Are we there yet? Mom I’m bored, there’s nothing to do! These expressions of boredom will never be SPOKEN by a dog but once you begin to understand a dog’s body language and watch their behaviour, you will be able to spot when your dog is showing you it has an attitude of boredom.
Some of you may be surprised that dogs even have the mental aptitude to become bored: isn’t this a human thing? As we’ve discussed in previous articles, dogs need mental stimulation. Back in the day when dogs had to scavenge to survive, there was always stuff to do and, living in a pack, meant there were duties to perform. Nowadays the need to scavenge has largely been taken away and the packs, if any, are generally a lot smaller. With many urban dogs, in particular, being left for long periods by themselves, boredom can set in on a regular basis.”But don’t dogs just sleep during the day?” I hear you ask. They may well sleep but not always because they are tired: often it’s a way of passing the time because they have found nothing else to do to occupy their minds.
So what are the signs of boredom to watch for?
•Lethargy: your dog seems to be lying around a lot with no particular interest in moving, even when you offer to play. Even when walking, there is no zip in the stride. If this continues for an extended period there may be an underlying medical reason which needs checking out.
•Getting into trouble: as a way of breaking their boredom, dogs may resort to chewing furniture or digging into flower pots inside the house, creating a mess everywhere.
•Barking: because dogs are pack animals and desire the company of other dogs and/or humans, they may resort to barking as a way of expressing their boredom. Barking is one of many ways dogs communicate and, in the case of boredom, are signalling through the pitch and volume of the bark that they are not happy and would like company.
•Escaping: as a way of breaking their boredom, dogs may hatch plans to escape from their immediate surroundings. Maybe they’ve realized that the lock on the door isn’t as secure as you thought it was or the crate they are being kept in has an escape route. You may have a Houdini dog living in your house!
•Hyper-excitement: when you do finally arrive home, you may expect a friendly greeting but hyper-excitement in the form of racing around the house or excessive jumping may well indicate that your dog has been bored and is now ready to burn off some of the nervous energy that’s been building during the day.
So how do you conquer boredom for your dog? Try putting a few different toys out for your dog so that he/she gets a variety of toys rather than the same ones every day. Rather than just giving treats to your dog, make them work for them by using dog toys that dispense treats only after your dog has “cracked the code”. Some dogs enjoy background music or watching the TV as a distraction. If you know you’re going to be away from the home for a number of hours, try finding someone who can pop in to see your dog once or twice a day. As well as seeing another human, this will allow the dog to be let out to pee which means they also have a change of scenery for a while. When walking your dog, vary the route.
We all want the best for our furry friends. Get creative and drive out boredom