Kids are back in school, clubs and sports have resumed, and there’s homework to be done.  So what does that mean for your pup?  After all, she has gotten to enjoy the fruits of summer vacation too, playing in the sprinkler and basking in the sun with the family.  This may be the tenth or only the first year your pup has had to transition to longer days alone but you can help ease the transition by making the most of the time you have with her.

Back to basics

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What tires your pup out best?  Throwing the ball in the backyard?  A good run?  She’ll benefit from doing any of these activities with you before everyone vacates the house for the day, even if it’s a quick walk up the street (can she go to the school bus with you?) or a few really good Frisbee throws.  We often have young foster dogs in our home and it’s easy enough to drag a toy around, pup in tow, as I do a quick, one-handed tidy up of the counters before work.  Of course, to entertain your pup for a longer duration midday, there is always the option of hiring a dog walker!

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Working that brain muscle

Can you or a family member spare five minutes for a mini training session between eating breakfast and packing the bookbag?  Take the time to brush up on the basics your pup knows or add a new trick to her repertoire.  She’s getting the attention she craves while working on her manners and the bond you share with her.  One thing I like to do with my furkids while I’m brushing my teeth is run through their hand signals.  It doesn’t take long but we get in a little practice so that they’ll know them when it counts.  

Indulging their love for Food

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There are many interactive toys on the market these days that food (treats or kibble) is inserted into and the dog has to use her brain to figure out the puzzle and gain access to the goods.  There are various designs of ranging difficulty, complexity, and materials – from dispensers that wobble to 3-D puzzles with hidden compartments.  Many are a hard plastic (like the weeble-wobble shaped toy, called the Bob-a-Lot, above, left) that are generally safer for chewers but for pups whose only focus is the food inside, you may like the challenges offered by the wooden and pliable rubber options.  For the toy-focused pup, there are even automatic ball dispensers and nesting doll-style stuffed animals for layers of fun.  There are truly endless options to either buy or make yourself.  I love these toys for the simple reasons they engage the dog and encourage a higher level of thinking but they’re also a way to feed breakfast and create a healthy diversion, simultaneously.   

Long lasting chews are another great way to keep your dog occupied.  There are many different kinds, from antler sheds to very hard rubber like the KONG.  It’s important to know your dog’s level of chewing before introducing, and especially leaving them alone with, a chew.  A favorite in this household is to take a long (raw) marrow bone that’s already been chewed and licked past the point of being interesting and layer goodies in it – kibble, natural peanut butter, maybe some cranberries, then a layer of honey, stick it in the freezer overnight and voila! The best popsicle ever (at least my dog Tango thinks so!).  

**Always supervise your dog with new toys to ensure they won’t pose a safety hazard in your absence

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Enroll in obedience or doggy sports

Mental stimulation, enhancing your bond, learning new things, and boosting confidence – the benefits of classes are endless!  It gives your pup dedicated time with you and the ment11018776_10204189516679875_3833300689297826950_nal workout is a doozy.  For some dogs, working their minds can be as exhausting as a physical workout.  Another benefit is that if your dog acts out when you leave, find what it is that’s on her mind and address it in a structured way.  For example, is your dog spinning with excitement when you get home and devastated when her walk time is cut short to finish an essay?  She may love to run some agility trials with you.  Training classes are time commitment but they are a fun way to boost your dog’s confidence and give her an outlet for her energy.