Boredom in dogs: how do we get rid of it?

Your dog starts redecorating as soon as you step outside the door? Can’t get into a meeting without first apologizing for your dog’s upcoming shenanigans? Have to pause your show every five minutes to deal with your dog barking at you?

There’s a good chance your dog is bored.

Here all you need to know!

Signs your puppy or dog lacks stimulation:

As a rule of thumb, a bored dog finds something to do. Unfortunately, these new hobbies rarely please the humans who have to clean up the mess.

Your dog might:

  • Destruction of valuables, furniture or even wall moldings
  • Ask for your attention constantly by barking, biting or jumping on you
  • Show signs of stress, such as panting, excessive grooming, difficulty sleeping, etc.

Is boredom really the source of your dog’s inappropriate behaviors?

It’s important to keep in mind that some of the symptoms listed above could be signs of more serious issues:

  • If your dog destroys your home when you leave, despite applying the advice below, it could be suffering from separation anxiety
  • A dog that barks at noise, strangers, or people who pass outside is more likely to be reactive than bored
  • Excessive licking, grooming or eating objects that have no nutritive value can be a sign of a health problem or allergy

A dog that turns into a demon out of boredom should revert to normal when sufficient activity is offered. If, in spite of all your attempts at fulfilling your dog’s day, nothing changes, you should consult with a professional to evaluate the situation.

How do I fix my dog’s boredom problem?

Fake “solutions” to avoid:

  • Adopting a second dog: Many people think that’s the perfect solution for boredom or anxiety issues. While it can very rarely help, the more likely outcome is that you will now have two destructive, bored, anxious dogs to deal with.
  • Punishing or reprimanding the dog when it does something bad: What is likely going to happen is that your dog will find hidden activities to pass the time. Trust me, a surgery to remove half a dozen eaten socks is a not-so-fun but probable outcome to this “solution”.

What does work:

There are many options to increase your puppy’s activity. You’ll likely have to try a few things and combinations to find what works best for you and your dog.
Getting rid of boredom is a trial and error process.

3 types of stimulation to get rid of boredom:

Physical Stimulation:

  • Take longer walks
  • Run with your dog
  • Play tug or fetch
  • Agility, Freestyle or a pulling sport such as Canicross

There are a ton of ways to physically exhaust your dog and entice them to sleep once you get home. Sports have the added advantage to also include mental stimulation!

Chewing:

Chewing is a primary need for dogs and puppies.

Offering your dog things to chew on that aren’t your furniture will focus this need on top of adding to your dog’s daily activity.

Go for natural options such as:

  • bully-sticks,
  • beef ribs
  • antlers

Avoid rawhide, which tends to contain many chemicals that can cause health issues, and always buy things that are size appropriate and safe for your dog.

If you live in Montreal, we recommend Pawse boutique, that only sell quality and healthy products, on top of being really good at helping you find the right thing for your pup!

And if you dog actually enjoys destruction, provide a safe and acceptable option from time to time. A box with treats or its meal hidden inside, once in a while, could satisfy your dog’s need for chaos.

Mental stimulation:

This type of activity is far more vast and effective than the others. It can be as easy as small changes to your routine, or complex as picking up a sport. It’s important to know all your options, so we made an entire separate article about this topic.

Be careful not to only rely on mental work, though! You want a balance between these three needs. Even if it’s not perfect every day, try to have a weekly routine that offers a bit of everything!

When you have to leave for work:

If you don’t work from home, make sure your dog is tired before you leave.

  • Prepare chewing and mental stimulation toys for your dog and give them to your dog before you leave, don’t leave them out permanently!
  • As much as possible, do your longest and most stimulating activity in the morning rather than the evening.
  • A dog walking service can help tremendously, cutting the day in half for your dog. Check our Resource page if you need a recommendation for Montreal.

If you work from home:

Still try and do your big activities before the start of your day, but use your interactive toys and chewing options in a more strategic manner.

Give your dog something to do when:

  • You have a meeting that starts soon
  • Your dog is playing by itself
  • Your dog is calm and is not trying to get your attention

This way, you’re teaching your puppy that leaving you alone pays.

The gist of boredom:

  • Boredom in dogs can lead to destruction, barking, jumping, and other undesirable behaviors
  • You can help keep boredom at bay through chewing, mental or physical exercise
  • Time your dog’s stimulation with moments you need them to be calm: before leaving for work, before meetings, before guests arrive for a dinner at your home, etc.

There you have it! The perfect recipe to solve your dog’s boredom and have them be calmer during the day! Give your dog a two or three weeks before you can start to see effects. An energy build up will likely take more than 24 hours to clear. If you’re still having issues after a few weeks, get in touch with us.

written by Stephen Fiset, dog trainer

Mis à jour le January 1, 2024