5 Signs Your Dog Is Bored
Life can’t be one long dog park visit, but does your dog understand that? Probably not. The reality is that many dogs stay at home while their people are at work during the day. Rather than whine around the house complaining there’s nothing to do, your home-alone dog may be stirring up trouble.
It’s important to note your dog is not doing this out of spite. Spite is a very human trait, but not a canine one. Dogs are very honest creatures. Your canine pal isn’t going to sweetly kiss you goodbye when you head off to work in the morning, just to start plotting against you before your car even leaves the driveway. It’s just that when he’s bored, his choices to amuse himself are probably not going to match yours. Here are five typical signs your dog is bored, as well as what to do about it.
Several things can cause barking but boredom is a common culprit. Your pup may bark at the world outside his window, whether it’s at the mailman or a lizard; a dog left in a yard may bark at the neighbours; some dogs will howl—in any case, it’s not a good recipe for neighbourly relations!
2. General Mischief
Come home to an upended kitchen trash bin? Are your unmentionables scattered throughout the living room? Is the lamp knocked over? A bored dog can create his own fun by turning your house into his own private amusement park.
3. Destructive Chewing
It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent $300 in dog toys. Dogs are built for chewing, and a bored dog is happy to put his teeth on whatever’s in reach, so coming home to a tattered rug, chomped-up sofa or even a hole in the wall isn’t that unusual. To your dog, chewing is fun! This can happen at any age, but prime times are when your puppy is losing his puppy teeth at about 16 weeks, and again when his back molars come in at about seven months.
You may think your yard is a paradise for your home-alone dog, but dogs quickly get bored when left by themselves in the same old enclosed space, indoors or out. A jailbreak can begin innocently enough with your dog following his nose or chasing something he sees, leading him to dig under or jump over your fence. He has a grand adventure; it’s so much fun, it becomes a repeat escape.
5. Hyper Greetings
Your dog should be happy to see you when you get home, but are his greetings over the top? Does he jump up, zoom around the place, ignore you when you cue him to sit or settle, or generally act like a crazy beast? If he’s been bored all day, having his favourite person come home could cause all that pent-up energy to explode.
How to Keep Your Dog Happy and Engaged
The goal is to channel your bored dog’s energy into healthier outlets. Ever heard the adage a tired dog is a good dog? Give your dog plenty of exercise each day. Taking him for a walk is good mental stimulation, but unless your dog is very senior, it’s not near enough cardio exercise to get him tired. Play games of fetch, get him chasing a flirt pole toy, or arrange for puppy playdates. An exuberant bout of playtime with a well-matched canine friend can tire your dog out good and quick.
Put all but four or five of your dog’s toys away, swapping them out each day for a new selection. This will keep them fresh for your dog. Ideal toys are interactive, such as ones you stuff with food your dog has to puzzle out. Perhaps skip the dog dish and feed your dog out of interactive toys altogether—a dog that is chasing a ball that dispenses kibble is not one that is interested in tearing up your shoes or tipping over the trash bin.
If your dog is chewing things he shouldn’t while you’re gone, he has too much freedom. Crate training him will keep both your belongings and your dog safe and secure, as he could otherwise easily eat something that could hurt him. Just be sure he gets plenty of exercise outside the crate.
You may also want to consider a quality doggie daycare or hiring a credentialed petsitter or dog walker to come a few days during the week. Or, if possible, petition your office to make at least one day a week dogs-welcome. And don’t forget reward-based training classes. A well-trained dog is a joy to have in your home. Every minute can’t always be exciting for your dog, but making a plan to address home-alone time can help keep your dog’s boredom at bay, assuage your guilt, and keep your house in one piece!
Teoti Anderson, CPDT-KA, KPA-CTP, is a professional dog trainer and author of The Dog Behavior Problem Solver, Ultimate Guide to Dog Training, Puppy Care and Training, and more. She hosts the Get Pawsitive Results radio show on Pet Life Radio and educates pet parents and other trainers on canine behaviour through popular webinars and workshops.
5 Boredom Busters For The Latchkey Dog
Dogs that are bored get into mischief, so give your canine friend something to occupy his brain and body while you’re away to help prevent trouble.
#1 Food-Stuffed Toys
Get a durable hollow toy such as a Kong. Mix your dog’s kibble with peanut butter or cream cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed bananas or plain yogurt. Stuff the toy with the mixture and give it to your dog as a puppy pacifier when you leave the house. If your dog gets really good at emptying these toys, try stuffing them then freezing them so that it presents more of a challenge. Busy work with a built-in reward!
#2 Durable Chew Toys
Give your dog an outlet for his instinct to chew by providing bully sticks or durable chew toys. Be sure the toy or chew stick is the appropriate size for your dog. If it's small enough to fit entirely in his mouth, it’s too small.
#3 Scavenger Hunts
Before you leave the house, hide food-stuffed toys and treats throughout the area of the house your dog will be in while you’re gone. Help him find the first couple to start the game until he gets the hang of it.
#4 Music or TV
Put on the TV or radio for your dog. The sound may also provide the bonus of masking the outdoor noises that cause an alarm barker to sound off.
#5 Surprise Visits
Do you have a friend, neighbour or family member who can come by during the day once in a while for a visit? If not, consider hiring a professional pet sitter to check on your dog and give him some extra playtime and exercise.