While we may want to spend every waking moment with our furry friends, it is just not possible. Even the most dedicated dog parents have other commitments from work to family and friends. When you are not able to spend quality time with your dog there is the possibility of them getting bored. Bored dogs can become unhappy and destructive dogs; something we all want to avoid. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to relieve your dog’s boredom and keep them, happy, healthy, and mentally stimulated. Here we explore 15 ways you can help relieve your dog’s boredom as well as exploring why dogs get bored and how to spot the signs of a bored dog.
Why Do Dogs Get Bored
Dogs are intelligent creatures who love to explore, learn, and please their owners. However, all the qualities that make them our best friends and fur babies are also the qualities that lead them to become bored.
Dogs of all ages need stimulation. They need to be kept physically and mentally active to keep them healthy and alert. Lack of physical and mental stimulation leads to a bored dog. And, if they are bored, they will look for something to do to occupy their time. Unfortunately for you, when dogs decide to entertain themselves it is usually bad news for your soft furnishing, shoes, and ornaments.
Signs That Your Dog Is Bored
Dogs cannot talk, so they have other, less subtle ways of telling their owners when something isn’t quite right. Unfortunately, we do not always pick up on these signs and when that happens problems can occur. Of course, its quite obvious that if you come home to a house in chaos, post chewed and covered in drawl, and the trash all over the floor, the most likely have a very bored dog. But this is rarely where it starts and there are earlier and less obvious signs that your dog is bored. These include:
- Constant pawing for attention
- Excessive jumping
- Excessive barking
- Digging up your backyard (or flowerpots)
- Restless behavior
If these signs are allowed to go unchecked, they can lead to more problematic behaviors, including destructive behaviors and even aggression. Luckily, keeping your dog entertained and free from boredom is easy and what’s more many of the ideas on our list are good fun for you too.
Ways to Relieve Your Dog’s Boredom
When you are home and have time to spend with your pet pooch, take them out for a walk. Exercise is a great way to wear them out for when you can’t be there. Varying your route so that they experience different sights, sounds, and smells also helps provide mental stimulation.
Set aside time for playing with your dog. Exercise, training, and playing with other dogs are great, but nothing beats playtime between a dog and its owner. It doesn’t matter whether it is a fetch game, chase, or tug of war, it is the interaction with you and the physical and mental stimulation that provides that is key.
Playing with other friendly dogs is a great way to relieve the boredom of being left alone all day while you are at work. A quick trip to a local dog park or a playdate with a friend who has a dog could be the highlight of your dog’s day. If you don’t have either of these close by, then look for local walking, agility, or dog training group. Such groups are also great for meeting new people, sharing ideas, and picking up new tips on all areas of dog care.
Training is an essential part of dog ownership as it helps your dog understand the rules of the pack and improves their ability to socialize with both humans and other animals. Training should start early and be reinforced regularly. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated – not every dog is designed to or wants to perform intricate tricks. Learning to walk on a lead, to sit, lay, and stay are all vital, however, and if you use positive reinforcement and treats, your dog will enjoy these training sessions with you. They provide bonding time and mental stimulation that relieves boredom as well as reinforcing the positive behaviors you want your dog to exhibit. Check out our guide on dog treats for more info.
If because of ill health or work commitments you are unable to achieve any of the above yourself, then consider hiring a pet sitter or dog walker that can do them for you. Don’t forget to get recommendations and references for anyone you are considering and to check whether they take just your dog out or are responsible for multiple dogs at a time. Meet the sitter in advance and give your dog time to get used to them before you leave them alone for the first time.
For those that work very long hours, doggy daycare can provide company and mental stimulation for your furry friend. Daycare is the ideal solution for ensuring that your dog still keeps their usual routine and to stop you worrying about coming home to little accidents or destroyed furniture. As with a pet sitter, take your time choosing a daycare facility and spend some time there with your dog before you leave them for the first time.
Make Meal Times Fun
Dogs love new and challenging experiences, so try slow feeders or automatic dog feeders that only allow a small amount of food through at a time. As well as keeping your dog engaged, this will improve their digestion if they tend to gulp their food too quickly. Vary the flavors of the food you offer your dog and if you feed them dry dog food you can try hiding food around the house or putting their dish in a different position so they have to hunt it down before they can eat. Putting their food into puzzle balls or kongs is another way to keep them occupied for hours.
By investing in a two-way dog camera, you can keep an eye on your dog while you are at work or out of the house for any other reason. If you invest in a two-way camera with a speaker and microphone, your dog can hear and see you, allowing you to interact even when you are not there. Getting a camera as part of a feed or automatic treat system also allows you to treat and reward your dog while you are out of the house.
If your dog likes to watch TV or is comforted by hearing the TV while you are out, then leaving the TV on could be the answer. Better still if you are a DIRECTV subscriber, you can access DOGTV, a channel designed just for dogs. Of course, if seeing other dogs or other animals sets your dog off barking, then you may want to avoid this and either find a different channel or a different approach.
Dogs love toys and they love new toys even more. New toys smell and taste different and have different textures and features that keep your dog interested and engaged. Of course, you cannot continually buy new dog toys, but you can alternate the ones they have so they do not become too used to them and bored with them. If you are leaving your dog alone with their toys remember to check them over carefully for damage or loose parts. Never leave a dog alone with a toy that could become a choking hazard. For more options, check out our detailed reviews of dog frisbees, interactive dog toys and toys for blind dogs.
Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog mentally stimulated. They provide a challenge for your dog and solving the puzzle is its own reward as it results in the treat or food being released. However, remember that dogs are intelligent creatures and it won’t take long for them to work out how the puzzle works and how to get the treats faster. Ideally, as with their other toys, you need several different puzzle toys that you can alternate. This will keep your dog interested in the concept for much longer.
Automatic Ball Fetchers
Generally speaking, dogs love to play fetch. Chasing and then returning the ball for it to be thrown again, and again, is an activity that will keep them going for hours. If this sounds like your dog, then an automatic ball launcher or thrower could be the answer to stopping boredom. The launcher releases the ball for your dog to chase and then once your dog has placed the ball back in the launcher, it repeats the process. As with any toy, you need to ensure you have the right size ball and launcher for your dog. Not only does this help them to find and retrieve the ball but it also stops it from becoming a choking hazard. Also, consider carefully where you place the launcher. You don’t want to come home to overturned furniture and smashed ornaments. Hallways are a good choice, especially if you can shut the doors to rooms where you would rather the ball didn’t go.
Kongs and Food
Kongs are a favorite of many pet owners because they have a reputation for being indestructible. They tend to have a mind of their own when being chased around the house and the different shapes and textures really hit the spot with most curious dogs. Kongs are also great for hiding food and treats. Dogs will spend hours licking peanut butter or other suitable treats out of a kong. When looking for something to stuff your kong with be mindful of choking hazards and if you are using peanut butter make sure you buy a dog-friendly version. Human peanut butter can contain sweeteners that are dangerous to your dog.
Build a Digging Box
If you can give your dog safe and secure access to the outside, why not consider building them a digging box. You can hide toys in the box, and they can have hours of fun searching for them and digging them back up. For more options head over to our guide on dog toy boxes.
Consider a Second Dog
This is not an option that should be taken lightly. Adding another furry friend to your pack is not without difficulties and additional financial commitments. It is important that you find a dog that is compatible with your existing pet pooch and who will not challenge their position within the home. There are usually some teething troubles with new pets so it is also important that you can put aside the time need to support both dogs during the transition period. However, the benefits of having a second dog are immense. The dogs are able to stimulate and entertain each other, as well as providing comfort and companionship for each other.
Knowing Your Dog
Of course, every dog is different and what keeps one dog entertained for hours will leave another dog bored in minutes. Knowing your dog, their habits, and their favorite activities are vital to choosing the right things to relieve their boredom. When you first get a dog, it is so important to set aside time to get to know them and to form a strong bond with them. As well as helping you get to know them, this reduces the risk of separation anxiety, which can also cause many of the same symptoms of boredom.
As with any other aspect of your dog’s health, if you notice changes in your dog’s behavior, you should speak to your local veterinarian to ensure there is not a physical health reason behind the change. Also, remember that your dog and their needs and interests will change over time. Your dog will need much more physical and mental stimulation while they are younger, while an older dog may relish the chance for a bit of peace and quiet in front of their favorite program.