Do dogs get bored? Do they have moments of “la-dee-da, what shall I do now?”
Of course! Just like humans, dogs can get bored. But, unlike us, they can’t pick up a book, crack open a puzzle, or turn on the television when they’re looking for something to do.
So, how can you tell when your dog is looking for something to do? What are the signs of dog boredom, and how can you help keep your pup entertained?
Signs of Dog Boredom
Most dogs were bred to work. And while years of domestication may have dimmed that for some, others are still eager to do a job, get moving, and be useful. While some might be content to laze around on the couch all day, others need far more interaction than that. They want to be ‘doing’. And if we’re not giving them something to do, they’ll let us know.
It can often be easy to spot dog boredom.
When a dog is bored, they’ll usually find ways to amuse themselves. And typically not in a way that we’d like…
For example, a bored dog might steal non-toy items, chew furniture and shoes, run off with that dishtowel or toilet roll… And then she’ll probably bring them to you for a nice game of chase. Anything she can find to engage your attention really is a good way, in her eyes, to have a little fun. A bored dog may also dig in the garden (or the yard in general).
But this may not just happen when you’re home. If a dog is bored while you’re away, you might come home to find a mess – garbage torn up, chewed items, or worse… Not only is this frustrating for you, it could also be dangerous. Curbing the boredom is a good way to keep your house clean and your pup happy.
There are other, sometimes more subtle signs that your dog may be bored. Excessive licking, scratching, or chewing are a few. Panting and pacing around the house are others. General restlessness may also be a sign. Barking excessively or just bugging you more than usual might also signal boredom. If you notice these signs, you might want to think about finding ways to engage your pup’s body and brain.
Boredom vs. Separation Anxiety
Now, the signs of dog boredom are often very similar to signs of separation anxiety, so it’s important to be sure you can distinguish between the two.
Separation anxiety is a common condition faced by many pups and their owners. It is characterized by intense distress when you leave her alone. The signs, you’ll notice, are similar to those of boredom:
These are often symptoms of separation, triggered by you leaving the house:
- Destructive behavior
- Peeing or pooping in the house, especially if they’re house trained
- Chewing on themselves or pulling out their fur
- Escape attempts
- Drooling or panting more than usual
However, typically you’ll only notice these when you’re away.
To rule out separation anxiety, you can always work on tiring out your dog before you leave – and we’ll get to how in a second.
If you determine that yes, it is separation anxiety, there are ways to help your dog deal with your absence. It takes time and patience, but it is worth it! Here’s how.
How to Relieve Dog Boredom
Here are several ways to engage with your dog, either physically or mentally (or both), to help relieve dog boredom.
1. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise
We can’t stress this enough – a tired dog is a happy dog.
Depending on the breed, your dog may need only a little exercise or a lot. For example, a chihuahua may not need a 5 mile run, but a husky likely won’t be satisfied with a 10 minute jaunt around the block. Make sure you’re giving your dog the amount and type of exercise she needs.
On a walk, allow your dog to sniff. The messages a dog gets just from sniffing are major stimulation, so give her the chance to check things out. And make it interesting. Take different routes on each walk to change things up. Better yet, make the walk more mentally stimulating by asking your dog to do things on walks. Ask your pup to sit and wait at the corner, or have her carry a toy or stick on the walk. Anything that makes her think is good. And don’t forget to bring along some treats to reward her.
Outside of regular walks, consider a vigorous game of frisbee or ball in the backyard or the park. Go fo a good swim or a nice bike ride. Get that dog body moving!
2. Sporting Dog?
If you have the means to do so, enrol your dog in agility or fly ball or a similar type of activity. Any sporting activity that allows your dog to release pent up energy and workout her brain is a good one.
With Covid restrictions easing in many areas, these places are opening back up again, so look at what’s available near you and sign up for a weekly class.
But, you don’t actually need to do a class to take advantage of their benefits. A few simple obstacles set up in the basement or in the backyard will also do the trick. Google beginner agility to find some ideas of how to set up an easy course to get your dog started.
3. Have a Play Date
This option is good if your dog plays well with others.
We’ll admit, we’re not huge fans of the dog park. Some dogs (and their owners) are great at the dog park, while other owners see it as a chance to socialize and leave their dogs to their own devices. If you know that the people (and pets) at your local park are decent, by all means, go for it, but if you’re not sure, maybe check it off the list.
Instead, find a friend in the area who has a dog and get your pups together on a regular basis for puppy play dates. This is both mentally and physically stimulating, and can really do a number on doggie boredom. Just be sure the other dog is a suitable play partner for your pup. For example, a rowdy dog who likes to roughhouse wouldn’t be the best match for a timid dog.
Training your dog shouldn’t stop once she reaches the adolescent or adult stage of life. There are many benefits to ongoing training all throughout your pet’s life. It doesn’t just teach good manners – it’s also a great way to provide your dog with mental stimulation.
Working on obedience is always a good place to start. Basic sit, stay, lie down, or leave it commands are helpful in a variety of situations – ad actually good for just general safety. But work beyond that to help deal with boredom. Teaching your dog tricks is also an effective way to workout her brain. Spin, jump, shake a paw, open the fridge, etc… Seriously, again, Google is your friend. There are tons of tricks you can teach your dog, and often a 10 minute training session when she’s ramped up will calm her down exponentially.
5. Brain Games
Along the same line as training, various brain games will give your dog a mental workout.
When one of our pups, a 4 years old shepherd, is bored, in between daily activities, we play “find it.” I take her frisbee, have her sit and stay, and go into another room and hide the frisbee. Then, I head back out to her and say “find it.” As she searches around I can see her brain working overtime. And, as with training, after a 10 minute session she’s tuckered out!
But these brain games don’t have to be complicated. Even simple ones work well. Take a regular bath bowl and lay it out flat. At one corner, scatter a few small treats and start rolling up the towel. Every few rolls, scatter a few more treats. Once the towel is rolled up, allow your dog to get in there and find the treats!
Beating Dog Boredom
Whether it’s just to keep your furniture and shoes intact, or if you want to be sure your dog is healthy and happy (or both!), keeping dog boredom at bay is always a good idea.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be difficult. Most dogs will jump, literally, at the chance to do ‘something,’ whether it be heading out to the trails, jumping through hoops, or just having a sniff through a rolled up towel!
The Veterinarious team is made up of pet owners, pet lovers, and pet experts from around the globe! We’ve banded together to create a community of like-minded pet people to give you the latest research and health advice for your beloved beast!