A space to call their own
Dogs need a lot of love and attention, but they also like their own space. Dogs are territorial animals, so it’s important they have areas in “their” home set up for them to sleep, play and hide out if they feel the urge. And, while most pet parents would love to spend their days at home with their dogs or take them to work with them, the reality is that most have to leave those sweet faces behind every weekday morning. “Don’t stress,” says Dr. Guy Fyvie, Nutritional Advisor at Hill’s Pet Nutrition, “the truth is, your dog can handle short periods of alone time just fine, especially if you set up a ‘dog-safe zone’ to keep them comfortable and entertained.”
The area itself
A dog zone doesn’t have to be huge. In fact, many dogs prefer smaller spaces. Quiet, comfortable, enclosed spaces remind them of their ancestral dens. Plus, limiting your dog’s access to the rest of the house may prevent unwanted behaviour like chewing and toilet accidents. Almost any spare space in your home can double as a dog room; just make sure it’s spacious enough for dogs to do what they like to do – you don’t want your pup to feel like he’s being locked up. If you live in a small apartment, a baby gate or playpen provides a secure boundary, but can be folded up and stashed out of sight when you’re at home.
Once you’ve chosen your doggy zone, it’s time to make it safe and comfortable. If your dog is older and settled, you won’t need to do much beyond the obvious cleaning up and creating a stimulating and comfortable environment. But if you have a young, rambunctious, or anxious puppy or older dog, you’ll want to take steps to dog-proof the environment:
- Store cleaning materials and food in another room, or high up behind closed cabinet doors
- Ensure cupboards are not able to be opened
- Tape down electrical wires, or hide them behind furniture – this is especially important for younger dogs and those prone to chewing things
- Remove dustbins
- Put away shoes, clothing, kids’ toys, and anything else you wouldn’t want your dog playing with or chewing while you’re not around
- Turn off unnecessary heaters
- Ensure sufficient ventilation
A place to lay their head
Dogs spend about 50% of the day sleeping, so comfort really counts. Make a soft, relaxing bed the focal point of your doggy zone. Add a blanket for burrowing, and perhaps one of your old T-Shirts for a sensory reminder of you.
Keep water accessible
Make sure your dog always has fresh water. Keep a bowl of water in or near your dog’s space, or make sure they have easy, unobstructed access to where you regularly store their normal food and water.
Soothing sights and sounds
You may have heard some pet parents leaving the TV tuned onto Animal Planet for their dog when they’re not home. Well, they may just be onto something. Dogs may not be able to follow plot lines on TV shows, but the colour and light can provide welcome entertainment for them during the day. Sound is another good addition to your doggy zone, as soothing classical music or nature sounds may calm anxious dogs.
Something to do
Dogs need both mental and physical exercise, and just because you’re not home doesn’t mean you can’t challenge their brains. No dog zone is complete without things to keep your dog busy. Toys will offer your dog stimulation as well as emotional comfort. Make different types of toys available to your dog such as chew toys, fluffy comforting toys, interactive toys, or treat balls which can be filled with their regular Hill’s food. Or how about a “seek-a-treat” puzzle toy? This will challenge your dog to use their nose and paws. It’s also extremely important to rotate your dog’s toys to maintain stimulation and keep boredom at bay.
Creativity and imagination
If you’re going to set up a doggy zone, you might as well get creative. How about a puppy palace? Or a secret doggy hideout filled with all their favourite things? Again, make sure the space is roomy enough. Of course, dogs don’t need anything fancy. The most important thing is that your dog zone is a safe, comfortable place for your best friend to hang out while they await your return at the end of the day.