Yes, dogs can become bored, and that is usually when behaviour problems can occur. Just like children, dogs need environmental enrichment to stimulate their minds and occupy their time. Although this might sound complicated, it actually just means that you need to spend time with your dog and do activities to stimulate him.
The various dog breeds need different activities and levels of activities, and their preference regarding toys and chews also differ. Retrievers may like to play fetch, while Terriers usually like tug toy games or to dig.
Pet dogs, on average, spend less than 15 minutes per day eating, because they do not have to forage for food. Due to our busy schedules, most of us cannot afford to keep our dogs occupied throughout the day. The problem with most dogs who have been bred for a specific purpose such as hunting, guarding and herding, is that they will get bored if they are not kept sufficiently occupied. This can result in behavioural problems when they have no outlet for their energy and stamina.
- Go for a walk
To go for a walk not only provides exercise for you and your dog, he also gets the opportunity to sniff and smell, which provides mental stimulation for your dog. This is one reason why your dog should get off the property at least once a day. Unless you have a very active dog, this walk doesn’t have to be a long walk.
When your dog is less than six months old, the walk shouldn’t be longer than 15 minutes. As your dog is still young, you don’t want to over-exercise him and possibly damage his growing joints. Ideally, until the age of 18 months, keep the walks and jogs short. Rather go for two short walks a day than one long walk.
2. Chew that toy
Chewing toys provide for your dog’s basic need of chewing on a daily basis. These can be hooves, ostrich bones, sinews or rawhide. Always supervise your dog when you give him a chew toy, as some dogs have the power to chew through some of the toughest toys in a couple of minutes. Also never feed your dog cooked bones. To prevent your dog from becoming bored with his chew toys, rotate them regularly by packing away some of the toys. If he gets a different selection of chew toys every day, chances are less for him to become bored.
3. Digging up the garden
Everybody understands the frustration when your beloved pet digs up your lovely flower bed, but digging is a natural instinct for dogs. Some breeds dig more profusely than others, like Terriers. A solution to this problem is providing your dog with a digging area where he can dig to his heart’s content.
The digging area will look similar to a child’s sand pit in a safe area in the garden. Hide various items in the sand that your dog will find interesting, such as hooves, biscuits and his favourite toys. He will initially need encouragement to dig in the sand pit. If he digs elsewhere, you can distract him by calling him and then redirecting him to his own sand pit.
4. Continuous barking
Most dog owners can sense what their dog is trying to tell them in the way they bark. We know when he wants to warn us against something, or whether he is asking for food. We also get annoyed when a dog barks insistently, whether it is our own dog or the neighbour’s dog. Although we can’t do much about the neighbour’s bored dog, we can do something about our own dog’s continuous barking.
Firstly, we have to understand that barking is natural for dogs, and that they need a little bit of barking time during the day. But when the barking gets out of hand, distract him by calling him inside with a light-hearted tone of voice. Once inside, praise him for coming inside. If he is barking out of boredom, occupy him with something else, like a chew toy or some playtime.
5. Interesting feeding
Instead of using the same bowl for your dog’s food, feed him in more interesting ways where he has to work for his meal, thereby providing mental stimulation. You can scatter his food on the grass for him to find, or place food in small containers and hide them in different places in the garden. Always keep the safety of your dog in mind, and never create dangerous situations for your dog.
A daily play session of at least 10 minutes with your dog will strengthen your bond and will provide mental stimulation. You can play all sorts of games with your dog, play with squeaky toys, ropes, balls or frisbees. A game of hide and seek is one game that most dogs love. Your dog will love spending time with you, which will help you in training him.
7. Active bodies
Not only do you want to keep your dog active, you can also make use of training methods, such as clicker training, to exercise his brain. Activities such as agility, canine freestyle or doggie dancing, carting and trick training will keep your dog’s mind busy and thereby stimulate him.
The bottom line is, as part of being a responsible pet owner, you have to spend time with your dog on a daily basis, and you also want to keep his mind stimulated with different activities to prevent him from getting bored and ultimately getting into trouble.