“Boredom is not the trivial annoyance it is sometimes dismissed as. Animal boredom is biologically plausible: animals avoid monotony and seek stimulation,” states Charlotte C. Burn, University of London Biologist in August 2017, published in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Dogs are meant to think and be active
Most modern dog breeds were developed with a specific function in mind. Everything about a dog, from their physical characteristics to their energy levels to the way their minds work was originally for a specific purpose or job. Dogs are meant to think and be active.
Unfortunately, many owners underestimate how active and mentally stimulated their dog needs to be in order to be happy. In this blog post, we will help you understand whether your dog is bored. We will also provide some easy boredom busters to help keep your dog happy and healthy.
How to Tell if Your Dog is Bored
There are several physical and behavioral symptoms that indicate if your dog is suffering from boredom. Although your dog cannot speak in words to tell you that they are bored, they will speak to you through their behavior.
Excessive licking and scratching
Excessive licking and scratching can be indicative of several different issues in dogs. Unfortunately, they cannot tell you what is troubling them, so you must rely on your veterinarian and your own observations. Excessive licking and scratching can be related to allergies or even a response to pain. However, dogs also lick and scratch themselves excessively when they are bored. If your dog is licking their paws excessively or constantly scratching, schedule a veterinary appointment to rule out allergies or a medical condition.
When you have an intelligent, high-energy dog in your home and you do not give it something to do, chances are it will find something to do. And most likely, what your dog chooses to do to alleviate boredom is not something you will like.
Bored dogs often engage in destructive behaviors out of frustration or simply for something to do. You cannot expect a dog who was bred to herd livestock or retrieve game to be happy just laying on a sofa day after day, especially when they are young and full of energy. Digging in the yard, chewing on household items, and tearing up flooring are common destructive behaviors. You can usually solve these behaviors by offering plenty of exercise, training, and a job or sport that you and your dog can do together.
Many of us have had that one neighbor with a dog who they leave out in their yard alone. The dog barks nonstop, eliciting complaints and frustration from the neighbors. The reality is that nobody in that situation is more frustrated than the dog. Nuisance barking is a sign of boredom.
If you find your own dog barking excessively when out in your yard, or inside the house, your dog may be barking out of boredom. Of course, some breeds of dogs like Basset Hounds and Beagles are more prone to barking than others. There is a difference between your dog following its instinct and barking out of boredom. If your dog is barking at you, it is likely that he/she is trying to tell you that they want attention and something to do.
Bored dogs often appear listless and depressed. Some of them pace throughout the house or pant excessively even when they are not active or warm. Because these can also be signs of pain or illness, it is important to take your dog to the vet if he/she is showing these behaviors. If your vet gives you the all-clear on your dog’s physical condition, you can look for ways to spend more time with your dog.
Boredom Busters for Dogs
Once you have ruled out a medical problem as the cause of your dog’s behavior, you can start working on making your dog’s life more active and fun. Dogs are pack animals, and you are their pack. Most dogs are not overly picky on how they spend their time, as long as it is with you. Alleviating your dog’s boredom can be as simple as adding more walks into your day-to-day routine or thinking of puzzles and brain games that you can play with your dog.
A fenced-in yard is the American Dream for dogs and their humans. However, a fenced-in yard can quickly become boring for a dog left to its own devices. There are only so many new smells and things to experience in the typical yard. Therefore, it is important to continue to take your dog on walks in your neighborhood and at local parks. You can also alleviate your dog’s boredom by spending time in the yard with your dog no matter the time of year. Fetching a ball or chasing a frisbee is fun for your dog whether it is sunny or snowy.
If you have friends with dogs and both dogs are well-socialized and used to being around other dogs, you can arrange a playdate or head to the local dog park. Some dog owners like to research the least crowded times at the dog park so that their dogs can run off-leash without encountering as many other dogs. That way they get to smell new scents and run through new scenery with you by their side but without a leash to slow them down.
Obedience training sounds like a serious endeavor and it can be intimidating to owners who have never attended a class. The key to obedience training is to keep it fun for you and your dog. Even well-trained dogs love to practice their commands or to learn new things. You can work on extending the time that your dog will “stay” on command or start working toward your dog’s Canine Good Citizen. There are advanced classes and dog training clubs located throughout the United States where you can find other dog lovers. You might even start to prepare to compete in an obedience event, like an Obedience Trial or Rally Obedience.
There are dog sports available to suit virtually every breed or mix of breeds. Dog sports typically test a dog’s natural instincts. You can find herding competitions, pulling competitions, dog agility competitions, and hunt tests and field trials. There are pulling contests, flyball, disc dogs, and many other options. The American Kennel Club offers a robust resource on dog sports and activities on their website.
Dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages, and fitness levels can have fun playing games that work their brain. You can make games on your own or purchase educational dog toys from your favorite pet retailer.
One popular game is to place treats in a muffin tin and then cover the openings with a tennis-ball size. Your dog can use its nose to locate the treats. Each time you play the game, use one less treat so that your dog will have to work harder to locate the section with the treat.
Related Blog: 7 Fun-tastic DIY Dog Toy Ideas
Another easy game that tests your dog’s sense of smell is a dog-friendly variation of the classic shell game. You will need three plastic cups and some dog treats. Place a treat on the floor, and then cover it with a cup. Place the other two cups on the ground with the openings facing down, and then move the cups around so that your dog does not know where the treat is located. Once you are ready, ask your dog to find the treat. You can play this repeatedly so that your dog learns to use its nose to find the treat.
Finding Help When You Have a Busy Lifestyle
Dogs want to be with their pack of humans as much as possible. When your life reaches a hectic pace, sometimes you need help keeping your dog mentally and emotionally satisfied. Dog walkers are a great resource, as they can stop in to take your dog for a walk when you must spend long hours at work. Doggie daycares are another great alternative for your dog to have an active, engaging day while you are at work or have other obligations taking you away from your furry best friend. If the fast pace of your life never seems too slow, it might be time to reconsider some of those things that take you away from your dog.