Is your dog showing signs of boredom? Let's explore the very best boredom busters for dogs and how you can affordably beat the boredom once and for all
Just like humans, dogs experience varying degrees of boredom throughout the day. For us, boredom tends to occur when our energy is not directed into an outlet that provides us with some degree of entertainment, fulfilment or meaning. When we experience boredom, it often means that we require change, whether that be as significant as switching careers, or as simple as leaving the house for some much-needed fresh air and a stroll.
Boredom does not only occur when your dog lacks environmental, physical, and mental stimulation, but also tends to strike when your dog wishes to spend more quality time with you – take it as a compliment! Nevertheless, we’ve all been there – we’ve arrived home after work, collapsed on the sofa, and there is your dog, looking up at you with big eyes and a squeaky toy in their mouth. For us, this tends to happen whenever we open our laptop when we are working from home. As soon as the laptop opens, Reggie, our Miniature Dachshund, somehow awakens and begins to demand our attention – despite already having had all our attention earlier that day. Afterall, we are his main source of entertainment, and we're the one that often dictates when he will eat and exercise. We're also the people that bring him his favourite food, treats, toys, and most importantly, a cuddle or two. Yet, it is also important to note that the benefits he provides us are far greater than just about what anyone or anything else could offer us (we mean it)! Owning a dog promotes good health, happiness, and companionship throughout your life, so the next time they want to play, just remember what they also provide for you.
Tackling boredom in dogs
Originally, most dogs were bred to work or serve as our companions, and therefore it is vital we provide them enough mental and physical stimulation to meet their daily needs. Dogs are social animals, and they really do enjoy spending time with us. Tackling and preventing boredom with play and mental stimulation is also a great way to increase the bond between you and your dog.
Boredom in dogs can result in some seriously destructive and problem behaviours – from digging, barking, and even aggression. Plus, no-one wants their dog to feel bored and agitated. To avoid boredom, it’s important to begin by first identifying the signs of boredom in your dog.
“Boredom tends to occur when our energy is not directed into an outlet that provides us with entertainment, fulfilment or meaning.”
3 common signs of boredom in dogs
1. Destructive behaviour:
These problem behaviours will vary, yet commonly include excessive chewing, barking, digging, and can even involve your dog escaping from home. If your dog is not receiving enough mental and physical stimulation, they will simply take matters into their own hands and create their own entertainment. As a side note, if your dog is displaying any sign of destructive behaviour while left alone, make sure to first rule out separation anxiety by consulting a vet, dog trainer, or behaviourist.
Attention seeking behaviours are another common sign of boredom in dogs. If you dog is not receiving your attention, they could start demanding it from you. From whining, jumping on your lap, or barking, your dog is simply asking for you to give them some serious notice!
3. Obsessive behaviours:
It’s important to keep an eye out for these behaviours. Dogs display a whole range of obsessive behaviours, especially when they are experiencing boredom. Common obsessive behaviours comprise of tail chasing, pacing, excessive licking, self-mutilation, circling, and chewing. These behaviours are incredibly self-destructive and must be minimised at all costs.
Bust the boredom
As a dog owner, it’s important that we take full responsibility for the boredom our dog could be experiencing, by ensuring that we do all we can to make sure we are granting them with sufficient levels of stimulation and enrichment. Even though physical exercise is vital, stimulation extends way beyond taking your dog out on their regular walk, and mental exercise is just as valuable.
To make your job a little easier, we've gone ahead and found 8 of the best (and most affordable) boredom busters to help you on your way.
Top 8 affordable boredom busters for dogs
1. Meet the flirt pole:
Surprisingly, there are not many dog owners that know about flirt poles, yet they are one of the most affordable and fun ways to provide enrichment for your dog. Flirt poles are remarkably valuable for dog breeds with high-energy levels, such as the Border Collie or Cocker Spaniel, and are fantastic exercise tools to encourage dogs to chase, burn extra energy, and improve the bond between you and your dog.
For those of you that do not know what a flirt pole is, think of it a little like a fishing pole, (minus the hooks, of course) with a tug toy attached to the end of the rope. Your role is to maintain control of the toy with the rigid end of the pole. Your dog will simply use the flirt pole to chase the toy, while you run around with the pole, or stay stationary. These are perfect for those dogs that love chasing, like our Reggie!
2. Let's go on a scent walk:
Your dog may get excited whenever you grab the lead and head out for your regular walk, but why not spice up their walk with a ‘sniffari walk’? This type of walk allows your dog to take more control, whereby they lead the way and sniff as much as their powerful nose desires. Simply take them on their walk, and allow your dog to follow their nose, and sniff for as long as they like. If your dog wants to stay in one place and sniff for a few minutes, simply let them. The mental stimulation that sniffing brings outweighs many of the benefits of their regular walk. Sniffing is your dog’s way of making sense of the complex world around them and is essential for their wellbeing. Plus, sniffing is calming for your dog, lowers their pulse rate, and allows them to enjoy themselves, without the need of ‘hurrying along’.
Allowing a dog to use their sense of smell is incredibly enriching, and a great way to burn excess energy, and lower stress levels. It’s affordable, fun, and incredibly enjoyable for your pooch. We take Reggie on a devoted nose-to-ground walk daily, and he is a big fan!
3. Build a pit:
Many dogs love to dig, especially if they’re anything like our Miniature Dachshund, who was bred to hunt, dig, and forage. To save your garden, why not create a pit especially for your pooch to dig and unleash this natural behaviour? You can do so by using a sandpit container or designate a specific corner of your garden for a small pit. Once you have a pit ready, simply bury some toys and treats in the designated area, and make sure to get involved with your dog to help them uncover the hidden treasure. If your dog starts to wander to other areas of the garden to dig, simply move them back to the designated spot and encourage play.
4. Become a mastermind:
Our dogs are huge fans of interactive dog puzzles, which have been designed with all levels of difficulty in mind, from easy to advanced. For example, we hide Reggie’s treats or his regular food in the puzzle box, whereby he can practice his natural foraging abilities by sniffing and seeking out the food. These puzzles can keep your dog busy for a good amount of time, and are a fantastic way to keep their brain engaged and active. Puzzles are also particularly valuable for those dogs that eat quickly, and choose to inhale rather than chew their food! Interactive puzzles will help slow down fast eaters, which, in turn, prevents them from choking on their food and becoming bloated.
5. Lap up the treats:
Another great way to tackle boredom is to buy a lick mat, which are affordable and durable mats that keep your dog occupied for prolonged periods of time. There are many lick mats on the market, and it has been proven that repetitive licking has a calming effect on your dog. These mats can reduce anxiety, promote calm behaviour, and stimulate your dog’s tongue – which increases saliva production used to clean the tongue, gums, and teeth. All you need to do is spread some dog-friendly peanut butter, or any of their favourite wet food on the lick mat, and let them enjoy! Plus, these are durable and economical, and will likely last for years to come. Once Reggie has finished, he’s ready for a good snooze afterwards.
6. Time for school:
An alternative way to keep their brain engaged is by incorporating short bursts of training throughout the day. Only 2–5 minute training sessions are necessary, however, this will depend on the age and dog breed. By teaching ‘sit’, ‘paw’, ‘twist’, and ‘stay’, along with many other commands and desirable behaviours – your dog will be stimulated throughout the day, and it is another perfect excuse to strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
7. Snuffle mats:
If we had to pick our favourite boredom buster for Reggie, it’d have to be the snuffle mat – they are his all-time favourite thing! Snuffle mats are available to buy in all different shapes and sizes, and are often made from pet-friendly cloth. Essentially, snuffle mats look a little like an oversized mat, which are crafted using many pieces of material, which can be used to hide dog treats within. Your dog will bury their head in the mat and unleash their natural foraging abilities by using their nose to find the food you have hidden. Many of these mats contain hidden pockets, so that treats can be easily concealed – which makes it a little more challenging and fun for your dog to root around. Snuffle mats keep Reggie occupied for over fifteen minutes, and also takes some serious nose work. It’s important to supervise your dog while you use a snuffle mat – to make sure they do not chew anything they shouldn’t.
8. Play dates:
Another great way to provide an extra level of enrichment is to meet up with other familiar dogs. Dogs are social creatures and most dogs love to play with one another. Play is a good way for them to release energy, socialise, and have some fun, while providing both physical and mental stimulation. Make sure to supervise your dog to ensure no scuffles occur, and that each dog is playing happily with the another. If your dog is not the playful type, simply take your dog out on a walk with another dog, and let them walk next to each other, while you have a catch-up with a fellow dog-loving friend.
Remember, you are your dog’s whole world, and it is our duty to make sure they are not only provided with enough physical and mental stimulation, but that we choose to include them within our daily lives. Make sure to spend plenty of quality time with your pooch – allow them to accompany you on family trips, take advantage of the growing list of dog-friendly facilities, and frankly give them the love and attention they deserve. Having a dog that you love really is a privilege, so practice the boredom busting tools, but also make sure they sit front and centre in your life, as you will always sit front and centre within their life.