A lot of that human-pet bonding during the pandemic is slowly coming to an end as more offices reopen, so what's a lonely dog to do?
Turns out, a lot — and we don't mean an all-day whine, a messy rug delivery or doubling down on destroying the furniture.
Here are a few gift ideas for the newly alone dog.
ROVER RECOMMENDATIONS: We asked the folks at Rover.com, a large network of pet sitters and dog walkers, what they recommend. Treat-dispensing enrichment toys were at the top of the list to keep pets busy and ease anxiety.
The Paw5 Snuffle Mat taps into a dog's instinct to forage and plays on its keen sense of smell. Sprinkle treats or kibble into the tufty mat and let your pet root away. Machine washable. $39.99. Available at Rover, Amazon and elsewhere.
Outward Hound makes a variety of puzzle toys. Rover likes the Dog Hide N' Slide to reduce boredom and curb destructive behavior. Treats are hidden in slide compartments. The plastic and wood composite toy has no removable parts and has a non-slip base. $24.99. For purchase on Rover, Amazon and a wide range of retailers.
Rover swears by the Smartpetlove Snuggle Puppy designed for anxious pets. They're plush pups with battery-powered heartbeats to provide comfort. There's also a non-toxic heat pack. The battery pack is removable for machine washing and the heat packs are disposable. $39.95. On Rover, PetSmart and widely available elsewhere.
ON ETSY: The DIY marketplace offers a wealth of pet gifts. One star seller in France, JoyDogCat, offers handmade aventurine and labradorite bead collars for dogs. Aventurine, so the seller says, helps pooches overcome feelings of abandonment and "regain calm and inner peace," while labradorite helps them "adapt to the unexpected" and boosts confidence. They look great, at the very least, but are not intended to replace regular collars. They come in a range of sizes. $33 to $58, based on size.
For dogs and, OK, cats, another Etsy seller, BASZLEAustralia in Brisbane, has cozy bolster beds that surround pets in soft, inviting luxury at a bargain basement price. Made of cotton and fleece, these beds are a great alternative to all that pandemic couch cuddling and cost $19 to $41. They come in eight colors and five sizes.
PET CAMS THAT DO THINGS: They're wireless in different shapes and sizes for remotely monitoring and engaging pets. Some dispense treats, others play light lasers with cats via phone. There are push notifications to detect barking or motion. Some roll around like little robots and others work in fixed positions. There's night vision and two-way audio. Shop around. Read reviews because there's always somebody who's got something to say about these devices.
Chewy.com has a nice selection but other brands are available all over the place. One is the Furbo Full HD Dog Treat Dispenser and Camera. $199. Receive real-time alerts, dog-related video recordings and highlights of your dog's day for an additional $6.99 a month.
PET SOUNDS: Much has been made of the calming effect of music on dogs, with researchers pointing in different directions in terms of genre. Some swear by classical, others by reggae or soft rock. Some believe the idea is to match the beat to a dog's own heartbeat. Others believe music and moving pictures do nothing at all, unless they're already a safety cue. Spotify has albums and playlists dedicated to the task of calming dogs. Amazon has streaming, CD and DVD options.
A company called Pet Acoustics sells a Bluetooth speaker pre-loaded with 90 minutes of music developed by a sound behaviorist to reduce stress and calm nervous canines. $59.99. There's a feline version for the same price. Head to Chewy.com.
THE THUNDERSHIRT: The ThunderShirt promises gentle, constant pressure to calm anxiety, fear and over-excitement. They're lightweight and machine washable. Fit is important for effectiveness and to avoid chafing, especially when worn for long periods. Seven sizes are available. There's a basic gray, but sportier looks are available, including a number in fuchsia. Prices range from $39.95 for extra small to $44.95 for extra large. On Amazon and widely available.
DOG TENTS: If your four-legged gift recipient isn't crated, perhaps a dog tent would offer comfort. From teepee style to canopied and full-on camping quality, there's a slew to choose from. Some fold for stowing while others require real estate full time. There's a size for any dog — and cat. Dogs may need training to get used to one. The PetnPurr Pet Teepee is a cute canine cave with a shaggy white top, matching thick shag cushion and gray walls. $59.99. Widely available. REI sells the collapsible Tiny Tent in green and blue. It has two side doors, zippered mesh windows on all four walls and costs only $24.95. On Rei.com.
THE KONG: If you'd like to not think too hard about it, the Kong rubber toy may be the gift for you. It's hollow and irregularly shaped for a wacky bounce. It can be filled with peanut butter, spray cheese, favorite treats, or a combination of moistened and dry kibble to last a bit longer as a distraction. There are different sizes (important) and versions for beginner chewers, senior chewers, average chewers and power chewers (also important). They're dishwasher safe and come in several colors. Kong classic is red and ranges from $7.99 for extra small to $24.99 for XXL. Widely available.