As a pet parent, you want your dog to have a wonderful and happy life. Unless you have the luxury of being a stay-at-home dog parent, your pup will likely spend some time alone and you might not be able to make them the center of attention all day every day. It's very important to ensure that your dog gets enough mental and physical stimulation no matter your schedule. But how do you know if your dog is getting enough?
Too little physical activity may manifest in weight gain but what about mental stimulation? How do you know if your dog is bored? Not getting enough exercise might be a clue, but we rounded up some additional (and common) signs that your dog might be dealing with boredom.
Remember that some of these behaviors are normal behaviors for dogs. The difference between normal behavior and a sign of boredom might be context. For example, your dog barking because there is a car in the driveway or a beloved relative is at the door is not a sign of boredom, your dog barking at the window all day while you work, might mean your dog is bored.
Signs your dog is bored
Your dog is barking excessively
There are many reasons dogs may bark excessively, so you’ll want to rule out some of the other reasons before attributing this behavior to boredom. If your dog has eaten, been to the bathroom and there’s no one around your property (yes, even that pesky plastic bag blowing in the wind) chances are the barking is simply a cry for attention.
Your dog is chewing things they shouldn't
Does your pup have a basket of toys but insist on chewing your favorite slipper or throw pillow? Chances are they’re grabbing things they shouldn't because they are bored!
Dogs love to dig but this behavior can become problematic if your dog is constantly digging up your favorite plants or digging under your fence. While it’s possible that your dog just loves to dig and finds this a lot of fun, too much digging can be a sign of boredom.
If your dog is always looking for a way out - any open door, a crack in the fence, or the kids forgetting to close the fence it might be due to boredom. Dogs who aren’t spayed or neutered might be running off to find a mate, and while this isn’t a behavior you want, it’s not the same as boredom.
Does your dog steal food, socks, or even your favorite sweatshirt? This might be another indicator that your pup is bored. Stealing often results in a fun chase and plenty of attention.
While a few scratches might be part of your pup’s routine before they settle into bed, excessive scratching at the floor, windows, or crate might be an indicator of boredom.
What do you do if your dog is showing signs of boredom?
If your dog is showing you that they are bored, don’t despair. A few tweaks to your routine might make a world of difference.
Adding some enrichment toys and allowing them to “work” for food or a few short training sessions that focus on engaging your dog’s brain throughout the day should help keep your pup from feeling bored. Using a Kong, snuffle mat, or a treat-dispensing puzzle can easily bust boredom. For puzzle toys with small pieces, make sure to supervise your dog’s use to prevent choking or chewing on puzzle pieces.
For behaviors like digging or stealing, redirect your dog to a place they can dig or offer them items they can take when they want to play chase, like a rope toy. You can make a fun digging game by hiding treats and toys in a cardboard box filled with paper. Your ddog will have to use their sense of smell and digging skills to get everything out of the box. Some dogs even enjoy shredding cardboard or paper. Just make sure your dog isn't eating it and never let your pup shred unsupervised.
You can reward your dog for offering these behaviors where and how you want them. If you work from home, scheduling a few 10-15 minute play breaks with your pup between conference calls can be helpful for both of you.
If your dog has an entire basket of toys and is still showing signs of boredom, you might need to do a bit of detective work. Just because something “should” be engaging to your dog, doesn’t mean it will be.
Watch your dog for signs of what they find engaging. For example, if they prefer to chew, find some activities that center around chewing. If they love to run or chase, pick activities you can do with them that involve running or chasing. There is a safe and appropriate activity for just about every interest.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.