Low-Effort Ways to Keep Your Dog Busy
You work all day. Maybe you have a second job, or go to school, or take care of your family, too. The last thing you want to think about or do after a long day is entertaining your dog. You know you have to figure something out because there's just so much time she can spend in the crate, and she's bursting at the seams and acting out in aggravation. There are quite a few things you can do to keep her occupied and help her burn off a little steam at the same time.
Since your dog's daily job in nature would be finding food for that day's survival, put her to work at dinnertime. Don't just dump a scoop of kibble in the bowl; scatter the kibble around the kitchen floor, the porch, or the yard, and let her spend half an hour doing what normally takes a minute or two. She'll use her nose, brain, and some physical energy finding every last kibble.
If the idea of dog food all over your kitchen floor is too much for you to bear, give her a Buster Cube or one of the large treat balls designed to dispense kibbles a few at a time as she bats and nudges it around the house or yard. A really food-motivated dog will work for hours to get every last kibble.
There are a variety of food dispensing toys to keep your dog gainfully occupied.
Make Crate Time Entertaining
Want to give her something fun to do in the crate? Try a stuffed Kong toy. Buy a size larger than is recommended for your dog's breed or size on the package. Stuff it with a variety of goodies to keep her occupied and satisfied.
Rotate what you put in the toy to keep her interested. Try making a mixture of canned and dry dog food, stuff it tightly in the toy, and put it in the freezer. Make several so you always have a frozen pooch pacifier on hand. A little peanut butter or liverwurst can be added to the mixture for variety.
Or, you can put a small chunk of hot dog or cheddar cheese (something smelly) in the small end, fill up the rest with regular dry dog food, and use a big biscuit as a stopper in the large end — it's the treat that keeps on giving. If she's occupied with working for her meals for an hour or more each day, at least that's an hour that she's not chewing the sofa.
What you spend in toys, you save in couches! If you can use an egg timer to measure the time it takes your dog to destroy a toy, don't despair. Keep a few heavy-duty toys around to direct him to, but once or twice a week, give him a toy he can destroy. As long as he doesn't eat the stuffing, it's a mentally healthy activity for him.
Outdoor Fun and Entertainment
If you have some kind of fence or outdoor containment for your dog, chances are she'll be spending a decent amount of time there. Hopefully you won't give her too much unsupervised time out there before she's trained, but if you do, you may be surprised at some of the hobbies she takes up.
Thinking about new siding for the house? Great, she's already started the demolition. Air conditioner needs new insulation? No? Oh well, it does now. And surely there's buried treasure in one of those holes she dug. Well, what did you think she was going to do out there all by herself?
Your first plan of action is obvious: Don't leave her outside unattended for long enough to get bored. If you're out in the yard with her, you can direct her to an appropriate activity, whether it's digging a hole in her digging pit, chasing goldfish in a kiddie pool, or herding a giant indestructible ball around the yard.
For safety's sake, kids and dogs should never be left together in a yard unsupervised. Even a dog half a child's size can easily knock the child down unintentionally, or worse. It's just not worth the risk to take chances.
If you need to leave her for a few minutes, make sure she has something really interesting, like a treat dispensing toy or a raw marrow bone, to keep her attention. It's rare dog that will exercise and entertain herself in a yard for any length of time without engaging in some behavior that's unacceptable to her people. Excessive barking, destructive chewing, digging… dogs left alone in yards do tend to act a lot like dogs!