After a long, hard day at work or school, nothing is nicer than coming home to your dog. Ecstatic to see you and behaving as if you’ve been away for decades, your dog lets you know daily how much it misses you. “My dog must be bored stiff!” you may think to yourself. “He must lie there all day in his dog bed doing nothing but thinking of me!”
Boredom indeed plays a role in what dogs do when alone, but they’re not necessarily pining away, said Daniel Q. Estep, Ph.D., an animal behaviorist at Animal Behavior Associates in Littleton, Colo.
“If the environment is boring no street noise, no people walking by your dog will probably sleep more,” he said.
On the other hand, no hard-and-fast rules apply to home-alone dogs, so there is really no way, short of spying, to know what your dog is up to when you’re away. “Younger animals are more prone to be active than older animals … but some dogs are a lot more reactive to environmental stimulation than others,” Estep said. “It really depends on the dog. Some jump at every sound, and others need a cannon to get them moving.”
So maybe your dog merely sleeps the long day away. Then again, why do items from the bathroom trash keep appearing mysteriously under your pillow? And didn’t you make that bed before you left? And w ho washed the dirty dishes? And who forgot to put away the Lady and the Tramp video? And just what is that aroma did somebody order a pizza? Hmm. Maybe your dog actually has a life. A schedule. An agenda, even.
We asked two dog owners to videotape their dogs to see just what went on when they weren’t home.
Dog No. 1: Yeshe
Our first video star is Yeshe, a 2-year-old Tibetan Terrier who lives with her devoted owner, Terry Mueller, in Chicago. Named after a figure from Tibetan Buddhism, Yeshe is a sweet, adaptable dog who loves to play and thrives on being the center of attention. She loves to be photographed and will bark in protest if Mueller tries to photograph anything else.
What does Yeshe do all day when her human companion is at work? “I know she doesn’t just sleep because every morning I make the bed, and when I come home, it’s always unmade,” Mueller said. Since Yeshe and Mueller live alone, Mueller said she is unusually tuned in to what her dog has been up to during the day. “I hide treats around the house, then check to see which ones she’s found when I get home. I notice everywhere she’s been, everything that’s been moved. I suspect she’s very busy.”
Mueller set up the camera twice to catch Yeshe’s activities in the bedroom and the kitchen. Here’s how the tape played out:
Day One: The Bedroom
Noon – Mueller places a bone on the bed, says goodbye and leaves.
12:01 p.m. – Yeshe jumps on the bed, finds the bone, buries it under the comforter, then roots through the bedding. Is she trying to find it again, or is she looking for more treats? Suddenly, she jumps off the bed and disappears.
12:05 – And she’s back, up on the bed for more rooting. Victory! She found a doughnut-shaped rawhide toy. A long chewing session ensues.
12:20 – Oops! An itch! Ahhh. Time for more digging, then it’s off the bed and out of the picture again.
1:30 – What has she been doing for the past 70 minutes? Something in the kitchen, apparently. We’ll find out tomorrow.
1:45 – Time to survey the bedroom floor. First a tongue bath on the carpet, then a peek under the bed.
2:00 – And it’s back to the bed because those covers just haven’t been properly rearranged yet. And who knows what other treats might be hidden there!
Day Two: The Kitchen
Noon – Time for a trip around the kitchen to make sure everything is in order, sniffing each object, whether dog toys or furniture leg. Yep, everything’s okay. Off to the bedroom and out of view.
12:03 p.m. – She’s back. Now it’s off to the rug by the back door, where Mueller hid a biscuit. Yeshe knows the biscuit is there. It’s always there. But she digs around, bunching up the rug without uncovering the treat.
12:06 – Yeshe’s stuffed cow needs some attention. She chews it for awhile, then uses it as a comfy pillow.
12:15 – Up for a drink of water. Keeping track of all these toys and treats is hard work! Then back to the rug for another snooze. Yeshe rests her head right over the place where the treat is hidden but doesn’t uncover it. This dog knows how to make a good thing last!
12:30 – Still snoozin’.
1:00 – Still dozin’.
1:15 – Now we know what she was doing in the kitchen yesterday!
1:30 – ZZZZZZ.
1:45 – Just watching her is enough to make a body mighty drowsy.
2:00 – She’s up! She heads drowsily into the bedroom just as the tape runs out.
Yeshe is obviously a snoozer but spends plenty of time watching over the household and playing with her toys. As for that treat under the rug, according to Mueller, Yeshe savors its aroma all day long but won’t actually indulge until Mueller returns home. After all, what good is a treat if you can’t enjoy it with a friend?
Dogs No. 2 & 3: Poncho and Holly
The single life is a thing of the past for Poncho and Holly, two Maltese dogs who live with the Rothermel/Sand family in LaCrosse, Wisconsin. Poncho and Holly recently started a family of their own. The 3-week-old puppies make the already lively household of Laura, Ken and daughters Lauryn, 11, and Kyndra, 4, even more animated than it used to be. To Poncho and Holly, however, family life is family life, whether the humans are around or not: Holly guards the puppies, and Poncho guards the house.
“Poncho spends the whole day at the front window barking,” Laura Sand said, laughing. “He barks at everything! I can’t believe how much he barks. I could hardly watch the whole tape.” We watched the tape, however, and here’s what we saw and heard:
Noon – Poncho yaps characteristically as the Sand family leaves. Holly barely notices. She’s eating lunch.
1:50 – A tiny puppy peeks it golf-ball-sized white head over the side of the box. Holly’s head pops up, too, and she nudges her charge back to his meal.
1:55 – Dinner’s over and Mom’s on the run again, out to the front, then back to her perch.
2:00 – Of course, Poncho’s still barking that’s his job!
One final event of the day wasn’t caught on tape: “They left us a few surprises on the carpet,” Sand admitted.
And you thought all your dog did was sleep for eight hours! If your dog is anything like Yeshe, Poncho or Holly, and these two-hour glimpses are characteristic of the whole day, your dog probably keeps plenty busy. So don’t be surprised if you come home to an unmade bed, a rumpled carpet, an empty refrigerator or a new decorating scheme with a kitchen trash motif, because nobody likes to be bored!
MORE: Dog Boredom Busters
By: Eve Adamson
Featured Image: Via iStock.com/adogslifephoto