You’ve said it. You may have heard your children say it. You’ve probably had a friend or two call you because of it. Boredom. We’ve all had it, and we’ve all heard it; “I’m bored.” You can get bored. Can your dog get bored too?
Boredom in people often stems from having multiple responsibilities but not enough fun happening at the moment. We often know all the things we need to be doing, but none of those things are enticing enough to keep our interest. The problem many dogs have is they do not have responsibilities. Dogs don’t have jobs. They do not have to work for their food or shelter. Dogs just want to play and be loved. Dogs love to run around or play with toys. When we aren’t entertaining our dogs, what are they doing? Could your dog be bored?
Can Dogs Get Bored?
Bored dogs often cause ruckus or destruction. Dogs need physical and mental stimulation. Without this stimulation, your dog can become frustrated and rather bored. Without a job or task to focus on, your dog may either become sleepy and not want to play when it’s playtime, or may find trouble on their own. This can especially be true if your dog is home alone. Most veterinarians agree even older dogs need stimulation and exercise to use their minds and their bodies. Your veterinarian can share ideas on how to stimulate your puppy with scheduled playtime and provide appropriate activities for your senior dog to keep them stimulated.
Is My Dog Bored?
A dog who is bored can chew furniture, destroy household items, dig, get into things they are not supposed to (like your garbage), or eat items such as shoes they are not supposed to be eating. A bored puppy might be more destructive than a bored older dog. A puppy with nothing better to do could destroy your house while you are at work. Your older dog may tear into your trash but leave your couch cushions alone.
Your dog may be bored in the yard all day if you come home to new holes dug into your grass or under a fence. If your dog is trying to escape, they may need more to do while you are away. When you are gone for periods of time, and your dog is left inside, you may come home to chewed on and torn up newspaper or books. Your pup might take this time to discover the joys of all the shoes in your closet. Or you may find they have an affinity for doors, baseboards, or even your furniture. If you often use the same door to leave your house, your dog might decide they have hours to dig their way out to get to you since they have nothing else to do. Dogs can also get bored while you are in the house. Know where your dog is and what they are up to while you are in the shower or just in another room. Bored dogs will always find something to do, but it might not be something you’d like them to be doing.
Be wary of assuming your dog is only bored while you are away if they are destroying your property while you are gone. Your dog could also suffer from separation anxiety. But if you are certain your dog is only bored, you might want to consider where and how your dog is spending their time when you are not with them. If you suspect separation anxiety after treating signs of boredom, talk to your veterinarian about ways you can treat anxiety in your dog. You can read more about separation anxiety here.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Boredom?
There are several ways you can stimulate your dog before and after you leave for extended periods of time. If possible, wake early enough in the morning to take your dog on a long walk. While out and about, let your dog stop and sniff. This process stimulates all their senses as they exercise.
Once you are home from your walk, as you prepare yourself for the day ahead, consider making your dog work for their breakfast. You can provide treats in a puzzle toy or some peanut butter inside an interactive toy for your dog to pass the time while getting an after exercise treat or meal.
While you are away, keep your dog inside a crate. If you start crate training while your dog is a puppy, they will grow to see the crate as a place to go when they are sleepy or bored.
Keep your dog’s personal space clean and filled with stimulating toys. Younger dogs and puppies will want chew toys to help with teething and the instinct to chew. Try to keep toys that can break off easily away from your dog if they are not supervised to avoid injury.
You might also consider doggy daycare or have a dog walker come to your home during the day and walk and play with your dog.
How is Boredom Similar in Dogs, Humans, and Other Pets?
Boredom in dogs is quite similar to boredom with children. If you are a parent, you’ve probably heard the complaints of nothing to do and the constant questions for ideas of things to occupy their time. Your home could be filled with fabulous toys, yet your child might still need a different kind of stimulation. Dogs can be the same way, as they need various stimulants throughout their day.
Cats don’t often get as bored, but kittens need quick stimulations. Though cats will nap much of the day, a cat with pent up energy may claw your furniture.
How is Boredom Different in Dogs, Humans, and Other Pets?
The difference between children and dogs is we do not leave our children alone, but our dogs are often left to fight boredom by themselves. Children may have a voice to complain, and though annoying, children don’t often tear things apart simply because they are bored. Dogs, however, unable to express their frustrations to you, may find something to do in the form of trouble.
Dogs, being social animals much like humans, need stimulation. A three-pound Yorkshire Terrier named Reese was left alone in a three-bedroom house on a Sunday morning while the owners went to breakfast. Since the time away from the house was going to be short and Reese had been on a morning walk, the owners decided to leave her to the whole house.
With the Sunday paper left on the coffee table waiting to be read, the owners walked out of the house. Two hours later, they returned to every square inch of their home covered in tiny shreds of newspaper. Reese had spent every bit of those two hours filling her time decorating their home with the Sunday news. Reese’s owners say it took longer to clean up from every sitting surface and every room’s floor than it did to go out for breakfast.
After that Sunday, they kept Reese in a crate or a bedroom with the door closed and lots of toys at her discretion to keep her entertained. Keeping your dogs stimulated while you are away may save your home and your belongings from doggy destruction.