We’ve all come home, excited to see our dogs, only to find pairs of shoes that have been chewed to an inch of their life or table legs that have more teeth marks on them than should ever been seen. What we don’t always immediately realise is that when a dog has done this, it is not because he or she is being wantonly naughty, it is simply because they are bored and have needed a form of entertainment as a release for all the energy that they have.
Here we look at 15 ways to help relieve your dog’s boredom so that your house can remain looking like a home as opposed to a place ruled by your four-legged pet.
While some breeds are brighter than others, dogs are pretty intelligent creatures in the main. By keeping them entertained with interactive games, you can alleviate their boredom and any destructive chewing behaviour that happens as a consequence.
Interactive games can be anything from hiding food at the bottom of a box layered with lots of things on top, waiting for the treat to be found, to making them sit and wait for a treat that is on the floor in front of them.
The mental stimulation of these interactive games is the most important part as they will really tire a dog out. When they are tired they don’t get up to mischief!
Along with designing simple interactive games for your pet dog, simply keeping them busy will do them the world of good when it comes to stopping boredom. By keeping them busy, you will exhaust their playful natures as well as increasing the bond between the two of you which is another way to diminish your doggy’s boredom.
To keep them busy, take them on long walks full of lovely sights and smells but also remember that you can take them on as many errands with you as possible. Take them to a dog-friendly restaurant or pub with you for lunch or dinner, and walk them to school with the kids or around town if you think it is safe enough to do so. (Tying dogs up outside shops is a bit of a doggy no no).
The constant change in the environment is what will keep them amused and interested as well as better trained for being out of the house with people.
Chew toys are a great way of keeping dogs entertained for hours on end. Ones that taste good, those that have a squeaker and ones that make noises when shaken are all examples of chew toys that can keep even the naughtiest of dogs out of trouble.
Don’t forget edible chew toys either so rawhide, teeth cleaning chewies or pigs ears can all be used to great effect to minimise a dog’s boredom when left alone. Caution should always been taken though when leaving a dog with an edible chew toy, or otherwise, as they can be choking hazards.
Your dog’s diet and weight also needs to be taken into account as many edible chew toys can be very calorific. Remember to adjust the amount of food he or she has at breakfast and dinner to make up for this fact. Or simply take them on a very long boredom busting walk!
Stuffed kongs are one of the best ways you can relieve your dog’s boredom. They can be stuffed with lots of different types of dog friendly treats from the smallest of bacon bits at the narrow end to some flavourful pate or specially dog made spread as well as some wet food or even some of their favourite kibble.
A good rule of thumb for stuffing a kong is to put the highest value treat at the bottom so your dog works as hard as possible to lick and eat out all the stuffing that is on top to get to it. This way, he or she won’t leave the Kong alone until they have devoured what they are looking for.
In doing so, you will keep them away from mischievous bored behaviour.
Stuffed Kongs can also be frozen. This is great news as not only can they, therefore, be made in advance, they will also keep your pooch busy for longer.
This can be one of the most tiring for owners, but ball games are a tried and tested method to relieve your dog’s boredom. Once they’ve got the hang of fetch, it is the perfect game to play with them as they will keep running after the ball and bringing it right back to your feet.
If you haven’t got the best arm, try investing in a dog ball thrower. They make throwing a ball so much easier and go so much further. This is the ideal for a game of fetch as it means that your dog is running further and faster for longer periods of time. Remember the ultimate aim for a game of fetch, amongst all other games for dogs, is to tire them out so they are never bored as they don’t have the energy to be!
Before your dog gets the hang of fetch, one idea could be to buy an automatic ball fetcher. It makes life a lot easier, plus they’re brilliant if you are not as physically able as your dog needs you to be at times. They pick the balls up for you so all the hard work is done.
Tug of War
This is a great bonding game as well as an activity that enhances the dog owner relationship while simultaneously exhausting your dog. Care needs to be taken when playing this however not to injure your dog’s teeth and jaw, but most dogs can take a great deal rougher and tumble than we give them credit for in this classic game.
A properly made tug rope is the best item to use to play and it can also be used to play fetch with once you have got hold of it from your jaws.
Some dog trainers maintain that during a game of tug of war with your dog it is imperative to ensure that you, as the owner, always wins the match. If you lose, it means dogs may start to feel they are higher to you in your relationship. For your dog to listen to your commands, it is essential that they know you are the master.
Change Your Walk Route or Routine
This is a good tip for maintaining a healthy dog, let alone one that you want to relieve the boredom from.
Changing your walking route means that they will gain the maximum benefits from your daily outings. They will have more to investigate and more to smell and sniff which will keep them mentally stimulated. This means that you gain the most from your dog’s walk as they are not only physically exhausted but cerebrally tired too.
Another way to make sure they are mentally stimulated is to change when you go for your walks too. As creatures of habit, as humans we all too easily slip into a routine for when to take our beloved pets out for exercise. However, it is better for them to go at different times every day as opposed to sticking to the same hour every morning or evening.
Obviously taking them out for any walk is better than taking them out for none, but if you can, changing when you go is a good tip to implement into your dog’s life.
Do Some Training
One more way to keep them mentally exhausted is to practice training with them regularly. By asking them to sit, stay, heel or come here they are using their brains to concentrate, which not only keeps them out of trouble while you are training them but also results in a tired dog afterward. This keeps them away from destructive chewing behaviour or investigating bins and other parts of the house that they are not meant to.
Training is best done little and often. It’s a great way to further increase the bond between yourself and your pet as well as having the happy benefit of your dog being able to listen to you and your commands. Being able to have them do as you ask is another way to keep them behaving well and away from mischief.
Hide and Seek
Dogs love a game of hide and seek with their owners. It’s a rewarding game for them as well as incredibly endearing for you. All dogs get excited when they find the person they think of as their best friend. Their reactions will keep you interested in this game too.
Keeping it simple is the best way with a game of hide and seek. You need only to have three or four places around the house that your dog needs to come and search for you in for you to see the most benefits from this game.
Be warned – there is often a fair amount of licking that takes place when the dog finds you in his or her excitement.
Give Them a Job
As mentioned before, dogs are far more intelligent than we give them credit for, whatever their breed. Indeed, while some breeds certainly have a better disposition to learn than others, all dogs can be taught a simple task to perform by their master.
These tasks are great to teach dogs as it builds up you relationship with them further and the praise that they will naturally receive from you when they are helpful around the house or garden will make you instinctively happier with them through praise and other positive behaviours.
Plus, it is mentally challenging for them which is what will tire them out to keep out of trouble.
Tasks, like picking up twigs from the lawn and putting them in one place or even hooking things down from the washing line and putting clothing into the basket, are all good ideas.
Play with Other Dogs
Having other dogs to play with is perhaps the best way to tire out a dog. With the combination of 2 or more dogs energy, there is no better activity that will exhaust a dog physically than a bit of good-natured rough and tumble or a classic game of chase.
If you can incorporate playing with dogs into your daily walks, so much the better as your pooch will cover up to 10 times the distance he or she ordinarily will do when just out with you.
Go Somewhere New
As well as keeping your dog mentally stimulated by changing your walking routes or walking routine, going somewhere new with them as much as possible is a perfect method to alleviate their boredom. Again, the newness of the situation will stimulate them mentally which is a much-underrated way of exhausting them which keeps them out of trouble.
Obviously, it pays to do a little research into where you take them first – some places are just not dog-friendly however well behaved and well trained your pooch is. Remember their disposition too. Nervous dogs will not flourish if you take them somewhere noisy and busy, and energetic dogs will probably not be well received if you take them to a place where people are enjoying the peace and quiet.
Swimming is another activity where a little bit of research first is a good idea – some water won’t be suitable for dogs, though they mostly will think all water is great! Some can be dirty and toxic, while other sources can be too free flowing for even strong swimmers to be safe in.
Otherwise, all clean lakes and streams where pond life is not protected are great and should actively be encouraged. Afterward, a little dog shower may be needed, which not all dogs love, but that in itself will tire them out. Often, when the hot or warm water starts rolling over their bodies, they tend to relax and enjoy it.
For toys to continue to work their magic, it is imperative to keep changing them round so that they remain interesting to your pooch. Without changing them regularly, you run the risk that they lose their engaging qualities so that your dog makes his or her own ‘fun’ elsewhere.
We all know that that type of fun manifests itself in chewing shoes, furniture and all manner of other household items that at best they ruin, and at worse get ingested so they need an invasive and expensive trip to the vets.
Try to alternate the type of toy they have too. This way you’ll learn the type of toys that they love the most. Some dogs respond best to tennis balls and little else, whereas others are only interested in toys with squeakers that keep them entertained by trying to dig it out from the insides.
This does not have to be an expensive activity – dog puzzle toys need only be invested in once if good quality and good value ones are purchased initially. Cheap ones tend to be destroyed almost immediately so are a complete waste of money.
Make Them Work for Their Food
Food is one of the best ways to keep a dog interested. So many dog toys come with a bacon or chicken flavouring for this reason. A good way to keep them mentally stimulated is when you give them their daily breakfast or dinner.
Make them work for it by hiding it in places. This can be really simple by hiding it under their dog bowl, or just hiding their dog bowl under a chair that they either have to crawl under and pull out somehow or think about other ways to get to their food.
It’s also a good way to keep their natural instincts up and not expect that their food is easy to come by. It also makes it into a game for them which all dogs enjoy. They’ll be happier and less prone to partake in destructive chewing behaviour.
Try introducing a few of these ideas to your dog’s life and see which ones make the most difference. Dogs will all like different things to different degrees so some ideas listed here will be more successful than others.
Remember that dogs only ever act out when they are bored so keeping them entertained as much as possible is the best way to stop them misbehaving around the house when you are not there.
Most dogs are loyal creatures who will only want to please you so keeping out of trouble will be something they want to do, it’s just something that they have to be shown.