Can Dogs Feel Boredom?

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Introduction

Have you ever been sitting, maybe watching TV or working on the computer, and suddenly, your pup starts to sprint around the room? What about coming home from a long day of work, and seeing the trash spread about your apartment like an Avante Garde, garbage art piece, with your doggo as the culprit? 

As annoying, weird, or entertaining as some of these activities may be, they may actually be signs that your perfect little furball is bored! Dogs, just like humans, need both mental and physical stimulation in their lives. Imagine your pupper as a little kid - can you imagine having a toddler sit inside all day long, with a few breaks outside to pee, NOT being bored!? 

Same with your pup! If you're not home for your little fur-child to bug, then they're going to find something else, probably more mischievous, to get into! So yes, dogs, like humans, can definitely get bored. Luckily, just like us, there are things that we can do to prevent boredom in our little BFFs, and keep them happy, healthy, and out of the darn garbage!

Signs Your Dog May Be Bored

Again, it's easy to imagine your pup as a little toddler. Signs that your dog may be bored are similar to signs that a child may be bored - attention-seeking behaviors, destructive activities, and just plain pestering you. We'll go into the signs of each, so you can know for sure whether or not your dog needs more stimulation (whether mental or physical), and eventually, what you can do about it. 

Attention-Seeking Behaviors: Back to the toddlers - let's face it, a bored kid is simply going to be annoying. Same goes for your pup! If you're home, doggos that are bored are going to do what they can to get your attention and make you know it! These types of behaviors can include barking and whining (especially while staring at you, almost like they're asking you for something to do!), getting right up in your face to let you know that they're there, or other types of activities that let you know that they need some love. 

Destructive Activities: This will especially happen if you aren't home to keep an eye on your dog. Oftentimes, a bored dog is a destructive dog. This can include destructive behaviors that turn inward, like chewing on themselves, picking at scabs, or incessant scratching, and destructive behaviors that turn outward, like getting into the trash, digging, chewing furniture and shoes, and more. While a lot of times, these activities stink to clean up after, at the time, it seems like the only thing your pup can do to relieve the boredom!

Pestering: Cue "Velcro-Dog Syndrome". Again, this will only happen if you're home, and is similar to those attention-seeking behaviors we talked about earlier. Dogs that are bored will sometimes follow their owners around - sometimes everywhere! We have to remember that as our dogs' BFFs, we really are their main source of entertainment. If they're bored and following us around, it's because they know that the fun usually comes from us! It is important to remember, however, that "not all dogs who follow you around are doing so out of boredom." Some dogs are just super-attached to their owners! In order to differentiate between the two, just know your dog's normal behaviors.

Body Language

Here are some of the signs your dog will show if they are bored:
  • Pacing
  • Scratching
  • Howling
  • Jumping up
  • Chewing
  • Whining
  • Digging
  • Barking
  • Alert

Other Signs

Further signs that indicate boredom include:
  • Pestering Behavior
  • Getting into Things
  • Bringing Over Toys
  • Following You Around

The History of Boredom in Dogs

Dogs have evolved from wolves - animals who are constantly on the move and are always with their pack-mates. Studies show that "long ago, dogs had much more to think about. They had to work out how they were going to eat, which is a huge task," as well as many other things they had to do to survive in the wild. 

Even after we domesticated them, many breeds were still put to work retrieving, herding, or guarding, and didn't have time to be bored. While they've had centuries to evolve into the loveable little guys that they are now, they still have many of the characteristics of their ancestors. 

As a result, many of our pups are built for interaction with other doggos, as well as the need to run around and "hunt." It's no surprise that our perfect pups get bored from time-to-time, especially when we're not home to provide entertainment. Historically, they just weren't built for the laid-back lives we give them now, so they need some stimulation to keep active!

The Science Behind Boredom In Dogs

As our dogs evolved from wolves into the pups we know and love today, breeds developed that were specifically tailored to perform certain duties and activities. 

For example, Golden Retrievers were built to, well, retrieve! German Shepherds were built for guarding, and Beagles were built for their hunting senses. As a result, many of our dogs today need stimulation that is breed specific. Alleviating boredom in your dog really does depend on their genetics - different dog breeds will simply have different psychological needs. 

Studies have shown that "some will become less active and some will become hyperactive when they need more excitement in their life", and all of this depends just on their genetic makeup. Basically, it pays to know what type of breed your dog is! The more you know, the easier you'll be able to keep your pup entertained!

Training for Bored Pups

You'll be happy to hear that training a dog not to be so bored is actually pretty easy. All it really involves is figuring out how to provide more stimuli to your pooch. 

First, you're going to want to take an honest look at your schedule. Is your pupper spending way too much time alone? Perhaps try adjusting things so you can pop in during the day, or look into hiring a dog-walker to make sure your mutt gets some outside time. 

Next, go through the area that your pooch spends their alone time. To stop destructive behavior, you may want to give crate training a try. If that is a no-go, ensure that the rooms your dog has access to are canine-proof. Definitely, keep your eye out for prized possessions or potentially harmful objects.

Finally, go to your favorite pet shop and ask about puzzle toys or safe chew treats. Make sure your pup gets a goodie each time you leave the house so that they start to associate this time as a positive thing.

How To React To A Bored Pup:

  • Sniffing Games: this works especially well for dogs that are bred to sniff out their prey. Hide some treats around your house for a fun game of hide-and-seek!
  • Tug of War: it's a really easy way to keep your dog entertained, and tucker them out at the same time!
  • Interactive Dog Toys: toys that make your dog think, like kongs and other treat dispensers, can keep your dog entertained for hours, with the added benefit of a treat for when your smartie figures it out!
  • Play Dates: bringing your dog around other pups will not only get your dog tired, but will also fill your doggo's need for dog-to-dog interaction.
  • Patience: a lot of times, your dog just wants you to pay attention to them! While reprimanding them for bad behavior is important, we also need to remember that, just like us, our pups need mental and physical stimulation. It may be annoying that your dog goes through the trash, but instead of just yelling at them, try to give them a less destructive alternative!

We Want To Hear About Your Bored Pooch!