How to Know if Your Dog Is Bored
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If you see your dog doesn't have their usual levels of excitement or generally seems out of sorts, it is important to remember this could be due to a physical health issue. In this case, it is important to observe for clinical symptoms and take them to a veterinarian if you see anything indicating illness or disease. In many cases, the reason for our dog's change in behavior could be due to boredom. Although we may think we are providing appropriately for them, every dog is an individual and will need certain levels of stimulation to avoid being bored.
At AnimalWised, we explain how to know if your dog is bored. We find out the most common signs a dog is bored to see if you recognize them in your dog's behavior.
Is my dog bored?
Some dogs bore easily while others are perpetually entertained by anything which enters their environment. There are various reasons for this which are themselves dependent on certain factors. Generally speaking, a dog becomes bored when they are insufficiently stimulated both physically and mentally. The following factors influence a dog's level of boredom:
- Breed: while it is not the most important factor, it is true that some breeds tend to require more stimulation than others. For example, the Border Collie is considered the most intelligent dog breed. They also have high levels of stamina and energy. If this breed does not receive the right level of exercise, training and education, they will develop behavioral problems. This is the same for every dog, but to varying degrees.
- Exercise: a dogs need for exercise will depend on many factors such as their mobility, state of health or metabolism. When a dog does not have their exercise needs met, they will become frustrated and bored. This boredom will manifest itself in the behavioral problems we detail below. Some dogs will need to be engaged in special dog sports such as canicross to meet their exercise needs.
- Training and education: we don't need to train our dog for our own enjoyment, we need to do it to help our dog lead a happy life. This includes teaching them the boundaries and rules they need to respect when living in the domestic environment. It will also involve keeping them cognitively stimulated to avoid boredom.
- Lack of attention: canines are social animals and will need to have the right level of interaction with others. This will depend on the individual. For example, some dogs are very social and will greet anyone they meet enthusiastically. Others are wary of strangers and may only bond closely with a small number of people. Regardless, they will need the right level of attention for their own needs. Lacking this attention can lead to boredom.
- Death of a family member: sometimes a dog loses the right kind of attention due to the death of a family member, whether they are human, canine or otherwise. Dogs form strong bonds and can grieve when they lose someone special. Most will be able to adjust to a new family dynamic, but the loss of their special mate can lead to them becoming more easily bored.
Now we know the reasons why a dog is bored, they can help us know if it is affecting our dog. We will know this by looking at the following signs of boredom in dogs.
1. Compulsive behavior
When a dog is bored their mental well-being is disturbed. So, it is possible that they show some changes in their behavior with the purpose of stimulating them self to keep the mind distracted. This compulsive behavior in dogs manifests in what are known as stereotypies. These are repetitive movements or actions with no apparent purpose. They do this to vent frustration and energy, similar to how a bored person might rock back and forth.
Among the most well-known compulsive behaviors is for a dog to chase their tail constantly, but there are other stereotypes that can also manifest in a bored dog. These can include the dog chasing shadows, excessive licking of an area or chewing everything in sight. These occur in acute cases of boredom, so it is important to determine the reason why the dog is bored.
It is also important to note that some of these behaviors can be confused with physical health symptoms. For example, a dog excessively licking their paws could be due to a traumatic injury.
2. Destructive behavior
Destroying property is a common way we can know how to tell if a dog is bored. Dogs need to be stimulated mentally and physically, otherwise boredom can lead them to bite different kinds of household objects. This is especially true of hyperactive dogs or those that generally need to release a lot of energy. Such dogs need more exercise to release said energy, developing boredom if they don't.
If your dog spends a lot of time alone at home and does not receive the physical exercise they need to feel good, it is very possible, you will find damage to your property. With this in mind, it is important to note that boredom is not the only reason a dog becomes destructive. A more common issue is separation anxiety in dogs, an issue that occurs when a dog is over-attached or does not receive sufficient attention.
3. Excessive barking or howling
A dog lacking in stimuli and motivation can show numerous behavioral traits that we may not have seen before. Although a healthy dog will bark or make various noises for many reasons, a bored dog is prone to bark excessively. They do so because they are demanding the attention they do not otherwise receive. They may even be fine when we are around, but the dog will bark all night when they don't receive enough attention.
Any change in the usual behavior of our pet should alert our attention. Each behavioral problem may be influenced by boredom, but it is important to know it is usually multifaceted. For example, they may be easily bored, but they may also have experienced trauma in the past which makes them feel insecure in certain situations. It is important for caregivers to ensure they are treating all of these potential issues.
Disobedience is a trait that can easily occur when a dog is bored. Although it usually occurs in all breeds of independent character and great intelligence, it is particularly prominent in certain breeds such as the aforementioned Border Collie and the Siberian Husky. We may even think we are providing sufficient levels of training, but we are simply not meeting their needs by making the tasks either too simple or too complicated.
Although engaging in training and education can help alleviate boredom in dogs, when the animal is sufficiently bored in affects the bond with their guardian. They may no longer trust that their guardian will provide appropriate stimulation, so they don't feel compelled to obey even basic dog commands. In these cases, we may need the help of a canine ethologist or dog trainer to help get us back on track.
Boredom can lead to depression in some dogs. This is manifested by lethargy, sadness, tiredness and changes in appetite, among other symptoms. Whenever a dog is down, it is important to find out what causes this depression. It is possible that boredom is one of them. Remember that your dog needs your time and care.
If we see our dog is depressed for seemingly no reason, we need to ask is my dog bored? If we answer in the affirmative, we should
How to relieve boredom in dogs
As we have seen, there are various reasons a dog is bored and manifestations of their boredom. As their caregiver, it is our job to determine the cause of their boredom and address it. The following are some of the most important ways you can cure boredom in dogs:
Give them plenty of exercise
Dogs must be mentally and physically stimulated on a daily basis. The frequency of walks and the extent of strenuous exercise will depend entirely on the individual dog. If walking is insufficient, some dogs will need more strenuous exercise. For this reason, it is important to know whether you can meet a dog's exercise needs before adoption.
When dogs are young, the socialization period seriously influences their behavior when they mature. If a dog is insufficiently socialized, they can become bored easily. This means socializing them with other dogs, people and environments. While it can prove a little more difficult, we can socialize adult dogs as well as puppies. We need to do so by using positive reinforcement and avoiding counterproductive scolding.
Provide new toys and accessories
It is important to note that simply giving new toys to a dog won't necessarily cure a dog's boredom. However, we can use new toys and other accessories to engage with them more during play sessions. We can also leave them around the home when we are away to reduce separation anxiety. We should also rotate their toys so they don't get bored with one thing.
Make mealtimes fun
Use a kong toy for dogs to prolong feeding times and give your dog a challenge. Ethologists usually recommend filling the Kong with various types of food and treats to mix it up. You can also use other types of intelligence games which use food or even slow-feed dog bowls to keep them engaged.
Introduce clicker training
Clicker training your dog can be used for training new behaviors and rewarding ones you didn’t even ask for. The clicker is a behavior enhancer. The goal is that every time the dog hears the ‘click’. they understand that they did something well. This method of positive reinforcement encourages dogs and tires them out. A tired dog is not a bored dog.
Finally, if you are unsure what to do about your bored dog, you should speak to a canine ethologist or dog trainer. They will be able to asses your dog's specific needs, find the root of their boredom and implement specific treatments to help them overcome their boredom. We can then continue to use their advice one the sessions are complete. You can also use the tips we detail in the video below to keep your dog entertained at home:
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