What dogs do when their owners are away varies, but most end up playing, investigating, observing, guarding, eating and drinking, and resting. Like people, they often establish a daily routine with these activities. Depending on factors like the animal’s age, size, individual temperament, and breed, people sometimes have to adjust what they leave their pets to do or how they are contained. Day care, crating, and similar options sometimes are necessary to prevent problems such as separation anxiety and furniture chewing.
Most canines will play at least a little bit during the day. What they consider fun, however, varies from animal to animal. Some find a favorite item to chew on or toss around, while others simply run from room to room. If more than one pet is at home, they might interact, following each other around, wrestling or trying to get the other interested in a toy.
In most homes, it’s rare for every little thing to remain the same through the entire day. A pillow might get put a different spot, for example, or a storm might erupt outside. Dogs generally are curious and want to investigate these changes, looking at and sniffing new items, listening to any sounds they make. Like some people, they might try to put away things they think are out of place or get rid of what they think doesn’t belong.
When dogs can see something that doesn’t stay constant but is generally present, such as traffic or people walking outside, they often like to watch it. This usually is a passive activity, with some animals quietly sitting, lying down or resting their chins on window sills. Depending on temperament, however, they might become more aggressive or interactive, and whine, howl or bark. Many owners leave the TV on for entertainment when they know their pets don’t have anything else to watch.
Although different breeds are more social than others, in general, dogs are pack animals, as they are descended from wolves. Typically, they naturally figure out who is the alpha male or superior in the group and take orders from that leader. To the domesticated or tamed canine, the owner is the one in control. Guarding the home, such as barking when others get close, is one way it tries to protect and seek approval, showing the ability to anticipate a person’s reactions or rewards. In some cases, dogs keep watch because of genuine feelings of possessiveness.
Eating and Drinking
Many owners are gone for hours at a time when they need to work or run errands, and dogs generally get hungry at least for a snack when they’re home alone. They often go to their food and water bowls to get something to eat and drink. Sometimes, this is just a quick detour in other activities, but it’s not unusual for them to take tasty, harder-to-devour foods such as dental chews to a favorite spot to savor for a while. To combine play and eating and to provide some mental stimulation, some owners place multiple bowls around the house, use food puzzles, or hide a treat or two for the pet to find.
Sleep and Rest
When dogs don’t have anything else they’d like to do, or when they’ve exhausted themselves doing other activities, they usually find a nice spot to rest. They often like sunny areas on the floor because of the warmth, but they may retreat to a pet bed if one is available. Couches typically are another favorite place to sleep. If owners don’t raise any objections during training, dogs might jump up into a “people” bed instead, with some even burrowing down and snuggling under the covers. The amount of time the animal sleeps really depends on its unique preferences and physical needs, but it can take up a big part of the day.
Considerations and Tips
Both young and large dogs usually need lots of physical activity during the day, although puppies typically get worn out faster. Toys often encourage some movement, but it’s generally a good idea to take the pet for a 45- to 60-minute walk before leaving to make sure it gets the minimum recommended for the breed. It’s important for pet owners to take current health into account, however, as some animals, similar to people, have conditions that might make to much activity difficult or even dangerous. A morning walk also provides a chance for the dog to go relieve itself, preventing indoor accidents.
Separation anxiety can be a problem in some cases. A dog with this issue might spend more time dealing with worry and stress, destroying furniture or chewing on things. Pet sitters and day care may relieve some of the animal's loneliness, but in both cases, it needs to be comfortable with the caregiver. Many dogs feel more comfortable when confined inside a large crate with a few toys inside, which can make them feel safe, just like they have their own room.
Although barking, howling, and whining is natural communication for canines, it can disturb neighbors. When the noises become a problem, an owner might find that it's necessary to train the pet to make sounds only when it has a need, such as going out to urinate, or when someone it doesn’t know comes to the house. This can take considerable time, but generally, it is a better option than having conflicts with neighbors or having to get rid of the pet.
There are many breeds of dogs, and each one has specific characteristics in terms of mental and physical development. Some, like hounds, are intended for hunting or tracking, for example. Researching these traits can give an owners some insights about what to leave the animal to do while they are away from home.