Bored Dogs: Common Symptoms & Solutions for Dog Boredom

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17 Minute Read
Updated April 5, 2023

Is your dog bored? Boredom can lead to some troublesome behavioural issues. Appropriate mental stimulation can prevent anxiety and destructive behaviours in bored dogs. 

Every dog has a different way of processing boredom and a lack of stimulation, and most pets need a variety of routine activities to avoid the undesirable behaviours that result. From dog parks and play dates to doggy daycare, there are many ways to find entertainment your dog loves. 

In this article, we are going to look at some of the common signs of boring dog behaviours and How to keep dogs from being bored when home alone? Or how to prevent destructive dog habits?

Identifying symptoms and solutions for dog boredom is pretty easy, but knowing which boredom solution will be effective for your dog may require some trial and error.

Read on to discover some of the best boredom busters and physical exercises to help with your dog's behaviour problems.

 

Common Signs That Your Bored Dog

a bored dog

Many of these symptoms can be related to other issues, like separation anxiety, poor socialization, and even illness, but a good starting point is to keep your dog mentally stimulated.

Do dogs get bored? Yes, they do!

Here is a list of some of the most commonly seen signs that your dog is bored to tears.

  • Chewing
  • Pacing
  • Attachment
  • Anxiety
  • Aggression
  • Barking
  • Poor or inconsistent eating habits
  • Inconsistent sleeping patterns
  • Sporadic energy levels
  • Marking 

Some signs are more noticeable than others, like destructive dog chewing. This one tends to affect us the most because the things that they are chewing are often ours... and expensive. Besides being a nuisance, this can be dangerous.

 

Is Dog Boredom Dangerous?

Many bored dog behaviours can be dangerous. It's important to understand the risks so that when you see signs, you can act quickly to correct these behaviours. Take a look at some of the dangers of bored dog behaviours.

  • Unsafe Eating Habits - Pets eating non-edible materials can cause digestive upsets and blockages and present a choking hazard.
  • Nipping for Attention - Your puppy nibbling on your fingers may be cute, but if your pup were to chew through a cord, there is a much greater risk of harm. Of course, this is very concerning, and putting a stop to destructive chewing should be a top priority.
  • Weight Issues - Dogs who are bored might not adhere to regular eating and sleeping patterns. Overeating, undereating, and not burning off calories from food can lead to poor weight management. 
  • Hip and Joint Issues - Dogs who lead a sedentary lifestyle are less likely to maintain healthy muscle mass that protects their hips and joints. 
  • Poor Socialization - Dogs that are understimulated could be a little feistier when it comes to playing with their humans and animal friends. This could lead to injury for your dog, you, or another pet in your house.

All of these can lead to serious health issues in your dog. This is why it is crucial to pay attention to your dog's behaviour and note sudden changes or increasingly destructive habits.

You can’t blame your pet for getting a bit grouchy when they spend all day doing nothing, idle hands and all, but you can enrich his routine and allow him to use that pent-up energy for something productive and enjoyable.

Building an active and fun routine can help prevent your dog from finding alternative ways to relieve their boredom.

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How to Relieve Boredom

A lot of bad things can happen when your dog is under-stimulated, fortunately, building a consistent routine is actually pretty simple once you determine what your dog likes to do. 

That may sound a bit silly, and I am not overlooking the fact that we have a tendency to humanize our pets, but they do have preferences when it comes to activities for bored dogs.

Stimulation can be broken down into two categories, physical and mental, and both are very necessary in order to provide a stable routine for your dog.

They could prefer dog mind games or dog food puzzles to group play. Other dogs may only be interested in games requiring physical exercise and agility. It's important to provide your dog with a variety of daily activities that suit their needs and abilities.

 

Physical Stimulation for Dogs

things for bored dogs

We all know that ‘physical stimulation’ is just another way to say ‘exercise’- that thing we all hate to do. But exercise for your pet doesn’t need to be difficult and definitely doesn’t need to involve expensive equipment or a gym membership.

As a dog owner or dog trainer, it is your responsibility to ensure they remain active. From various dog toys to high-energy outdoor games for dogs, choose activities that both you and your dog are comfortable with.

Depending on your dog's abilities, body condition score, energy levels, and mobility, exercise can range from simple activities like daily walks around the neighbourhood to more advanced exercises like agility sports.

For more information, check out this article about the importance of exercising your dog

We always appreciate ambition and goals, but start small and work up to grander ambitions instead of pushing your dog too hard right at the beginning. This way, you can see what your dog is capable of and avoid athletic injuries from overworking their previously inactive joints.

Diet, of course, plays a role in how your dog exerts energy, so understand that increasing energy may mean increasing portions or switching to a more protein or fat-dense food. For overweight pets, it may not require dietary changes, but you should be regularly monitoring your pet's weight as they increase activity.

For more information about weight management, check out Weight Loss Dog Food: Managing Your Dog’s Weight.

Best High Energy Games for Bored Dogs

Here are some great games that you can play at home or in the backyard that will increase your dog’s physical activity without drastically changing their current routines:

Fetch

Fetch is the beloved classic game for you and your pet. Fetch is a great way to encourage continuously active play in short periods, letting their nose work as they sniff out new interests. A five-minute game of fetch for you may not seem too strenuous, but for your dog, especially prey-driven dogs, fetch can be intense.

On top of that, fetch helps you strengthen your bond with little Fido. If you show excitement for the game, then your dog will be more excited about including you in playtime.

Check out our 50 Best Dog Toys to find the perfect tossable toy for your dog to chase.

Walking

Daily walking or running with your dog is a great way to relieve both stress and dog boredom can lead. Regardless of your pace, this outing is both great exercise and an adventure for you and your pet.

Getting out of the house or familiar territory will allow your dog to explore the world in a safe and controlled manner. It provides an opportunity for socialization with people, dogs, and wildlife, and it will help your dog understand their boundaries.

Plus, this is an activity you would do together, which provides some much-needed one-on-one stimulation and bonding for you and your pup.

Flirt Poles

Flirt poles can be another excellent exercise technique for prey-driven and high-energy dogs.

Flirt poles can be found at many pet stores, but they are pretty simple to make yourself if you want something a little more cost-effective. It may not be as durable, but your dog will not care.

Flirt poles are a great way of expending large quantities of energy in a smaller area, like your backyard. The idea is to encourage your dog to catch the “prey” at the end of the rope, but don’t make it easy for them. Spin, lift or flick the toy out of reach to increase your dog’s activity.

To end the game, make sure you let your dog catch the prey and give them lots of praise for a job well done. This method isn’t ideal for low-energy pets or dogs with limited mobility. Remember to start small to determine what your dog is capable of.

DIY Obstacle Courses

Use what you have to create fun indoor activities. Creating an obstacle course using furniture and pillows or running your dog up and down the stairs is a great way to help your pup work out on cold or rainy days.

Check out this blog for some simple and fun ideas for building your own DIY dog obstacle course.

Slower-paced games of indoor fetch are a great way to use the stairs, but make sure that it is safe. Carpeted stairs provide more traction for your dog and will prevent injuries and slipping.

Always take precautions when playing indoors. Move furniture or obstacles that may be in your pet's running path. It will avoid injury but also prevent damage to your house.

For more ideas to increase your dog’s physical activity levels, check out 10 Ways to Exercise with Your Dog.

 

Best Brain Games for Bored Dogs

what to do when dog is bored

Exercise is vital to a happy and healthy lifestyle, but exercising their minds is just as important as exercising their bodies. Keeping your dog mentally stimulated will not only keep them out of trouble, but it will also help them develop and learn.

Mental stimulations can be achieved through a variety of methods, from beginner to advanced, and starting a consistent mental activity routine will be exciting for both you and your pet.

Mental activities will also help reduce excess energy, so it’s great for days when outdoor exercise is not an option.

Zippy Paws SmartyPaws Puzzler

Best Brain Games for Bored Dogs

Dogs may be goofy, but they are very intelligent. Many dog puzzle toys and games may seem too complicated for your dog, but you'll be surprised by how quickly they learn and how persistent they can be with the right motivation. 

Here are some of the best types of dog games for mental stimulation:

Puzzle Toys

Many toys are made to keep your dog thinking and motivated by incorporating food or treats. This is a simple way of providing mental stimulation with an immediate reward for solving the puzzle.

These toys usually require more coordination and logic skills to get to the treats. They often can’t be simply nudged or shaken to loosen the treat; Instead, they must be turned, pressed, or pulled to unlock the prize.

Treat balls are another form of puzzle toy, and although they are not typically very complicated, they can hold a larger quantity of treats allowing for longer playtime. The Kong Wobbler, for example, is weighted on the bottom, requiring a repetitive motion to get the treats out one at a time.

Chew Toys

While no toy is truly indestructible, there are some pretty close contenders. Chew toys are not edible, but they are meant to be durable enough for rougher play, tug, or fetch. Check out our blog on some of the most durable dog toys for extreme chewers for some recommendations.

Always monitor your dog with chew toys, as the materials are not meant to be ingested. If a chew toy is damaged, remove the toy immediately.

A good way to keep your dog interested in their chew toys is to rotate them frequently. After a few days or a week of playing with one toy, remove the toy, and replace it with a new one.

Continue to rotate your toys so that your dog is always excited to see them. In addition, the rotation will help to prolong the life of the toys.

Natural Chews

To replace the habit of destructive chewing, offering long-lasting edible chews are a great way to curb bad behaviours. They satisfy the need to chew, promote better dental health as well as occupy their time.

Not all chews are right for every dog, so never leave your dog unattended with something that could be a choking hazard. Find a chew that is appropriately sized and is tough enough not to be broken up and swallowed in large chunks.

To provide a challenge, offer different types of chews routinely. Switching up the shape and texture of chews will prevent your dog from figuring out how to demolish them as quickly as possible.

Many dogs learn to hold the chew a certain way with their paws so that they can get more leverage with their bite. Changing up your chews will help prevent this familiarity and help each variety last longer.

For more recommendations, hop over to 10 Best Rawhide Alternatives to find natural chews that are safe, tasty, and exciting.

DIY Toys

There are lots of puzzling toys on the market, but just like chews, they should be rotated to allow for variety. This can get pretty expensive.

Try rotating in some of these cool DIY puzzle games to help keep your dog entertained on a budget.

1. Shell Game

a bored dog

I’m sure we’ve all seen this as a classic busker routine. Put a ball under one of three cups, shuffle the cups around and guess which cup the ball is under, except for your dog, you’ll be using treats instead of a ball bearing!

It’s a great way to help your dog learn to pay attention and wait for the right time to act, being prompted by vocal or hand commands. It seems simple enough, but it will take some practice for your dog to understand the sequence of events in this game.

Just show your dog which cup you placed the treats under, mix them up, and ask your dog to indicate which cup he hides the goodies either by pawing the cup or nudging it with his snout. 

2. Re-purposed Recycling

Plastic bottles can be re-purposed to make a fun game for your pet. This method requires minimal effort and zero cost to you, so it's worth a try. 

Grab a water bottle, or juice jug, remove the labels and clean the container thoroughly. Cut a few holes, fill it with treats and screw the cap back on. Your dog will chase and bat the bottle around to knock some of the treats out. 

Empty cardboard boxes can also be used to hide treats, but make sure that they are not eating the cardboard. Be prepared to take the “toy” away if your dog is starting to tear it apart.

3. Muffin Tin Game

things for bored dogs

This is a beginner-level dog puzzle, but it’s a great way to teach your dog to use their noggins to figure out how to get the reward.

All you need is a muffin tin, some tennis balls, and a few tasty snacks. Check out the step-by-step instruction in Easy DIY Dog Toys to Keep Your Dog Busy

Word Association

Dogs can learn approximately 160 words. Beyond basic commands like sit, shake, and stay, that leaves a lot of options for word association. A popular version of this is to teach your dog the names of his toys.

This is a great way to make a game within a game. Before playing fetch, you can teach your dog the word ball. Then ask them to grab their ball and reward them when they pick the right toy.

Or come up with simple fun names for the toys, like Steve or Mike. Keep the words small and simple to start, and make sure you always choose new names for new toys to prevent confusion.

Did you know that dogs can count too? Again keep it simple by using larger treats or toys and teach them 1, 2, and 3. This can be incorpareted into other fun games.

 

Hide and Seek

what to do when dog is bored

This is another simple game that you can change up by using any toys, treats, or simply yourself for a more classic version of hide and seek. Ask your dog to sit and stay. Show him the reward. Let him smell it, too, because dogs hunt by scent.

Then sneakily hide the treat or toy somewhere in the living room. Try not to be too obvious, but don’t make it too complicated either. Start by hiding the prize under a blanket or around a corner while your dog is in a stay position.

When you are ready, say search, find, or some other word that will let him know it’s time to hunt. Once your dog has gotten a knack for the game, start choosing more difficult hiding places, like harder-to-reach areas or a spot in another room where they will have no idea where to begin their search.

Courses and Social Events

A method that may be available to you is groups or organizations that offer classes or get-togethers to help train more advanced mental stimulation techniques. These are great for any dog but are extremely beneficial for high-energy dogs that need extra activities to wear them out.

Agility classes, scent detection, lure coursing, and flyball are all great ways for your dog to stay active and social.

If you are new to dog sports, check out your local dog sport clubs. They may have free trial classes to help you decide if this activity is suitable for your pooch.

 

Appropriate Alone Time for Bored Dogs

a bored dog

Many pets show destructive behaviours when they are left to their own devices. This could be while you're at work, while you're asleep, or even the ten minutes that you are in the shower.

This can be related to separation anxiety in dogs and cats but is often simply a sign of bored dog or under-stimulation.

Teaching your pet how to keep themselves occupied while they are alone will significantly reduce their negative behaviours.

Take some time to show them safe and appropriate activities that they can do by all by themselves. Toys and chews can be an option as long as you choose ones that you know aren’t a potential choking hazard.

One of my favourites for dogs is a stuffed Kong or a similar style of toy. This is a durable rubber toy that can be stuffed with dog-safe peanut butter or food that is both delicious and difficult to get out.

Another option is to freeze broth or canned food in a toy for a longer-lasting reward and a refreshing treat in the summer.

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1-on-1 Time for Bored Dogs

things for bored dogs

Your pet wants to spend time with you. This means it is important to set aside time with them every day.

Simple games and even small amounts of attention show your pet that they are a priority in your life, and in regards to destructive behaviours, that bit of time goes a long way.

Even a simple couch cuddle or some belly rubs while you're relaxing in the evening can be a bonding experience. Find regular activities that you can do together. If you have more than one pet, it’s very important to spend time with each of them one-on-one, if possible.

 

Getting Started

Now that you have the tools to help revive your pet’s activity routine, it’s time to jump in. There is no single right choice for every pet, so take the time to test out a few of these methods to find out how you can engage your pet more.

By using a variety of stimulating methods, your pet will feel loved and energized and stay both physically and mentally stimulated in their environment- ultimately leading to a reduction of undesired behaviours and annoying habits.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to build an enrichment routine for your pooch: 

  • Work At It Every Day - Our pets need structure and routine, so working their exercise routines into your daily schedule will not only make your pet happier but also healthier.
  • Health Matters - Poor weight, poor diet, and a high-stress environment can make sticking to a schedule challenging.
  • Fun and Practical - If you want your dog to look forward to his daily activities, make them fun. Exercise and training can be games when done right. 

Busting Dog Boredom Takes Time

It’s critical to remember not to expect immediate results. As with any lifestyle change, time and patience are required while you transition to a new routine.

Some games and activities may be too intense or too complicated for beginners, so you may find your pet getting frustrated with a challenging puzzle toy. Don't get mad or discipline your dog.

Instead, break the game down into simpler components or just try an easier game. For an activity to provide value, it should be challenging but accessible and fulfilling.

Don’t set impossible goals, instead, choose ambitious goals that are attainable and fun. In time your pet will be better behaved and happier in its environment.

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We want to hear about fun ways that you keep your pet entertained and mentally active. Let us know in the comments below!

Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.

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