Does your dog get destructive? Does he dig? Chase the cat? Chances are, he’s bored! He certainly is not alone in that. Dog boredom is a common issue that owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians are faced with on a daily basis.I myself have had to face the issue with my working dogs (who live in a small apartment). The good news is that curbing boredom is relatively simple, you just need to take a look at what your dog likes to do!
How do we prevent boredom in our canine companions? Let’s take a look at what dogs are like. Dogs are opportunistic scavengers by nature. They forage for food and take what they can get. They are also predators with an instinctive desire to hunt. The predatory trait manifests differently in each dog. Some dogs are more “driven” by prey. Dogs have a highly developed olfactory system, so smells are particularly interesting to them. They are also highly social animals like humans. The final factor to consider when it comes to boredom is the breed of dog that you have and what they were bred to do. This will help you think of activities you can do with your dog to help them feel more fulfilled.
Many boredom behaviors can be curbed by simply adding more physical exercise to your dogs’ daily regime. Physiologically speaking, dogs are worlds apart from humans. The exercise requirements of a dog vary depending on breed, but generally speaking, dogs should be getting at bare minimum a half-hour of daily physical exercise. If you have an active breed like a border collie, chances are you need more along the lines of an hour or two. Be sure to give your dog plenty of different forms of exercise vs. just walking them for an hour around your neighborhood. Going for a hike is much different than walking down a suburban road to your dog. Hikes are more mentally satisfying as there is plenty of environmental stimulation to keep your dog engaged. You can make walks more challenging by adding a backpack to your dog providing that he is all done growing up with his joint plates closed, which happens at about 18 months of age. There are also commercially available dog fitness equipment that can help you out with exercise if you are pressed for time to actually leave your home. Consider getting involved in dog sports such as agility, obedience, lure coursing, and herding. If you change up your exercise regime often you will have a much more satisfied dog. Consult with your veterinarian to be sure that your dog is physically capable of doing whatever exercise that you wish to do with him. Always remember; a tired dog is a good dog.
Satisfy the need to scavenge.
Beyond physical exercise is mental exercise. Just like us humans, dogs need mental stimulation. We read books, watch movies, and listen to music to keep ourselves entertained. While dogs don’t share the same interests as humans, they too need entertainment. Mental stimulation is one of the most overlooked pieces of the puzzle when it comes to boredom. One great way to add to your dogs’ mental satisfaction is by giving them something to look for, as they are scavengers by nature. There are plenty of interactive puzzle toys available that help with this, such as the Kong. If you don’t have any interactive toys on hand, you can opt to hide pieces of your dog's’ meals or some tasty treats around your home. You can also make your own interactive toys at home. Snuffle mats are also an excellent option for mental satisfaction and a great slow feeder for the dogs that tend to bolt their food.
Chew, chew, chew.
Chewing is a vital tool in keeping a dog mentally stimulated. It is the way that dogs explore their world, especially young puppies. What’s more, chewing maintains gum health and keeps teeth clean. You would be surprised at how many problem behaviors are solved by simply offering a greater variety of chews! It is important to be sure to offer variety, as dogs will become bored with the same old textures and flavors relatively quickly. Some great options are kong toys stuffed with whatever recipes you concoct. To add longevity, freeze your chews! There are plenty of options for long lasting, durable, and safe chews for your dog, including those made by Real Dog Box! We recommend staying away from rawhides as they contain many chemicals (and are held together by glue, yuck!) as well as roasted or cooked bones, which will splinter. Raw bones or air dried bones are the best and safest to give.
Hopefully this article has given you a few helpful hints and ideas to keep your pup from destructive boredom behaviors. To summarize, be sure that your pup gets plenty of physical exercise as well as mental exercise. Be sure to satisfy the need to scavenge when your dog is at home alone, as well as giving him plenty to chew on to prevent redirecting onto your expensive furniture! With all of this being said, if your dog is still displaying destructive and abnormal behavior, be sure to consult with your vet to be sure that there isn’t an underlying medical cause for the way he is acting.