Do you ever wonder if your dog gets bored? Or if they get lonely when they’re home alone? The majority of us have a day job that prevents us from staying at home the whole day to entertain our dogs. So, yes, our furry friends are most likely bored out of their minds when we’re away. Bored dogs can be troublesome dogs because they tend to make a mess of themselves (and the house).
What do we do when we’re bored? We look for something else to do. The same thing happens with dogs. They need the mental stimulation to distract them from doing things they’re not supposed to do.
According to animal behaviorist and trainer Colleen Demling of Rover.com, “Idle paws often lead to unwanted behavior—getting into the trash, counter surfing, excessive digging.”
You’ve probably seen countless videos on Facebook of dogs destroying couch cushions, uprooting plants, or even making snow out of toilet paper. They were probably bored while their owners were gone. Now we pose the question, how do you combat your dog’s boredom?
First, we need to tackle WHY DOGS GET BORED.
Dogs are high on the pecking order in terms of intelligence and some more intelligent than others. We’re looking at you Poodles, German Shepherds, Huskies, Collies, and Golden Retrievers and these dogs need mental or physical stimulation to keep their minds from wandering. Dr. Stanley Coren, author of many books on dog psychology states that crucial dog stimuli include:
If you leave your dog to sit around waiting for you to come home without any of the above present, he WILL get bored.
Constantly seeking attention. Does your dog try to get into bed with you? Or jump on the couch even if they’re not allowed to do so? How about whine endlessly? You may enjoy the schedule you’ve set with your dog but they probably need more time than that. Attention seeking is normally a tell-tale sign of boredom.
Destructive behavior. Remember how we mentioned couch cushions and toilet paper earlier? It’s a sign of boredom. Even the most well-trained dog is susceptible to destructive behavior if they don’t have the right output for their boredom. Bored dogs turn anything into a chew fest, watch out.
Digging. Did you adopt a dog or a four-legged gardener? Iheartdogs.com says that “If you have a digger in the backyard, you guessed it, he’s probably bored! Digging is a self-rewarding behavior and is a great energy releaser…or at least your dog things so. You, probably not so much.”
Obsessive-compulsive behaviors. A bored dog may develop some seriously destructive behaviors such as chewing their feet, non-stop scratching, or even tail-chasing. These signs of boredom aren't recognized because owners often attribute them to other causes, and the dog could probably have more than one problem. Parasites cause itching or scratching, for example. Report these symptoms to your veterinarian; they will prescribe drugs that help with said problems while you look for techniques to make sure your dog doesn't stay bored.
Stealing food. If your dog is getting the right nutrition but still breaks into their biscuit container or steals food off the counter, owners take note. People eat when they're bored and our pets do too. Beware of a counter-surfing, trash-digging dog because they're bored out of their minds and ready to eat their boredom away.
He/She turns into a world-class escape artist. If your well-trained dog tries to escape the yard or slip out the front door, it's their way of telling you that they need more fun and excitement in their life. Your dog might also try to dig under fences, scratch at the door, or even leap over gates, all of which are signs that they're bored.
Buy a challenging toy for your dog/s to play. Getting your dog a fun and challenging toy is a great place to start! Dogs have novelty preferences. While some dogs find tennis balls stimulating and exciting, other dogs could be bored with something as simple as a ball. If your dog happens to be on the smarter side, find a toy with different components and textures. It will keep your dog entertained and challenged while you're gone.
Make meal time interesting. Another method of combating your dog's boredom is by making mealtimes more exciting. Try putting their food inside a slow bowl, a maze, or inside a puzzle toy. Mealtime can also double as training time because dogs are most obedient when they're hungry and are willing to go the extra mile when they want a treat. Frustrate your dog a little by teaching them a trick before mealtime that ought to keep their boredom at bay. Make your dog work for their food, this dates back to older times when dogs were bred to work alongside us. Not only does it keep them preoccupied but it also gives them a sense of purpose.
Switch on the TV. Okay, we know this sounds unorthodox, but hear us out. It does work for SOME dogs. Try it out for yourself, put on the Food Network, and watch your dog get mesmerized by the Fillet Mignon. Just make sure your TV is out of reach because your dog might lunge at it when they see something they like, like a juicy T-Bone steak.
Take them for a long and tiring run. The key to combating boredom is to wear a dog out. Prolong your run time to at least an hour, until your dog is huffing and puffing. Only then should you bring them home. Repeat after us; a tired dog is a happy dog. They should stay content while you're at work for the next eight hours if they've had an adequate amount of exercise in the morning.
Hire a professional sitter or walker. If you have some money to spare, consider hiring a professional dog walker to keep your dog busy while you're gone. They don't have to be at your house the whole day, just for an hour or so to take care of the necessities like feeding, potty breaks, and a walk around the block for some fresh air. Or you can ask whoever is home to take care of it.
Give your dog something to chew on. Chew toys are a great and inexpensive way to keep your dog pre-occupied. However, some dogs go through them pretty quickly and you’ll find yourself buying a new chew toy every week. An alternative to this would be to give your dog boiled beef bones. Choose the marrow portion and boil until the center melts into the water. These bones are practically indestructible and their odd shape will keep your dog entertained. Additionally, the constant gnawing will help clean their teeth. So it’s a win-win for both of you.
Build a DIY Agility Course in your backyard. Now this isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got the space for it and the money to spare, then by all means build one! It’s a great way to brush up on basic obedience and teach your dog some cool party tricks. Some obstacles you can make are ramps, tunnels, platforms, weave polls, and bars to jump over. Invest in durable materials to make sure your agility course can withstand the elements and your dog constantly jumping or passing through them.
Get them involved on everyday chores. While the thought of them doing the laundry or washing the dishes is adorable, it’s not exactly what we mean. What we’re referring to is turning your chores into bonding time. Call your dog outside when it’s time to hang up the laundry or take them for a walk when you take out the trash. Any time you can spare, give it to your dog.
Find a playmate. What better way to entertain your dog than with another dog! Schedule play dates with your dog’s best friends at least once a week. Meeting with other dogs keeps their socialization skills sharp and their minds entertained. Scheduling play dates takes minimal effort and zero cost. It’s the easiest and most efficient way to keep your dog from getting bored. Ideally, your play date should last long enough to tucker your dog out and leave them passed out in the backseat of your car.
Think outside of the box. Some dogs find it satisfying to rip up cardboard boxes. If it keeps them entertained and keeps the couch safe, then it’s nothing to worry about. Toys don’t always have to be bought, sometimes they’re lying around your house ready to be played with. Just make sure there aren’t any safety or choking hazards that could potentially harm your dog. Buying rope in bulk is another good option. There are so many things you could do with rope, braid it, ball it up, turn it into a hanging toy, etc. Get creative and your dog will too.
The possibilities of entertaining a bored dog are endless! As long as you find an enriching activity to keep them stimulated, your furniture should stay safe. And as always, give your dog the attention they deserve. Most of their boredom stems from being left alone for most part of the day. Give your dog the satisfaction of being walked, played with, and cuddled.