Being bored isn’t something we usually associate with animals. However, as much as dog owners may regret having to go back to work after a long festive season break, so dogs resent their owners’ sudden absence.
Dogs are sociable creatures that thrive on contact, play and attention. Being left alone at home from 8am to 5pm or longer can be extremely distressing for a dog.
It doesn’t matter that his food, water and bed needs are catered for; he wants you. Dogs get restless and bored; they need mental and physical stimulation to lead fulfilling lives.
How can I tell if my dog is bored?
Most often, boredom manifests in negative behaviours, whether it be chewing, destroying, clawing, whining, or barking. And that goes for any breed. So, when you come home from a long day at the office don’t be surprised if you find holes in the garden, a chewed sofa and ripped cushions.
For a tired owner, this can be a particularly torrid time of day. You’re exhausted from the office and desperate to relax but your dog wants to play, walk and get your attention.
Unfortunately, you when get home your dog’s day is just beginning; that’s when his interaction and affection with your family starts.
How to entertain a bored dog
1. Get some exercise (and mix it up)
Your dog doesn’t care how tired you are—he needs to get out and about for exercise daily and not just for mental stimulation but for physical health too. Boredom can lead to obesity.
If you do walk your dog, try not to follow the same route every day. A new environment will add mental stimulation.
Running or biking, if you and your dog are able, is even better as it provides added mental stimulation in addition to fitness. It releases more energy than a walk and your dog’s mind has to be focused.
Socialising with other dogs is entertaining for your dog. Start socialisation when he’s a puppy – during the first 8 to 10 weeks of his life – so that when he’s an adult he isn’t scared of new people or other pets.
If your dog is well socialised, physical exercise and mental stimulation are that much easier to achieve. Having play dates with other dogs is great exercise as is running around a park with their friends.
3. Use food puzzles
Alleviating dog boredom can be as simple as changing your feeding routine—make it a task instead of a given. Hide treats in the garden so your dog has to use his nose, brain and body to find his reward.
EberVet Vetshops sell chews stuffed with deliciousness like peanut butter and liver biltong. Your dog will spend many happy hours trying to extract the stuffing from the ostrich or beef outer shell.
4. Put a bored dog to work
Many dogs—particularly herding and hunting breeds—long to be put to work. Teaching new behaviours and tricks can feel work-like to a dog, and even exercise can include an element of work. Build an obstacle course in the garden and train your dog to complete it. Once they have mastered it, change a few things around so he has to learn it all over again.
5. Enrol in classes
If you have the means, enrolling your dog in a class with a local trainer can be a wonderfully stimulating way to relieve boredom. If your dog enjoys nosework, for example, a class can take it to the next level.
Other options for classes include obedience and agility training. Jumps classes are like mini-equestrian courses for dogs, and agility classes combine jumps with weave poles, tunnels, and other obstacles. These courses typically require a certain level of obedience training prior to enrolment. “These are not play session classes with other dogs as they focus only on the activities.
If enrolling your dog in a class, make sure you find a legitimate training facility that uses positive reinforcement. Ask your vet or Vetshop for recommendations.
The key is not to give up: you will find the appropriate level of stimulation that will improve your dog’s life—and yours as well. With the right approach, 9 times out of 10, a dog with behavioural ‘problems’ is simply bored and needs your attention.
– extracted from an article by Maura McAndrew for PetMD