As COVID-19 vaccination rate rises, offices are opening back up or developing remote-hybrid plans with the aim of getting folks back to the workplace. But if you happened to adopt a dog in the midst of the pandemic, you might be worried about the separation anxiety both of you might feel as you head back to your job in person. (I should know: My puppy, Cookie, is only four months old.)
One way to give you both peace of mind is make sure your pet doesn’t get bored all day while you aren’t home. After all, a bored dog tends to be a destructive one. These products, from an automatic pet feeder to puzzle toys, will keep your dog entertained all day (and help you worry less).
1. An indoor or outdoor ball launcher
Can your pup play fetch for hours on end? If yes, an automatic ball launcher could be your best pet investment yet. This ball launcher can be used indoors or outdoors and has three distance settings to best fit your space—and not knock any photos off the wall. Just turn on the machine, put in the balls, and let your dog have a blast.
The machine only comes with three balls, but if you can train your pup to drop the tennis balls into it, the game can go on for hours. It may be a learning curve at first, but the payoff will be well worth it. Reviewers note it was easy enough for their dogs to figure out, but that the launcher doesn’t project them as far as the company claims.
2. A wobble wag interactive toy
Some pups are bundles of endless energy, so make sure you leave them with a toy that they can play with for a while—like the Wobble Wag. This interactive toy ball makes funny sounds, displays unique colors, and moves to mimic human interaction. It’ll not only be fun for your pup to attempt to figure out what part of the toy the noise is coming from, but once they find it, they’ll want to shake it again and again.
3. A tether toy with ground suction
If your dog absolutely adores an intense game of tug-of-war, try entertaining them with a tethered toy. Equipped with strong suction, this one will provide an intense game that’ll keep your pet entertained long after you're gone. According to reviewers, it kept their dogs of various ages (from puppies to older dogs) entertained longer than any other toy.
Get the Dog Chew Suction Cup Tug of War Toy from Amazon for $14.99
4. A fabric feeder puzzle
According to more than 11,000 Amazon reviewers, this fabric feeder toy is great for catching a dog's attention. Composed of soft, easy-to-clean fabric, you can hide food inside the little crevices and allow your pet to sniff their way into finding them.
When they’re done with their mission, just throw it in the washing machine for easy cleanup. Plus, if your pet is a usually fast eater, this tricky bowl will slow them down, so it can be used for feeding, too.
5. A hide-and-seek guacamole toy
While I don’t leave my new puppy at home for longer than an hour, this works wonders for keeping her entertained (and out of my hair) while I’m working from home. With a unique guacamole bowl design, the toy comes with three mini toys—an avocado, chip, and slice of lime—that go inside the holes in the bowl for your pup to find. Trust me, your pup will love the challenge of fishing the toys out of the holes—mine certainly does.
6. A puppy Kong toy
Looking for a toy to specifically entertain your puppy? The Kong toy is a must. Made for a growing puppy’s baby teeth, it’ll help teach appropriate chewing behavior and offer enrichment to satisfy a younger pup’s needs. For more of a distraction, fill it with frozen peanut butter, canned dog food, or treats and let it do its magic.
Because it can bounce, it’ll work well with pups who want to play for as long as possible. Although you shouldn’t leave young puppies at home for too long, this will keep them busy during a quick errand or a run to grab some coffee and will help them to get used to being alone.
7. A challenging, plastic puzzle toy
Aside from providing mental stimulation for your pup, this puzzle toy is wildly entertaining, too. It has an array of nooks and sliding discs, and your dog will search for the treats you put inside by pushing the discs with its nose. You can also increase the degree of difficulty by placing blocks that they’ll need to remove in between the sliders. All in all, your furry friend will stay busy and be rewarded with delicious treats for their effort.
8. Our favorite pet camera
Worried about what's going with your pet when you're away? Install this doggy camera for some peace of mind. Out of all the dog cameras we tested, our experts found that the Petcube Cam is the best pet camera. We love its affordable price tag, compact design, and array of great features like great sound quality, compatibility with Alexa, and incredible video quality. It also has two-way communication so you can remind them what a “good boy” they are throughout the day.
For a next-level camera that also entertains your dog with flying treats, skip the popular Furbo for the Petcube Bites 2, our upgrade pet camera pick. It has all the great features of the less expensive Cam, but its treat-tossing mechanism is more reliable than Furbo's.
9. The best pet feeder we’ve ever test
Most likely, once you’re back in the office, you won't have the opportunity to run home and feed your pet on schedule, which is why an automatic pet feeder could be helpful. The WOpet SmartFeeder, our favorite automatic pet feeder, connects to the WiFi, allows for up to six remotely scheduled feedings per day, and tells your pet its feeding time with a pre-recorded message of your voice. So even if you’re away, you can ensure they get that 4 p.m. kibble snack you’ve been providing since quarantine.
10. An automatic yard door for fenced yards
Do you want your pup to get fresh air while you're at work? Install an automatic yard door to your fenced-in yard. With a little practice, your pet will be able to let themselves out for playtime, to use the bathroom, or to sunbathe (my pup loves to do this on my deck). The MYQ smart pet door, which debuted at CES 2021, could be a worthwhile addition—if you want to splurge on it.
Connecting with the MyQ pet portal sensor (attached to your dog's collar), you can fully automate potty breaks and playtime. The door will automatically open up when your dog goes near it, allowing them to go in or out as they please—and helps avoid security issues related to traditional dog doors. Because there's a camera and mic installed on each side of the door, you can communicate with your pet throughout the day as well.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.