Dogs love to have jobs and even if they’re not from a working background they can become easily bored if not kept busy. As dogs evolved alongside us as our companions and co-workers, they developed a strong work ethic which remains to this day. A bored dog can soon become unhappy so make sure that you familiarise yourself with the signs of boredom and know what you can do about it.
How do I know if my dog is bored?
Just like humans, dogs need mental and physical stimulation in their daily lives to be healthy and happy. If your dog doesn’t get enough of either it is likely to result in destruction in the home and garden or increased vocalisation. While some breeds need more exercise and brain work than others, any dog can become bored if life becomes monotonous.
Things to look out for are:
- Over excitement
- Excessive licking
- Excessive scratching
- Ripping up dog toys
- Excessive barking, whining or howling
If you have noticed that your dog has started to display any of the negative behaviours above, you should get them checked over by your vet to ensure there are no underlying health issues that could be causing it. Once you’ve ruled out medical causes you can address the possibility that your dog needs more physical and/or mental stimulation to be happy.
How to keep your dog busy
There are lots of things you can do to stave off boredom in your dog, and remember – variety is the spice of life!
Exercise – Dogs need daily exercise to burn calories but they can become easily bored if every day is the same. Vary your walking routes and, if you can, include some off-lead games too. Interact with your dog during walks and use the time to brush up on their training. This way their brains get a workout at the same time. If you have a dog with particularly high energy levels, you could consider running with them.
Socialising – A dog that is sociable with people and other dogs is easier to take out and about in public. This means that they are able to join in more with your daily life, rather than having to be left home alone.
If your dog has canine friends that are of a similar temperament and play style, exercising together can add an extra exciting element. If your dog is unfazed by crowds in public places they can join you in dog-friendly pubs and tourist attractions. The important thing about socialising is that you start as early as possible so that your dog grows up to be confident when faced with new experiences.
Work – If you have a dog of a type originally bred for a certain job, they’ll have great fun doing this as a hobby. For example, high-energy collies excel at things like fetch toys and agility while hounds love nose work and tracking. If your dog wants more than the level of exercise you are currently offering, research clubs near to you offering canine sports. There are so many different activities you can do with your dog these days – from doggie dancing to bikejoring (like sledding but pulling a bike) – that you are bound to find something you both enjoy.
Training – A dog is never too old to learn something new and the best way to exercise the old grey matter is with training. From the basics such as sit and stay to more complicated commands such as spin or rollover, extending your dog’s repertoire of moves is a great way to keep boredom at bay. Consider joining a local friendly dog training class or follow instructions that teach using the positive reinforcement method.
Home work – If you have to leave your dog at home alone or need to keep them out of trouble while you are otherwise engaged there is a huge range of boredom-busting dog toys available to help. Dog toys that can be stuffed with food like Kongs provide long-lasting entertainment, as do Buster Cubes and puzzle feeders that can be filled with your dog’s kibble. It is not a good idea to leave your dog unattended with an edible chew in case they choke but non-edible chews such as the durable Nylabones are a safe option.
Lick mats on which you can spread dog-safe peanut butter, wet food or soaked kibble are a great way to keep a dog occupied. Dogs find the action of licking very calming so this is a good idea for dogs who might be a little anxious about being left on their own.
An alternative to puzzle feeders is to scatter or hide some of your dog’s food around the garden or house for them to find at dinner time as a game of hide-and-seek. They’ll have to put their nose to work to find it all and this will tire them out much more than simply tipping their food into a bowl.
With our busy modern lives, it is not possible to keep our dogs entertained 24/7 but with a bit of planning and consideration you can maximise the time that you have fun together so that your dog can settle when you need them to. Remember – a tired dog is a happy dog!
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