Let’s take a moment or two to focus on boredom. How do you feel when you’re bored? I often feel antsy, as if I have energy to do something, but I can’t figure out how to use that energy. I fidget and I might pace or shift position frequently, trying to alleviate the feelings. I suppose a dog feels the same way. Energy and desire to do something, but nothing captures his interest to do at the moment. Or perhaps he is kept confined to an area that prevents him from doing much.
Why is boredom in our dogs a bad thing? Boredom can lead to our dogs finding ways of entertaining themselves that we might not think are the greatest choices – chewing, tearing things up, stealing from counters, barking, digging, licking a paw for hours on end to create a sore, etc. If we make it our mission to prevent our dogs from being bored, we can supply them with exciting choices that we do approve of. What an easy way to encourage great behavior choices from our dogs! We can give them lots of new experiences to choose from so they don’t have time to get bored!
There are many dog food puzzle toys on the market for this very reason. Dogs love new challenges – especially when food is involved! These puzzle toys stimulate their desire to hunt and problem solve. Food is a great enrichment tool because it is easy to get and keep a dog’s attention with food.
What are some other games and activities that can prevent your dog from being bored? Being outdoors is a great idea, but just being stuck in the same fenced yard day after day is not going to prevent boredom. Getting your dog out somewhere new provides lots of sights, sounds, and smells that are new and exciting and sure to peak your dog’s interests. How about a hike or a swim in the pond? If you don’t have a pond, a kiddie pool will do. Float various toys and treats in the pool for your dog to chase and bob after. A block of ice made in a plastic container can have special treats and toys frozen into it and can be floated in the pool to provide gradual fun as it melts.
You can create an obstacle course in your yard using things you find around the house and garage. Some cement blocks or bricks can hold a broomstick to create a low jump or several in a row can make cavalettis for your dog to practice stepping over. Different surfaces and things for your dog to go over, under, and through, can be a fun game to play together.
Playing hide and seek and find it games can be fun for both you and your dog. Hide the toy or treat, or yourself, and then encourage your dog to search and find it. As your dog gets better at the game, you can find harder and harder hiding spaces.
Bringing out a new toy or bone can be exciting, just because it’s something new! Rotate toys and bones by putting some away for a while in the closet, then bring them out and they will seem new for the day! My dogs enjoy smelling new smells and will often spend a long time investigating what I’ve brought them to check out!
Use your imagination to give your dog new and different things to do every day to keep its mind and body active. You will also be encouraging behavior choices that you like, and not giving him time to get bored and make his own choices that you might not agree with quite so much! And you and your dog will enjoy investigating together and having fun!