One way that humans stay mentally engaged and active is to have rooms in the house where there is lots going on that holds our attention. These rooms are sometimes known as the play room, family room, games room or the rumpus room. There is no reason why a dog can't have a fun room as well, a perfect way to keep occupied while you are at work and it is too cold or too hot to be outside.
Setting up a dog fun room is actually a bit of a challenge for most people since it requires the ability to think like a dog and to look at life from a dog's perspective. Everything in the room needs to be dog friendly, with no forbidden furniture or items that are off limits for the dog to play with or interact with. This doesn't mean that the dog can destroy these items it simply means that the dog should feel that this is his or her space and that it is always a positive and entertaining place to be.
Once the dog reaches the level of enjoying time in the dog room, he or she won't feel they are being punished when they are left in this more confined space. However, it does allow you as the human in the family to rest assured that when you come home your house will look exactly as you left it, without any dog redecorating.
The first consideration is the type of flooring that is in the room. Many houses have wall to wall carpeting, which can be a great option if the dog is fully housetrained and is not prone to accidents in the house. Dogs with chronic bladder or bowel problems, senior dogs or older breeding females typically have greater problems with incontinence as they get older, and for these types of dogs carpet may not be the best answer. Of course puppies that are not yet housetrained are going to pose a problem but a toilet area with paper, puppy pads or even a litter box can be set up in a corner with minimal problems. The flooring in this area cannot be carpet and needs to be some type of non-porous material such as tile or rubber mats over linoleum. This prevents urine from seeping into the flooring and causing odors throughout the house.
Carpet is also softer for older senior dogs and will prevent the dog's feet from slipping during sitting, standing or playing. Generally most dogs that are housetrained do well on either carpeted or non-carpeted flooring so the choice is really up to you. Carpeting can be easily vacuumed and flooring is kept clean with a quick mop. Mopping does provide extra opportunities for disinfecting, plus it is less likely to harbor fleas, ticks and other parasites that may be problematic in your area.
Furniture in the room will vary greatly depending on the rules of your house when it comes to dogs. If the dogs enjoy sleeping on the couch or a favorite chair, perhaps having some older furniture in the room will help the dogs feel right at home. Often dogs tend to spend a considerable amount of time sleeping when owners are away, so providing an older couch and chair can be a wonderful way to have them settle in. If being on the furniture isn't allowed in the rest of the house, you may want to settle for a comfortable dog bed or perhaps even a crate in the room where the dog can sleep and feel secure and relaxed.
Toys are an important part of a fun dog room. There should be a good variety of toys available to the dog from balls through to chew toys and even rope toys. Always look for high quality and very durable toys and routinely check them for any signs of wear and tear or damage. Removing and replacing damaged toys will ensure that your dog stays safe and doesn't cut his or her mouth or possibly choke on broken items.
The room should also contain a food and water area that is somewhat safe from any rough play, especially if you have more than one dog. A corner divider can be used to safely partition a small area to prevent water from being turned over and food from being spilled. Depending on the number and size of the dog or dogs you may also want to consider a larger water cooler or water fountain style of watering bowl. These keep the water cool and yet also relatively free from the risk of being spilled or knocked over.
Some dogs respond well to low level noise in the house that can provide a calming effect but also help the dog stay aware and mentally active. A radio or television playing can help some dogs relax and stay calm, although they really aren't watching or listening to the sounds in the same way a human is. If you are leaving a radio or TV on for the dog be sure to either have it outside of the dog room or up high enough that the dog cannot reach the electrical cord or outlet. There are special plugs used for babies that should be placed over all the electrical outlets in the room so the dog can't lick or bite at the outlets and possibly cause an electric shock.
Deciding if the dogs should be able to see out a window in their room is also going to vary depending on the dog. While it can keep a dog alert and engaged in what is happening outside, it can also contribute to issues with problem barking for some dogs. If there is a window in the room be sure to remove all long curtains or blinds as well as cords to prevent choking or the risk of the dog getting the cord wrapped around their neck, legs or body.