Dogs can suffer from boredom just like humans. Dogs are meant to be doing things, and if they aren’t given healthy opportunities to use their energy, they’ll find unhealthy ways. Worse yet, the “fun ideas” dogs come up with can be both annoying and expensive. Bottom line:
- Be alert to signs of boredom in dogs, and
- Help your dog find productive ways to spend their time.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Most signs of boredom are normal dog behaviors that have gotten out of control. Sometimes, though, these same behaviors can indicate severe distress, including separation anxiety. If your dog’s bored behaviors aren’t improving, or you’re concerned they may hurt themselves, consult a certified dog behavior consultant, your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist.
Chewing is a natural behavior, but excessive chewing can be a sign of boredom in dogs. Some dogs chew on their own bodies—paws, flank, etc.—or chase their tails (whether or not they catch them). Others chew on furniture or shoes. This kind of chewing can affect your dog’s health and get expensive, too. Read more about destructive chewing in dogs.
Solution: Keep inappropriate chew items out of reach, and provide better chew options. Feed your pet meals out of a KONG Classic Dog Toy, so meal time is also chew time. Offer chew toys like the Nylabone DuraChew Double Bone. If your dog destuffs things like pillows, try a stuffed toy such as the Multipet’s Lamb Chop Plush Dog Toy—but only if your dog doesn’t swallow the stuffing.
Digging in the Yard
Digging is another normal behavior that can get out of hand. Dogs may dig up flowers, for example. This gets into a deeper issue: People assume the yard is fun, but for most dogs, the yard is boring (been there, sniffed that), which leaves them desperate for something to do.
Solution: First, stop leaving your dog in the yard unsupervised. Next, create a digging pit. When you are supervising and see your dog digging in the wrong place, direct him to the digging pit. To make the digging pit more interesting, bury bones, toys and other interesting items there.
Digging or Scratching at Furniture
Some bored dogs don’t have to be in the yard to dig; they dig at carpets, furniture and other household items. These dogs obviously like digging, so it’s a good idea to find them a constructive outlet for that urge.
Solution: See the section above about digging in general. Also, consider getting your dog a bed that suits his digging habits, such as the Frisco Tufted Lounger Square Dog Bed, and encourage him to dig there. (Hint: Drop treats on or under the bed to make it more interesting.)
Barking Out Windows
Barking out windows is fairly common, but if it happens all day, every day, boredom is a likely explanation. Some dogs spend the entire day looking out the window and barking at what they see, since it gives them something to do. This annoys neighbors and is unhealthy for the dog: A dog who barks all day is on-edge all day, and that kind of constant agitation takes its toll.
Solution: Get a white noise machine, and block the view to the outside. Also, before you leave your home, give your dog a meal or snack in the Northmate Green Interactive Dog Feeder, so they have something to do while you’re gone.
Barking, Whining, Jumping or Nipping at You
Barking, whining, jumping and even nipping can be ways for your dog to communicate. Sometimes dogs do these annoying things to let us know they need to go out to potty or are hungry. If your dog barks, whines, jumps or nips at you many times each day, though, that may be his way of saying, “I’m bored. Pay attention to me!” If your dog is constantly bugging another pet in your household, that can be a sign of boredom, too.
Solution: Keep a log of when your dog barks, whines, jumps or nips at you (or other pets). Then plan ahead and give your dog a fun diversion like the Benebone Bacon Flavored Wishbone Dog Chew Toy around those times of day. You can also play with or train your dog at those times. Just be sure to give your dog the toy, or initiate the play or training, before the barking, whining, jumping or nipping starts, so you don’t accidentally reward the annoying behavior!
Remember the dog who was digging in the yard? Some dogs dig deep enough to get under the fence and escape. Other dogs find ways over or through the fence. Many dogs who escape the yard are simply bored and looking for something better to do.
Solution: Secure your fence. Avoid leaving your dog in the yard unsupervised. If you must leave your dog alone in the yard, give him something to occupy his time. One option is to hide several KONG Classic Dog Toys around the yard, so your dog can “hunt” for their meal. You can also scatter dry dog food around the yard.
Dogs who are bored sometimes steal food and other items. Stealing food is pretty straightforward—it’s yummy. Stealing other items, such as socks, can be an even better way to make things interesting, especially if it guarantees a fun (to the dog) game of chase with you.
Solution: Keep inappropriate items out of your dog’s reach. If your dog does grab the wrong thing, run away instead of chasing your dog. Most dogs will chase you if you run, and many will drop what they were holding in the process. Also, teach your dog to drop items on cue.
Other ways to help prevent boredom in dogs include daycare, walks and rotating the dog’s toys so your dog has access to different toys on different weeks. Remember: When you spice things up for your bored dog, improved behavior is likely to follow.