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Most of us have jobs that keep us away from the house for at least eight hours a day. Do you wonder if your dog gets bored or lonely while you’re gone? For some dogs, the answer is definitely yes. Bored dogs can be a problem for owners, too, as they’re more likely to get into trouble.
In other words, lack of mental stimulation and exercise during the day leaves our dogs looking for something to do, and often it’s not something we approve of.
“Idle paws often lead to unwanted behavior—getting into the trash, counter surfing, excessive digging,” Certified trainer and behaviourist Colleen Demling says.
So how can we prevent dog boredom? We’ve got the expert tips on how to help bored dogs—and keep the house in one piece.
Why Dogs Get Bored
Dogs are intelligent animals, and some breeds more than others. Border collies, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and poodles are among the most intelligent breeds, and these guys and gals need stimulation. In fact, most of these dogs were bred to complete a job. Nowadays, dogs are more likely to be companions than workhorses—and that’s messing with their mojo. Bored dogs might just be dogs that want a job! (Pro tip: agility classes are great for dogs like these.)
Stimulation not only prevents boredom but also cultivates your dog’s personality and wards off stress. Psychologist Dr Stanley Coren has authored many books on dog psychology and says the most important stimuli for dogs include:
- Exposure to interesting places and things
- New, exciting experiences
- Frequent opportunities to learn things and solve problems
- Investigating and interacting with objects and the environment around them
If your dog is sitting around the house all day without any of the above, he’s likely to get bored.
Is My Dog Bored?
If you’re seeing a big mess every time you come home, chances are your dog needs more stimulation. After all, bored dogs are looking for something to do—even if it’s not what you’d like them to do. Signs you’ve got a bored puppy include:
- Antsy or restless behaviour
- Destructive behaviour, like chewing shoes or carpets
- Pawing for attention
- Digging in the trash
- Digging up the backyard
“When your dog gets excited, he gets REALLY excited,” Demling says. “A walk isn’t just a happy time, it’s a howl at the top of your lungs and pretend you a jumping bean time.”
If you’ve seen one or more of these signs, it’s likely you have a bored dog on your hands.
Bored Dogs: How to Help
1. Give your dog plenty of exercise. Say it with us: a tired dog is a good dog! Bored dogs often have a lot of pent-up energy. Give them enough physical activity, though, and the same dogs will be pooped and more likely to spend the rest of the day napping.
“Making time before work can be hard, but can you imagine waking up full of energy and then having to sit around with no TV, no cell phone, and no way to exercise,” Demling asks. “Most dogs need at least a 45-minute walk or run in the morning.”
Got a dog that just won’t quit? If a good long walk doesn’t get the sillies out, a quick session with a Chuckit Launcher, frisbee, or flirt pole can help use up the last dregs of energy to ensure your dog enjoys a lazy day while you’re at the office.
2. Send him to doggy day care. The socialization and mental stimulation will keep your dog engaged and busy.
“It will not only make him more content, but it could save you tons of money in replacing your furniture or landscaping,” Demling adds.
3. Make mealtime fun. Turning mealtime into a game will help keep your dog entertained. Try a slow feeder dish, stuff some peanut butter or wet food into a classic Kong, or let your dog knock around a treat dispensing ball filled with part of his dinner or small low calorie treats.
“Give the food-stuffed toys to him in the morning and presto—hours of entertainment,” Demling says.
If you’ve got a real food hound, spread his kibble all the over the house and have him find it.
“He will spend the morning making sure he’s found every last crumb!” Demling says.
4. New toys, Mom! The same old toys get boring after a while. Dr Coren says dogs exhibit “neophilia,” or a preference for new toys—he says if dogs had their way, they’d get new toys every day! And they prefer the soft, squeaky kind. Bored dogs will look for inappropriate toys, so giving them a variety of approved playthings will help keep them out of the trash.
You can mix up your dog’s toy stash to keep him interested—don’t leave toys scattered about, but hide and rotate toys over time so when they come back into rotation, they’re brand new again. You can also hide toys around the house or yard.
“He will spend time ‘hunting’ for his rabbit while you are at work,” Demling says.
Tough squeaky stuffies, stuffing-less extra-tough toys, and squishy puzzle toys are all great toys to keep back to hide for special occasions.
5. Let him watch some TV. DOGTV that is. If you’re a DIRECTV subscriber, you can add on this channel tailored to stimulate your dog. It’s also available on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. You can also leave Animal Planet or NatGeo Wild on to keep your dog engaged while you’re away.
6. Give him a playmate. Bored dogs are often solo dogs. Although it’s a lot of work in the beginning, being a multi-dog household gives your dogs built-in socialization and stimulation. Make sure your dogs get along, though—don’t pair an alpha dog with an alpha dog and expect peace and harmony. Get help from a certified dog behaviorist or trainer before bringing home a second furry family member.
The Bottom Line
Yes, dogs get bored. Sit around the house all day with absolutely nothing to do and you’d get bored, too! Try some cool new toys or puzzles to keep your dog engaged and, of course, exercise always helps. Mixing up your dog’s routine will keep him stimulated and happy—and the house intact!