to teach their dog to chill and relax while home alone. Like, be content with doing nothing other than just taking a bunch of naps.
No need for interactive robot toys that probably freak many of our dogs out when they suddenly start moving around, or throwing treats at them out of nowhere.
Dogs are social animals, and they enjoy to play with their human or with other friendly dogs.
It’s a very human-way of thinking, to believe that we can give our dogs something like a doggy-computer to occupy them while we leave them home alone.
That’s not to say that it won’t work for all dogs. But if you’re struggling with a dog who can’t be home alone, and you’ve tried a bunch of different things and nothing seems to work – it may be best to ask your vet if they can recommend a dog trainer to help.
A qualified dog trainer can help you figure out what the cause of your dog’s stress is, and can then help to create an individualised training plan that will help your dog to settle and be more okay with being left home alone.
What toys help with separation anxiety?
There’s really no miracle-toy that will help each and every dog to overcome separation anxiety.
All dogs are different, and their root cause for being stressed out when left home alone will vary.
Many dog owners swear by leaving their dog home alone with a couple of Kongs that have the dog’s breakfast stuffed inside.
But if your dog is really stressed out when left alone, they may show no interest in food, or it will only be a short-term distraction.
Also, bear in mind that everything can be a hazard, and as a rule of thumb dogs should be supervised while engaging with toys.
If you need to leave your dog in an unfamiliar environment, it can sometimes help to give your dog a scented toy or piece of your clothing.
The idea behind this is to increase your dog’s comfort by having a familiar smell around.
But if you leave your dog in your house, doing this will likely make no difference, as the house is already full of familiar smells.
Some dogs respond well to lavender scented dog toys, as studies indicate that lavender can help relieve stress in animals. But as mentioned above, it’s best to make an honest personal assessment about whether it’s safe for you to leave your dog home alone with a toy.
All dogs are different and some will be perfectly fine and not get themselves into trouble even with full access to all areas and items of the house. Other dogs may eat their way through a wall and digest hazardous materials.
How can I make my dog happy when home alone?
There are a few different things you can try to keep your dog happy when home alone.
If all fails, don’t hesitate to ask your vet for a dog trainer recommendations to help find a solution to your problem.
Take your dog for a walk before you leave the house
Getting some energy out before you leave the house can help your dog to settle more easily when left alone.
Leave your dog inside the house rather than outside
If you can and if it’s safe to do so, consider leaving your dog inside the house rather than outside.
The outside-world has lots of distractions that can make it more difficult for your dog to settle. Also, the inside of the house will smell like you, which can have a calming effect on many dogs.
Don’t feed breakfast out of a bowl
Let your dog work for their breakfast so that your dog is more likely to be tired and ready to relax when left home alone.
For example, you can hand-feed your dog their breakfast during a trick or obedience training session. Or you can give them their food in a snuffle mat.
You can also do a scatter hunt, or hide their breakfast in different spots around the house and then ask them to find it.
Research indicates that it’s a rewarding experience for your dog to have to work for food. And sniffing can make your dog more tired than physical exercise, which increases the likelihood of your dog just wanting to nap and relax when they’re home alone.
You can also feed your dog their breakfast in Kongs , which will also contribute to mental stimulation and will help to get them a bit more tired.
For more DIY dog enrichment, check out our article with 10+ easy ideas to keep your dog entertained.