How do you entertain a bored dog?

Entertaining a bored dog

As much as I want to spend all my time playing with my dog, my work and family life get in the way. I’m sure you’re the same?

Since my work routine changed in 2020 I’ve struggled with a very bored dog while working from home. When we’re out at our workplace our dogs curl up in their favourite spot and rest (my doggy monitor confirms this), but when we’re home they want to play.

Dog boredom busters are one great option, but let’s consider our bored dogs in a little more depth – to make it easier for us to entertain them!

Never tell off a bored dog

Important points first – never tell your dog off for acting up when they’re bored.

As a dog trainer I find many dog owners complain of bad behaviour, when the underlying cause is boredom and frustration.

If you had nothing to do but sit around all day look at the same four walls while your owner was away for hours, you would probably go a little stir crazy and act up, too.

Telling your dog off for suffering boredom is counterproductive, and there are better ways to tackle the boredom and more easily prevent bad behaviour.

Better ways to keep a bored dog occupied

Here are some suggestions for alleviating your dog’s boredom. I’ll concentrate more on techniques while you’re out of work, but many of these techniques will help you achieve more calm while you’re working at home.

For best results use a combination of all techniques.

Sensory stimulation

Dogs do more than just smell or see; they like to use all their senses.

If you crate your dog for an extended period of time, or keep him in a small confined space, then making sure he has lots of different things to stimulate his five senses will really help.

Some dog owners like to leave the TV or radio on all day tuned to a soothing station; this gives your dog something to see and hear. This really works!

WIFI security cameras and monitors are so cheap these days and offer a great way to monitor your dog while you’re out. Most allow you to speak through an app on your phone, or give you alerts when your dog moves around or barks.

That means you can calm your dog whenever they bark at the postie!

If you work long hours, see if you can enlist someone to visit your dog at a regular time. It can be a local dog walker (who can also walk your dog), or a friendly neighbour or teenager.

Provide fun and games

Just because you are not home to be your dog’s playmate doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy some fun and games.

You could hide a small dog treat somewhere within his reach and make him search out for it after you’ve left – this helps your dog get over any anxiety he feels from you leaving..

The best toys I’ve found for relieving boredom are Kong dog toys – particularly the Kong Classics. These cylindrical rubber containers allow you to put your dog’s favourite food inside and make him work to retrieve it. Peanut butter on the inside will keep your dog happy and occupied for hours!

Using a Kong with peanut butter to prevent boredom
Using a Kong Classic with peanut butter to prevent boredom

You can buy Kong Classics for around 10 bucks from Pet Circle (click here), and it’s probably the best bang-for-buck in alleviating boredom.

Pushing a Kong around the house also gives your dog exercise!

Related: Basic and Complex Mental Exercises for Dogs

Room to move

No matter where your dog is during your absence, it’s very important he has enough room to move around.

If you only leave the house for short periods and leave your dog in a crate, then it shouldn’t be too large – just big enough for him to stand up and turn around is best so that he doesn’t soil one end while retreating to the other.

The rule of thumb for a free roaming area is to allow your dog enough space to go off to do his business and have bedding, food, and water in a protected area. Proper space is important to prevent bad behaviour.

Related: Crate sizes / Puppy crate training / Crate training pros & cons / Crate or kennel?

The simple power of a safe place to rest

Does your dog lay in various parts of your home? Sometimes here, sometimes there?

The reason for this might be because they don’t have a “safe and secure” spot to rest, even though you assume they do.

When we research dogs in the wild, we find they almost always sleep curled up nose-to-tail, and often in a nook or “den”. The reasons for this are safety, security, comfort, and protection from the weather.

Our domestic dogs have the same instincts, and even at home can benefit greatly from a cosy spot to rest.

If your dog doesn’t have such a space, they often display signs of boredom and anxiety, so it’s worth investing in a decent calming dog bed.

If he is in a portable kennel, give him something soft to sleep on and perhaps a stuffed toy he can nuzzle.

Related: More on calming dog beds, including how to find the best bed for your dog.

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Gina & David

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