• Boredom Busters •
Fighting Boredom in Dogs
NEW WAYS TO EAT, NEW SCENTS TO EXPLORE, NEW PUZZLES TO TACKLE
Increasing your dog's mental stimulation is simple and has countless
benefits for both you and your dog. Environmental enrichment
will help prevent boredom behaviors like excessive barking and
inappropriate chewing, help manage problem behaviors as part
of a comprehensive retraining program, and improve the quality
of your dog's life! The suggestions in this pamphlet can also
be helpful for feeding dogs who wolf down their food and for
providing chew toys to dogs with allergies or restrictive diets.
SIGNS OF BOREDOM
- Dog is destructive - destroys things indoors and/or outdoors.
- Self-mutilation - dog excessively licks or chews its paws,
legs or other body parts. They will often lick so much they
create large open wounds.
- Dog excessively mouths, barks, jumps, run the fence, paces
or eats stools.
- Dog has alone anxiety - exhibits destructive and/or excessive
behaviors when left alone.
- Dog is depressed - shows little or no interest in activities
STEP ONE: STOP FEEDING YOUR DOG FROM A BOWL!
Your dog has a magic bowl. Food appears in it every day. No
hunting. No foraging. No tracking. He just goes to his bowl
and 'Poof!, there's the food. So, what does he do with all that
extra time on his hands? Well, he has probably decided to eat
your book or your shoes and start his own "barking"
choir that isn't making a huge impression with the neighbors.
So put the hunt back in the food for him! Well, sort of. Here
are five ways to feed your dog, starting today!
1) Scatter food in your yard or home or hide small piles for
your dog to find. Help him out in the beginning by showing him
where it is.
2) Teach your dog to play catch for his food. Toss a piece of
kibble or a treat right in front of your dog's nose. He'll probably
watch it fall to the ground and then eat it. Keep working at
it and he'll eventually catch it. I use this one at night when
I want to watch TV and entertain my dogs at the same time.
3) Stuff a Kong - take your dog's regular kibble and mix in
just enough peanut or almond butter, whipped cream cheese, or
canned dog food to coat the kibble so it sticks together. Then,
stuff it into one or two Kongs and serve! The peanut or almond
butter ones can even be frozen first for an extra long lasting
4) Use some of your dog's meal kibble for rewards during the
day. Ask your dog for a behavior or trick and reward. Keep some
at the front door to give to friends that come over. Your dog
will soon learn to love the sight of new people. Not only is
your dog working for his dinner, but there are no extra treats
to make your dog gain weight!
5) Feed your dog a squirrel! Well, not a real squirrel. Premier
Pets makes a toy called a Squirrel Dude that is similar to a
Kong with small nubs that hold kibble and treats inside. This
is easy to fill because you don't have to mix the kibble with
anything first. Just load it with some kibble and a few yummy
treats and serve. You may need to cut the nubs down a little
and I like to make sure there are some small pieces of treats
that will fall out more easily than others so your dog will
be rewarded frequently for his efforts!
6) Last but not least, make knotted toys out of rags. Take old
margarine or yogurt containers and put yummy, smelly treats
in them. Tie an old rag loosely around the container and encourage
your dog to untie the knots and find the treats. This one must
be supervised so your dog doesn’t eat the rags or plastic containers.
You should supervise your dog with Kongs and Squirrel Dudes
until you are sure he can use them safely on his own. And, supervise
or separate multiple dogs so you don' have any battles!
STEP TWO: CHANGE IT UP!
Your dog doesn't need a million toys to entertain him. In fact,
three toys at a time is plenty. Choose three to leave out and
then rotate them so he has something fresh every few days. Do
the same with the new feeding methods listed to the left. Don't
just pick one and repeat that day in and day out. Choose three
or four that work for you and mix them around. Use new Kong
stuffings every once in awhile. Sometimes you can freeze his
Kongs and sometimes leave them thawed. Layer Kong stuffings
so he has a new flavor in each layer.
You can do the same thing by adding new scents to your dog's
environment. Add new smells to the backyard by sprinkling spices
or extracts from your kitchen cabinet in the grass. Or, place
a few drops of synthetic animal scents (sold at sporting goods
stores) on a stuffed toy and then rubbing the toy across the
lawn to create a trail and see if your pup can track it. You
might have a real tracker on your hands!
STEP THREE: GIVE YOUR DOG A BONE . . . AND A TOY .
. . AND AN OBSTACLE COURSE.
Make sure your dog has both squeaky or interactive toys and
something to chew on since these toys satisfy different needs
for your dogs. We are particularly fond of bones called N-Bones
for the chewing part. They're long lasting and one of the flavors
(Peanut Butter) is wheat-free.
In addition to bones and toys, you can also create play areas
or obstacles in your yard for your dog. Build a sand pit in
one corner that can be a "lega"” digging area. Bury
milk bones in there. Or, fill a baby pool with water or sand
and then change the filling every once in awhile. You can leave
treats in the pool for your dog to find.
Place treats in old containers like milk or water jugs (remove
the plastic rings around the neck of these first so your dog
can't get them off and choke on them) and let your dog tear
them up to try to get to the treats. You can hang these from
a tree so your dog can bat at them and try to pull them down.
You can poke holes in the container so your dog can smell the
- Take different routes when walking your dog so he can experience
novel smells, sights and sounds.
- Get a child's wading pool and fill it with water so your
dog can splash around.
- Satisfy your dog's need to hunt and forage by letting him
play "Find It" games. Hide his kibble or treats around
the house or yard and send him out to find them.
- Play games like fetch, Frisbee, tug or hide-n-seek with your
- Give your dog a massage.
- Get your dog together with other dogs and let them play.
You can make individual play dates, host parties or take your
dog to a location where other dogs get to play off-leash.
- Leave classical or new age music on when you leave the home.
This is very relaxing for most dogs.
- Consider hiring a dog walker or taking your dog to a daycare
facility a couple days a week if you are regularly gone more
than 6 consecutive hours/day.
- Hang rope or inner tubes from a branch or other item in the
yard for the dog to play tug with.
- Some dogs will play with old tires either loose on the ground
or hanging from ropes.
- When possible, take your dog along when visiting friends
or running errands.
- Jog, rollerblade, skateboard or bike with high energy dogs
that never seem to tire.
STEP FOUR: TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!
A half hour training session (using a positive training method
such as clicker training) generally tires a dog out longer than
an hour-long walk. While both are important, I advise adding
a short training session to your dog's day. Add a five to ten
minute session after your walk each day. Teach your dog fun
things like tricks or agility in addition to the dry stuff like
down and stay. Be sure to use a positive training method that
will engage him in the training rather than just stress him
out or hurt the bond you share. Try The Only Dog Tricks Book
You'll Ever Need: Impress Friends, Family - and Other Dogs by
Gerilyn J. Bielakiewicz for training ideas!
And remember, exercise is an important part of your dog's mental
and physical well-being. If you are unable to walk your dog
due to constant pulling on the leash, arrange a fitting for
an Easy Walk Harness or Gentle Leader Headcollar for your dog.
We have found these to be an effective and humane way to help
get your dog the exercise he needs.