Do you wonder what your dog is up to when you leave them home alone? Or maybe you're home but caught up in a project or work away from your best friend. They’re probably snuggling in bed or sniffing out new corners of the house — but, they could hit a point when boredom sinks in.
Whether you’re gone for long hours or are busy working while at home, your pup can stay entertained while you’re not available to entertain them yourself. Julia Jenkins of Pet Dog Training Today has the scoop on fighting dog boredom.
“Yes, dogs can get bored. Boredom is often the root cause of many behavioral problems in dogs, such as barking, chewing and digging,” Jenkins says. “Dogs need mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy, and enrichment activities can help to provide this.”
If you're wondering if your dog is bored, Jenkins says to look out for these signs:
It’s important to talk to your veterinarian if your pup is constantly showing signs of boredom. According to Jenkins, chronic boredom can lead to health issues like obesity, destructive behavior, depression and anxiety.
There are several ways to keep your pup entertained while you’re at home — think of Jenkin’s list below as a toolbox for your best friend’s fun. Here are ways to ensure your dog has enough mental stimulation:
There are a variety of safe chew toys or interactive games that you can test out with your dog. “Feeding puzzles are a great way to slow down mealtime and give your dog a mental workout,” Jenkins adds. “There are a variety of puzzle feeders available, or you can make your own with a few simple household items.”
“Exercise is important for all dogs, and there are a number of ways to make it fun. Take your dog for walks, runs, or hikes, play fetch in the yard or go swimming together,” Jenkins suggests. In general, dogs should get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, but that time also depends on your pup’s age, breed and health status.
“Some dog breeds may benefit from more mental stimulation than others,” Jenkins adds. “For example, herding dogs, such as border collies and Australian Cattle Dogs, were bred to work all day, so they may need more exercise and mental stimulation than other breeds.”
Teaching your dog tricks or obedience commands can be a great way to stimulate your pup mentally. Be consistent and use toys, treats and praise while teaching them new tricks.
Jenkins suggests DIY enrichment activities, which is when you let your pup explore their natural curiosities (like sniffing) through setting up a treat scavenger hunt for your pup, assembling an obstacle course in your backyard or showing them how to find kibble inside a paper towel roll.
“No matter what enrichment methods you choose, be sure to vary the activities and keep things fresh for your dog,” Jenkins says. “This will help to keep them interested and engaged and prevent boredom. Most importantly, have fun with your furry friend!”
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Adding indoor games to your dog’s daily schedule can help keep them physically and mentally active, too. Here are some Jenkins-approved games for you to try at home:
If your work requires you to leave the house, don’t worry. Jenkins shares some suggestions for keeping your dog entertained while they’re alone:
Food puzzles or treat dispensers are a great way to keep your dog’s mind active, Jenkins says. “These toys can be filled with your dog's favorite treats or kibble, and they will have to work to figure out how to get the food out,” she adds.
Consider signing your pup up for dog daycare. This way, they’ll be able to socialize with other pets and people while you are busy – Jenkins says that most daycare centers plan several activities to keep dogs engaged.
If your dog is best on their own rather than at daycare, consider hiring a dog walker (especially if you can’t make it home to let them out during the day). “A good dog walker will provide your dog with some much-needed exercise and fresh air and may even have time for a game of fetch or a leisurely stroll,” Jenkins says.
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