Preventing boredom in dogs

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This is an image of a dog with a ball

Home alone

Many dogs are left alone for hours every day.  This can lead to boredom which is often the root of many behavioural problems. 

Dogs are intelligent creatures and therefore require mental stimulation.  Left alone with nothing to do, a dog will create its own entertainment.  This could include such behaviours as barking at birds and clouds, running in circles, pulling clothes off the line or digging holes in the garden.  In extreme cases, some dogs will even resort to self-mutilation.

How can I keep my dog occupied when I'm not there?

The key lies in 'environmental enrichment'.  This means to make your dog's environment more interesting and complex, and is a strategy used in zoos and wildlife parks around the world.

Exercise

Dogs need daily exercise and ideally they should leave your property every day.  Taking your dog on a walk has many health benefits for both of you.  Try to vary your walks so that your dog gets to experience new sights, smells and interactions.

Find a safe off-leash area where your dog can let off some steam.  For high energy dogs consider dog sports such as Agility or Flyball.

A happily tired out dog is more likely to rest when you’re not home, rather than seek out mischief.

Toys

Have a collection of safe and fun dog toys and rotate them daily (yes, every day!) so they maintain their novelty factor and stay interesting for your dog.  Select toys that are appropriate for your dog’s level of destructiveness.  Always supervise your dog when first playing with a new toy to see if there is any potential risk of the toy becoming dangerous.  Inspect toys regularly for signs of wear, and replace any that are damaged. 

Make feeding time last longer

In the wild, an animal spends a significant proportion of their time seeking out their next meal.  When your pet can rely on you to meet their nutritional needs, they’re left with a fair bit of time on their paws.  So rather than feeding your dog from a bowl, scatter their dry kibble around the backyard.  It will take them ages to sniff out every piece.

Stuff a ‘Kong’ toy with yummy treats or put some kibble in a treat ball or ‘Buster Cube’.  Your dog will need to use their brain to work out how to get those treats.

Provide your dog with a raw bone and smoked pigs ears a couple of times each week to chew on.                            

You could also

Create a digging pit using a child’s sand pit.  Try hiding toys and treats in it for your dog to find as buried treasure.

Play hide and seek by hiding treats around the garden for your pooch to find.

If you don’t have time to walk your dog, consider employing a professional dog walker.

Investigate local doggy day care centres, where your dog can spend some quality time playing and socialising.