Believe it or not, dogs have been working alongside humans for thousands of years, and while today we may be pampering our pets, our four-legged friends have actually inherited a strong work ethic.
Thankfully, today we do not need our dogs to go out and hunt or start pulling a cart, as their ancestors may have. Although, as responsible pet parents, we need to ensure that our dogs are physically and mentally stimulated.
Do dogs get bored?
Just like us, dogs can and will experience boredom. Dogs are intelligent and social animals that require stimulation and engagement through companionship for their happiness.
If your dog lacks mental and physical stimulation, then this can lead to destructive behaviours.
Gaining a further understanding of your dog’s body language can also help to identify if your pooch is bored. The good news is that there are many ways to entertain your furry friend, which we will cover in this article!
Is my dog bored?
Below are some signs and behaviours that may indicate that your dog is bored.
Dogs may chew on furniture, shoes, or any other household items they can get their paws on out of boredom.
Chewing is a normal and instinctual activity for dogs that serves various purposes, including maintaining dental health, alleviating anxiety, and exploring their environment. When dogs are bored, they may turn to chewing as a form of entertainment and stimulation, which is not good news for your furniture or new trainers!
Barking is a natural form of communication for dogs, and they use it to convey various emotions and needs. When a dog is bored, barking can serve as a way for them to cope with their feelings of restlessness and lack of stimulation.
While there may be various causes of excessive barking, boredom can be one of the reasons, with your dog feeling the need to bark excessively to release pent-up energy.
Restlessness in dogs can manifest in various ways and may indicate that your dog is experiencing discomfort, anxiety, boredom, or a need for attention. Knowing the signs of restlessness can help you address any underlying issues and ensure your dog’s well-being.
If your dog repetitively paces up and down, circling, fidgeting, and even panting excessively, this could indicate a lack of stimulation.
If you are concerned about any of the behaviours your dog is exhibiting, consult with your local veterinarian and seek expert advice.
If your dog is trying to get your attention by pawing, nudging, or even whining, this is an unmistakable sign that they want you to engage and play with them. Walkies may need to be on the agenda.
To address attention-seeking behaviour, it’s important to provide your dog with consistent routines, proper mental and physical stimulation. Ignoring unwanted attention-seeking behaviour and rewarding calm, polite behaviour can help your dog understand that it will be rewarded for behaving well without resorting to attention-seeking tactics.
If you don’t make time to engage with your pooch, they may even attempt to escape the home in search of something interesting to do.
Games and toys for bored dogs
While dogs are great for our mental health, as loving pet parents, we must also consider our four-legged friend’s health and mental well-being and engage with them whenever possible.
Engaging and playing with our pets not only keeps boredom at bay, it’s also a great way to form stronger bonds in the process too.
Did someone say walkies? Venturing with your dog into the great outdoors is an excellent way for your both to get some fresh air and exercise.
Walking together strengthens the bond between you and your dog, as, after all, it’s an opportunity for quality one-on-one time.
Regular walks provide a sense of routine and structure for both you and your dog. They help establish a daily schedule and can contribute to a well-regulated lifestyle.
If you have a puppy, then be sure to check out our 5 top tips for walking your puppy before venturing outside.
Puzzle toys and even treat-dispensing toys can help to keep your dog mentally stimulated, which is particularly beneficial if your dog is home alone for some time.
Engage in short training sessions with your dog. Teaching them new commands or tricks stimulates their mind and strengthens your bond.
Remember, if it’s too hot outside, you will want to consider our games to play that will keep your dog cool.
Scent games are a fantastic way to engage your dog’s sense of smell, provide mental stimulation, and have fun together. Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and scent games tap into their natural instincts.
Start by hiding small treats or pieces of food around a room while your dog waits in another area. Then, let your dog use their nose to discover the treats. Start with easy hiding spots and gradually increase the difficulty.
If you don’t like the idea of hiding food around the house, then you could try the same game with your dog’s favourite toy (with a strong scent) instead.
Music or TV
Some dogs enjoy listening to calming music or watching videos designed for dogs, which can help alleviate boredom, especially when you’re not around.
Consider playing calming and soothing music for your dog when you’re away, as this can help to reduce their anxiety, provide comfort, and create a more relaxing environment.
Dogs have sensitive hearing, so choosing the right type of music can positively impact their well-being. Many believe that calm instrumental and even classical music can help.
Bonus tips from a leading dog trainer
Information provided by Niki French, dog trainer, and best selling author.
Like it or not, we are responsible for keeping our dogs entertained. They can’t whip out an iPad or stick on Amazon Prime when they’re bored.
If we don’t occupy their mind and body enough, the environment will; like the fun of barking at wildlife in the garden. Or dogs will make their own entertainment, which also might not be something we like. Such as digging a hole in the garden. Or chewing our furniture.
Sometimes we can have unrealistic expectations on our dogs to just sit there and do nothing! Or to go and play with a toy on their own. We’ve bred dogs to want to be with us.
Taking 5-10 minutes to do something fun with your dog, a few times a day, will be good for you and fun for them. Your relationship will grow as a result. You can also rope in any willing friends and family to do the same.
Don’t resort to throwing a ball around repeatedly. This can create a hyped-up dog rather than a more relaxed one. This also, probably isn’t doing their joints any good either.
Making your dog’s food more interesting is one of the easiest ways to help your dog be less bored. If you’re feeding them in a bowl, they are getting the nutrition but not a lot else.
Most dogs really enjoy ‘working’ for their food in fun ways. You can do this by using their food as rewards for some training games. Or sniffing and working a little bit to get the food.
There are loads of great products to make your dog’s food more interesting. These are some of my favourites.
Or if you like free and homemade versions, you can scatter dry food on to an old towel and scrunch or roll it up to make a kind of snuffle mat. Or pop some dry kibble or treats into a clean milk carton (with the lid off) or an egg box.
Do supervise any enrichment to make sure they’re not ingesting (swallowing) anything they shouldn’t.
Scent work is also an easy way to tire your dog out so that they are happy to settle down and snooze afterwards. You can hide a toy or some treats around the home or garden for them to find. Start easy and build up as they get better at it.
Some breeds will need more boredom busting activities than others. So, tailor how much you do to your dog’s needs.
If you want to learn some simple training games to play at home Niki’s best-selling book STOP! Walking Your Dog includes 17 games (with videos) and is available in paperback, Kindle and Audible.
Remember that different dogs have different preferences, so try various activities to see what your dog enjoys the most. Also, be mindful of your dog’s physical limitations and choose appropriate activities for their age, size, and breed.
Regular physical and mental stimulation will help keep your dog happy, healthy, and entertained while allowing you to forge a stronger bond.