Why do dogs get bored?
The last thing that you want as a dog owner is a bored dog (and all the problems that come along with that). But how can you tell the difference between boredom, hunger, illness, anxiety, aggression, or deeper problems?
Knowing your dog well is the easiest way to know whether they are bored and whether you need to do any action. Try and write down a list of actions if they start to act outside of their normal behaviour. Researchers have found that boredom presents differently to separation anxiety and that dog owners can often be confused about the real problem, leading to a delay in finding a solution.
For example, we all know that making a mess or being destructive can be a sign of boredom. Excessive barking, whining, clamouring for attention, digging, chasing their tail, and stealing objects from around the house are all symptoms of a dog who doesn’t have enough stimulation in their day.
But why do dogs sometimes seem content to happily do nothing and other times get antsy? It comes down to the fact they are like humans in needing varied mental and physical stimulations throughout the day. Dogs are sentient creatures with surprisingly rich internal lives, and while they may not be able to verbally communicate with words, they are still intelligent animals with similar needs to humans.
Put simply, having a dog means that you are responsible for their basic needs like food, shelter, and love, but you are also the Chief Anti-Boredom Officer in the eyes of your pet. That weighty title means that you should have a clear strategy for varying your dog’s time so that negative behaviours are minimised and they can live their happiest lives.
7 ways to stop your dog from getting bored
We will discuss a potential strategy that could work for your dog, but you should always do what’s best for you dog, and if you notice something that worries you, contact a veterinary professional.
1. Varying your dog’s walk to prevent boredom
There is nothing wrong with following the same walk every day with your dog but there is every chance that you will become bored with it. Use your pet as an excuse to explore more of the area where you live and take alternative routes.
2. Create a timetable of activities for your dog
Bear with us, we do know this sounds a bit strange! When you have a box of chewed and half-destroyed doggy toys, you might be forgiven for just giving your dog the most indestructible toy during playtime and letting them play with it.
But this will undoubtedly lead to boredom. The best approach is to have a general outline of each day and then break it down into 3 sections so that they have morning, afternoon and evening toys or activities. Then you can vary this every second week or so to keep things fresh. You can also plan for weekends when you may have more time with them, as well as special occasions where a favourite toy is brought out or special treats are given.
This plan can also incorporate a training schedule and the best part is that it is fully customisable around your time commitments.
3. Take advantage of your dog’s natural instincts to reduce boredom
While domesticated dogs might no longer be exactly like their ancestors, they still share much of the same DNA, so use this to your advantage.
If you have a dog that was originally bred to race, consider setting up some type of mini racecourse in your garden and engage their instincts. If they are a retriever breed, incorporate lots of hide and fetch games into their play. Tracking dog? Set them on the scent of something with a great treat at the end.
The same goes for hunting, herding and sporting dogs. Without the need to actually kill other creatures, you can simulate natural experiences for them and keep boredom at bay.
4. Interactive play is always the best type of play
Dogs will almost always prefer to play with their human owner or with another dog to relieve their boredom. Even if you have the best toys in the world, the American Kennel Club advises that you should structure your time so that you get a minimum of 2 hours every day in direct contact with your dog.
5. Invest in a good training routine with your dog
This is a fantastic way to get some quality social time with your dog and to reinforce positive behaviours. Remember, when training your dog, the most effective way for them to learn has been proven to be positive reinforcement, praise and of course, rewards.
Experts have told us for years that training your dog can bring multiple benefits including managing behavioural issues, promote social bonding and even increase their intelligence. With so many benefits, it is a no-brainer. But remember, training does not have to be all about obedience work – you can incorporate lots of fun tricks into their repertoire too!
6. Engage your dog’s senses to keep them curious
Although we can sometimes forget, dogs have quite different sensory perceptions of the world than we do. We know that their sight is not as powerful as ours, but that their smell is far superior. As well as that, their hearing is excellent.
There are games that you can buy for your dog that stimulate these senses, but you can also make your own and play very simple games such as find the treat or the three-cup game. Some other interactive sensory games include a licking mat, muffin tin puzzle, or my personal favourite – hide some treats in rolls of paper for them to rip through to the grand prize at the end. Dogs are like toddlers in many ways, and the more effort you put into engaging their natural playfulness, the happier life you will both have!
7. Get to know the local amenities for dogs
Is there a dog park near you? Are there any facilities where dogs can be unleashed and socialise with other pets? Are there doggy day care facilities or dogwalker services that you could look into for your pet? These are some of the ways that you can enhance your dog’s daily life and ensure that they are always active and engaged.
If you can’t find any of these services or if they are little too pricey, consider looking up meet-up groups online for fellow dog-parents interested in dog playdates. If you are unable find any groups that match your needs, set up your own! There are numerous benefits both for you and your adoring dog when you prioritise their needs.
Any good dog owner like you will be interested in improving life for their pet. They will research the latest news about feeding, training, and caring for their pets. It is commendable that you care so much about your dog that you want to be fully informed on how to attend to their needs.
Remember that you know your dog’s individual temperament better than anyone. You understand their vagaries and their moods and that’s part of the joy of the relationship. So always trust your instincts when you sense that something is amiss with your pet.
If you can safely eliminate the possibilities that your dog is not anxious, ill, or something more serious, use some of the above tips to help alleviate their boredom before it leads to unwanted behaviours. If you are worried that your dog might be sleeping too much, check out our article on why your dog sleeps so much, but as usual, you should always consult a veterinary professional if you have any concerns.
But do not be too hard on yourself either! You are only human and it is not possible for us to entertain our pets 24 hours a day. They will prefer twenty minutes where you are fully engaged with them over 2 hours where you are on your phone sitting beside them, not really paying attention.