What do you do when you’re bored? Find someone to talk to or do something with, watch TV, see a movie, or read a book. Or sit around and think about how bored you are. For the most part, you find something to occupy your mind or get your body moving.
What does your dog do when they’re bored? Behave quite similarly — either find something interesting to do or lament their boredom. Neither of these options, though, may be ideal from your point of view. That ‘something interesting’ to your dog may have you coming home to a mess in the kitchen or a disemboweled chair in the living room.
A bored dog is an unhappy dog who can become stressed out (e.g., due to separation anxiety) and even destructive (e.g., excessive chewing). Dogs are intelligent beings and need things to focus on, just like we do. Moreover, they are pack animals — they are not meant to spend long stretches of time alone with nothing to do.
So it’s up to you, as a dog parent, to ensure your dog has the mental and physical stimulation to keep themselves interested, engaged, and busy. And fortunately, there’s no shortage of activities to prevent boredom in dogs!
What Do Bored Dogs Look Like?
Boredom looks like a dog that is not at peace in their world. They may bark incessantly. They may dig holes in the yard or try to do so in your carpet or quilt. We’ve seen bored dogs chase their own tail or go crazy with howling and whining at the smallest noise.
When you come home after several hours, bored dogs will desperately seek your attention or jump on your guests. They may be so restless that they won’t hesitate to tip and dig into the trash can! Unfortunately, boredom can even lead to eating something that will make them sick.
If the dog stays bored over a long period of time, the dysfunctional behaviors can become ingrained and harder to change.
Dogs Need Physical and Mental Stimulation
Even the spongiest couch potato dog needs exercise every day — at the very least, a few walks. They certainly need the potty break and to move their bodies for a while. As with people, physical exercise not only keeps the body in shape; it burns away pent-up energy and lets the dog have fun! Most activities also provide mental stimulation, as the dog has to socialize with another dog, solve a problem, or express a natural instinct.
Beyond the daily walk, how much and what type of exercise your dog needs depends on the dog’s size, age, breed, health, and energy levels. For instance, dogs bred for hunting, herding breeds, police, or guard work need much more exercise than a sedentary one. Otherwise, they will become bored dogs without it.
Dogs are intelligent animals, and just like us, they need mental exercise on a regular basis. Mental stimulation is a fantastic way to keep your dog occupied and interested — it can tire your dog faster than physical exercise. Aside from basic physical exercise, a walk also provides:
- Mental perks in the form of things to sniff;
- New environments to explore;
- Socialization with people and other dogs.
A dog without mental stimulation is like a person with nothing to read or no one to interact with, so much so that it can lead to depression.
Are You and Your Dog a Good Match?
Before we discuss what you can do to alleviate your dog’s boredom, we want to focus on finding the right match between human and dog.
Here at K9 Basics, we had a client who had a Belgian Malinois, and they expected that dog’s excess energy level to dissipate after a two-mile walk. That’s equivalent to a gym rat walking into the gym, picking up the five-pound dumbbell, curling it once, and going home. For a Belgian Malinois, adequate exercise involves playing games involving fetching or chasing, participating in agility courses, and much more!
Breeds such as Belgian Malinois need a human who can give them the extensive exercise they need every single day. This is not a dog that will be happy sitting quietly for hours while their human watches TV. A dog that needs more physical activity than you are willing or able to provide will get bored. But, of course, some other breeds would like nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with you. That is why the process of choosing a dog must be conducted with due diligence — you should always include consideration of your lifestyle and the type of dog that matches it.
How To Keep Boredom Away From Your Dog
Keeping your dog physically and mentally active should not be a demanding challenge, considering the vast array of fun ideas at any dog parent’s disposal!
Spending time with people and other dogs — either those they know or meeting new ones — is a wonderful opportunity to exercise and to keep your dog mentally engaged. Socialization can come from:
- Getting together with friends and their dogs;
- Attending dog training classes;
- Going to dog parks;
- Getting another dog: It’s a lot easier for a single dog to get bored, which is why a companion may solve the problem altogether.
Toys, Toys, and More Toys!
These days, the market for dog toys is practically limitless! If you do a little homework, you can find a wide variety of toys appropriate for your dog’s size and activity levels: safe chew toys, chase toys, a treat-dispensing toy, puzzle toys, tennis balls, games, etc. Have a sizable collection of toys to present to your dog one at a time. Then, after a while, switch to a new set of toys to keep your dog’s interest alight.
Keep Your Dog Engaged With Games
Play some games that have your dog moving around, problem-solving, and engaging their natural instincts. Hide treats for your dog to sniff out and find (including you!), and give them things to chase, fetch, and tug on. Let them figure out how to get a treat enclosed in a toy or box. Trust us; they can happily play these games for hours!
The Mentally Stimulating Great Outdoors
There’s a big, sniffable world outside of your house! If they are available nearby, go to the dog park or other places where your dog can explore and run. Change your walking route so the dog can find new smells, other dogs, and new places. Try dog sports, like agility training, for high-energy dogs.
Put Your Dog To Work
Dogs bred to work still have that instinct. While living with you, though, they don’t have to hunt for food, sniff out drugs, chase down suspects, pull sleds, or herd sheep. But you can find ways to do things with them that mimic the behaviors of their working heritage!
For a Terrier bred to dig for prey, create a digging box filled with dirt or sand for hours of digging bliss. Do you have a Border Collie who keeps trying to herd your children? You can teach the dog to herd toys instead. Even better, in some areas, there are places you can take your dog to learn to herd actual sheep!
Animal Behavior Training
Obedience and advanced training will give your dog plenty of mental and physical exercise. Teach them acceptable behaviors and fun tricks. In addition to keeping the dog busy, you have the added benefit of a well-behaved dog!
When your job or other obligations keep you away from your dog for long periods of time, it may be helpful to invest in services that will keep your dog busy. Doggy daycare is excellent for people who work away from home for several hours a day. The dog gets to socialize with other dogs and has plenty of activity to focus on and enjoy. If that’s not available, perhaps hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to take your dog out and spend time with them for part of the day will work for you.
The Professional Dog Trainers at K9 Basics Can Help!
Need help coming up with ways to keep the doggy boredom at bay? We have some amazing ideas for you!
Our capable team at K9 Basics has the experience, expertise, and compassion to safely and effectively teach your dog important skills and teach you how to be a powerful pack leader.
Give us a call at (866) 592-2742 or, if you’re from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New York, visit us at 131 Kenilworth Road, Marlton, New Jersey 08053, to learn more about our dog training services. Also, browse our blog and social media for various topics about our canine companions and their lives with us!