Just like us, our dogs don’t like to be bored. When left to their own devices, many dogs will come up with activities to entertain themselves… and these may not be things that you approve of! My oldest dog likes to check the counter for snacks and sort my recyclables, while my young dog prefers creating abstract art with the items left on top of my dresser, or shredding entire rolls of paper towels.
Some more dramatic examples of bored dogs taking things into their own paws are a friend’s Border Collie who tore a hole in her wall and a Great Dane who gleefully removed the stuffing from the biggest toy ever — her owner’s couch.
While these bloopers may make for funny stories, ideally we should try to avoid them. Confining your dog to a part of the house where he can’t get into too much trouble is a good start, but there are also other ways to make sure that your dog is happy and busy. Here are some tips to keep your dog entertained:
1. Keep Dog Boredom Away With Exercise
A tired dog is a happy dog. Take your dog for a long walk before you leave the house, or play a rousing game of fetch. High-energy breeds, such as German Shorthaired Pointers or Siberian Huskies, who were designed to work at their jobs all day, need plenty of exercise to keep them happy. Breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and French Bulldogs, who were developed as companions, don’t need as much.
Your dog’s exercise needs will also vary with age ; adolescent dogs have lots of energy to burn, while senior dogs get tired after only a little exercise. Giving your dog plenty of exercise will stop him from bouncing off the walls and encourage him to take a long nap when you leave the house.
As well as physical exercise, you can exercise your dog’s brain by practicing commands and tricks that he already knows and teaching him new ones. Training sessions may not be physically strenuous, but mental exercise is often even more effective at tiring out dogs.
2. Provide Dog Chew Toys And Bones For Enrichment
Most dogs love food, so we can use that motivation to keep them occupied. Try stuffing a toy or a bone with peanut butter or other treats so that your dog has to work to get the food out. Chewing is a natural behavior, so your dog will love having toys and bones that he is allowed to chew on.
For an extra challenge, freeze treats and peanut butter inside your dog’s bone overnight to make a tasty popsicle for your dog to enjoy. Frozen goodies are especially perfect in the summer, and there are many recipes available online for frozen dog treats that your pup will enjoy!
3. Give Your Dog A Scavenger Hunt
Hide some of your dog’s favorite toys and treats throughout the house so he can search them out while you’re gone. Mix easy hiding places, like on the floor or in your dog’s bowl, with more difficult spots, such as behind the couch or under pillows on your bed. Hiding places can challenge your dog, but be fair so that he doesn’t get frustrated. For example, when putting a toy under the couch, make sure that your dog will be able to actually reach it.
4. Offer Your Dog A Mental Challenge With Puzzle Toys
My dogs absolutely love puzzle toys! For food-driven dogs, choose a toy that you can put treats inside of so that your dog has to work to get them out. Some toys randomly distribute food when rolled, while others require your dog to lift lids or pull tabs to access the hidden treats. Choose a toy with a difficulty level appropriate for your dog, and if he gets bored with that one, you can pick another that is a little more challenging.
For dogs who prefer playing with squeaky toys, there are toys that have smaller squeakies inside for your dog to pull out. Help him learn the game initially by pulling one of the small toys partway through the opening, but he will soon master the art of getting them out.
Any time that you are leaving a toy with your dog unsupervised, make sure that it doesn’t have small or breakable parts that your dog could damage or swallow. My oldest dog gets pretty rough when searching for food, so for her I use sturdy toys made of thick plastic that can handle being knocked into walls or picked up.
5. Check In On Your Dog Virtually
Use a webcam or pet camera with a talking feature that will allow you to speak to your dog. These can be great fun because they allow you to check in on your dog throughout the day, and may reveal some of his secrets! You can then tell your dog how wonderful he is or encourage him to look for another hidden toy. Some doggy webcams even have a feature that allows you to give your dog a treat remotely.
A slightly lower-tech version of this is to call your home phone and leave a message for your dog on your answering machine. This is an easy way to let your dog know that you are thinking of him and will be home soon.
6. Encourage Visual Stimulation
Dogs are naturally territorial and love to survey their domain. Allow your dog access to a window that he can look out of during the day to watch the neighbors or any local wildlife. For low windows or glass sliding doors, you can put a dog bed close by for your dog to lay on.
If your dog gets overexcited and barks a lot at pedestrians or animals, choose a window with a view that won’t overstimulate him. My young dog will watch out the window for hours so that she is ready just in case a chipmunk goes by!
7. Get Your Friends In On The Dog Fun
If you have a friend in the area who likes your dog, you can invite him or her to stop by your house occasionally to visit with your dog. This arrangement is perfect for puppies or senior dogs who might need extra trips outside during the day, and it is also good socialization. Even if your friend doesn’t stay long, the visit will still break up the monotony of the day for your dog.