I don’t pretend to know everything about dogs, but one thing I can tell you without having to do any research or even give the matter much thought is this – a bored dog is a destructive dog.
Think about it – for years, we’ve bred dogs to work alongside of us. Now, though, we don’t give dogs jobs to do. All we expect from them is that they’ll be our friends and companions, snuggle up with us at night, play with us, and so on. They don’t have to work for their food, or for affection, or for toys, or anything else – they just get it all for nothing. We say, “Here, dog, I love you, have a toy, have a treat, have a cuddle.”
We don’t really make any demands of our dogs. So, they end up being bored.
And therein lies the path to behavioral problems. Dogs that have no structured way of passing the time come up with their own solutions, and a lot of the time, those are not the solutions that please their human companions.
So, how can you alleviate dog boredom? Fortunately, there are several ways, and most of them aren’t all that difficult.
In order to keep your dog mentally and physically active, you need to find ways to keep him amused. Every dog, old or young, big or small, needs to be entertained. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a game of fetch or a trip to the dog park. Often, what works best for your dog is what works best for you.
The main thing, though, is to keep your dog engaged. If you don’t, chances are that he’s going to end up anxious, and maybe even aggressive.
What you need to do is find activities that best suit your lifestyle, and that of your dog. This can involve choosing exciting toys, taking longer walks, and just generally doing things that lead to a happier, less destructive dog.
So, with that in mind, here are 18 ways that you can alleviate dog boredom.
1. Play Nose Games
Dogs love to search and find things, so hide some toys or treats around the house and then get him to look for them.
2. Play Tug of War
I know, “It builds aggression,” blah, blah, blah, “It’s bad for your dog,” blah, blah, blah – oh, just stop! The fact is, there’s nothing wrong with a good game of tug of war. It doesn’t build aggression; it dissipates it. It’s mentally and physically challenging, and it’s fun!
3. Switch Up the Walk
You know how it goes – you snap on the leash, and then you head right, and walk around the block. Then you walk down a side street, around another block, and come back home.
I’m sorry, but you’re boring your dog silly with the same old thing, day after day!
If you’re just doing the same thing, wandering through the same neighborhood, then you have to expect that your dog is getting bored – he’s not getting any new sights, any new smells, and nothing in the way of new stimulation. Remember, dogs, want to experience new things. So, vary the walk a bit – take a left turn instead of a right. Investigate new neighborhoods. Get outside the “same old, same old.”
4. Use Interactive Toys
People keep asking me if I’m on Kong’s payroll, so let me deal with that. I am not on anyone’s payroll. I do not recommend products that I don’t believe in. And I will never, ever suggest that you buy something for your dog that I wouldn’t buy for Janice and Leroy.
I recommend Kong products for the simple reason that they’re the only toys my Boxers can’t destroy in record time. Even a Kong toy, with my guys, is going to end up shredded eventually, but usually after a lot longer than any others. So, I’m recommending the Kong Wobbler here simply because I’ve bought it for my dogs, and I know that it’s a great toy that lasts a long time and goes a long way toward alleviating dog boredom. Take that for what it’s worth.
5. Try New Commands
Any time that you teach your dog something new, you’re giving his brain a workout. Of course, it’s best to start with the basics – sit, stay, come, down, etc.
Once you’ve mastered those, though, teach your dog something new. Show him how to open a cupboard door, turn on a light switch, bring his dish at feeding time, or anything else that might excite him or entertain you.
6. Give Him a Job
Sometimes, dogs find jobs on their own. I vividly remember one year when Leroy helped me in the garden. He saw me digging potatoes, and he suddenly cocked his head, looked at me, and started digging in the earth next to me.
Now, I’ve often suggested that Leroy isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he caught on to digging potatoes! And I swear, he was the happiest little dog, having a job to do!
Later on, he learned how to carry in firewood.
Leroy is always happiest when he has a job. I didn’t have to teach him how to work. You might also have a “natural,” or you might have to train your dog to certain tasks. Either way, I think that a working dog is a happy dog.
7. Play Dates
Dogs are also usually happiest when they’re able to play with other dogs. So, if you know someone in your neighborhood who has a dog that you think might get along with yours, arrange a play date.
8. Make Your Dog a Digging Box
Most dogs love to dig, but we don’t usually want them digging in the yard. Why not make a box, something like a sandbox that you’d make for your child, so that your dog can dig to his heart’s content?
9. Clicker Train
Dogs love to learn new things, and if you haven’t been clicker training up until now, why not start?
I really shouldn’t even have to talk about this here, since socialization is so important. That said, though, if you haven’t been taking your dog to all kinds of places and introducing him to all kinds of people, start doing it now. It makes for a better, well-rounded dog.
11. Don’t Leave Him Un-Entertained at Home
Sometimes, we really don’t have any choice other than to leave our dogs alone at home. If you have to do that, though, you should always make sure that he has ways of keeping his mind occupied. One way of doing that is to use toys that you can stuff with food. The dog works at getting the food out of the toy, and can stay entertained for hours
12. Get Him a Pool
Most dogs love water. If you can take your dog to the beach, that’s great, but if you can’t, he’ll probably be quite happy splashing around in a wading pool.
13. Hire a Dog Walker
I’m not recommending this as the first course of action. In fact, sometimes, the outcome is not all that good – see 19 Questions to Ask a Dog Walker for more on this. However, if you’re really, really busy, and you’re concerned about dog boredom, you might be well advised to hand off some of the exercising duties to someone who actually does have time.
14. Switch up the View
You’ve probably seen cartoons in various magazines, with the punchline relating to someone looking out a window at nothing more than a brick wall.
I can only begin to imagine what it must be like, looking at the same thing day in and day out. I’m fortunate in that I have a big window looking out on a garden and a field beyond. Janice and Leroy like the view, too.
But imagine, if all your dog ever gets to look at is the street, or the neighbor’s yard.
Find something else for him to look at, or allow him access to other areas of the house, with other views that will work to alleviate dog boredom.
15. Help Him Relax
Not all dogs relax naturally. Sure, some will just crash out on the floor, or on the sofa and immediately enter a state of bliss. Others might need a relaxing massage, or a belly rub.
16. Build a Flirt Pole
This is simply a pole that has a lure on the end – something like a fishing rod. You toss out the lure, and your dog chases it.
17. Give Him Something to Chew
This is a no-brainer – all dogs love to chew. Just make sure that you offer chewies that aren’t going to break off and lodge in the stomach.
18. Make an Agility Course
Dogs love to exercise, and they also love to learn. You can create your own agility course by setting up tunnels, ramps and jumps, or even buy a ready-made agility course online for very little money.
The main thing here is to keep your dog physically and mentally challenged by giving him things to do. Dogs don’t usually want to just laze around the house –they want to be active.
The Final Word
A bored dog is an unhappy dog. So, what do you do to keep your dog active and entertained? Are there any special toys or activities that your dog loves? Any suggestions that you might have for other people who are struggling with keeping their dog active and happy? Leave a comment.