If you share your home with a pet dog, or are considering adding one to your family, it’s only natural to sometimes wonder “do dogs get bored?” As any dog owner could probably tell you, the answer to that question is yes! However, every dog responds to boredom differently. Some dogs become destructive when bored, shredding their owners’ belongings or trying to escape confinement. Other dogs may have more self-control when bored, but still show subtle signs that an attentive owner may notice. Getting a selection of the best dog toys to keep your best friend entertained with or without you will go a long way to beating boredom, but it’s not the end of the story.
Regardless of how a particular dog reacts to boredom, we all want to take the best possible care of our pets. This means not only caring for their physical health, but also ensuring their mental well-being. Read on to learn how you can prevent boredom in your canine companion.
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1. Take daily walks with your dog, changing up your route periodically
Most dogs love their walks. Even if you have access to a fenced yard in which your dog can eliminate, it’s important to still take your dog for a walk every day. Walks not only provide your dog with much-needed exercise, but they also provide mental stimulation. When you go for a walk, your dog has the opportunity to take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your neighborhood.
Many of us walk our dogs along the same route, every single day. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it means that our dogs experience the same sounds and smells every day. Try changing up your walk routine. Walk your dog down a street that you wouldn’t normally walk down, allowing him the chance to smell the scent signals left by a whole new group of dogs. Changing up your routine in this way can provide mental stimulation and combat boredom.
2. Work with your dog on obedience training, to improve both of your lives
When we think of obedience training, we often think of the benefits that it affords us. Who wouldn’t want a dog that reliably sits, stays, lays down, and obeys other commands? In addition to its benefits to you and those around you, however, obedience training also offers boredom-busting benefits to your dog. Most dogs enjoy obedience training, because it’s focused one-on-one quality time with their owner and they thrive on that attention. Additionally, learning new tricks and tasks provides the mental stimulation that so many dogs desperately crave.
3. Use interactive toys to entertain your dog while you can’t do it yourself
Even the most dedicated dog owners have to be away from their pets sometimes. Whether you leave for eight or nine hours at a time for work, or you only leave the house for brief errands, there are probably times that your dog is left alone. Even if there is always a family member in the house, there are certainly times that everyone is busy and no one is available to play with your dog.
Fortunately, there are many interactive toys that can help keep your dog entertained when you aren’t available to do it yourself. One common option is a Kong® toy. There are a number of different types of Kongs, so it’s important to choose the right Kong for your dog’s age, size, and chewing strength. You can stuff your dog’s Kong with a variety of treats. You can use any of the dog best dog treats that your dog enjoys, but Kong also sells creamy Kong Stuff’n and crunchy Kong treats that are specifically designed to be placed inside a Kong toy. As long as your Kong is in good condition and your dog is not a vigorous chewer that will destroy it when left unattended (although it’s uncommon, some dogs can tear off chunks of a Kong toy and swallow them), a treat-filled Kong can provide some much-appreciated entertainment for your dog while you are away from home or otherwise occupied. You could also consider one the best ball throwing machines for dogs which will give your dog a good game of fetch even when you’re too busy.
4. Take mealtime from a boring, passive routine to a mental challenge
If mealtime in your home consists of tossing some food in a bowl and walking away, you are missing out on a big opportunity to keep your dog mentally stimulated! There are a variety of ways that you can transform mealtime from a mindless process to a game.
First, consider the variety of puzzle feeders that are currently available for dogs. Some of these puzzle feeders are very simple, similar to a regular bowl but with deep grooves that your pup must work around to access his food. Other puzzle feeders are in the form of a ball that your dog must bounce in order to access the food. Finally, some feeders are even more complex, requiring dogs to successfully complete a number of tasks in order to access their food.
There are also ways to make mealtime engaging without purchasing a separate feeder. Instead of placing your dog’s food all in one food bowl, consider hiding his meal in several small bowls scattered throughout the house. Lock your dog behind a door while you place the food around the house, then let him use his nose to find it. You can also use this approach in your backyard, to change up the routine even further.
5. Develop games that you and your dog can play together
Playing with your dog is an excellent way to prevent boredom, while also improving the bond between you and your dog. There are a number of games that people commonly play with their dogs, including fetch and tug-of-war. In addition to those tried-and-true favorites, consider changing up your dog’s routine with a new game.
Many dogs enjoy hide and seek. If your dog will reliably sit and stay until called, or if you have someone else in the home who can assist you, leave the room in which your dog is sitting and hide in another area of your home. Consider closets, under the bed, under a blanket, or anywhere else that you would hide during a kid’s game of hide-and-seek. Once you are hidden, call your dog to come look for you. Your dog’s nose will get a workout and your dog will enjoy the excited reunion that occurs once he finds you.
Preventing boredom benefits you and your dog
There are a number of reasons that someone might ask “do dogs get bored?” Regardless of your motivation, it’s important to realize that preventing boredom offers benefits for both you and your dog. Keeping your dog mentally engaged will not only boost his overall quality of life, but will also decrease the likelihood of destructive behaviors and other behavioral problems.
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Dr. Barnette is a graduate of the University of Florida, where she received both her B.S. in Zoology and her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM). She has 15 years of clinical experience as a small animal veterinarian, treating dogs, cats, and occasional exotic patients. She now works as a freelance veterinary writer, creating educational content for veterinarians, veterinary team members, and dedicated pet owners. Dr. Barnette lives in southwest Florida with her husband and daughter (plus two cats, a dog, and a rescued dove!) and enjoys kayaking, biking, and hiking. Learn more about Dr. Barnette at www.linkedin.com/in/catherinebarnette.