Boredom Busters for Dogs - Helping Keep Dogs in Good Homes
By Dara Ashby
People call me regularly for help with their destructive, bored dogs. Over the course of my many years in rescue, I have collected a fairly-large bag of tricks for helping dogs succeed in their homes. Hopefully this information will help other dog parents. Exercise is great but mental stimulation is just as important for your dog’s health and happiness. Boredom can lead to behavioral problems, destruction, and frustration for both of you. Because of their nature, dogs need opportunities to solve problems and exercise their minds. A bored dog is an unhappy, frustrated dog which leads to you being unhappy and frustrated; chewed shoes, remote controls, unwanted digging, etc. Below are some tried and true things that you can do, to provide mental stimulation for your companion dog.
- Sniffs on walks. When going on walks, let your dogs sniff like crazy. A dog’s nose is like our eyes when we read the newspaper, filling their minds with lots of great neighborhood information. Don’t pull your dog away when they discover a good smell.
- Enrichment lick toys. Invest in enrichment toys that you can stuff or cover with peanut butter, plain yogurt or cream cheese and keep in the freezer, ready to go. A marrow bone, once emptied, can be restuffed with these things listed above and provide hours of challenging entertainment. A Kong can also be used. Lick mats are a great resource also. Spread these with yummy ingredients and keep in the freezer ready to grab. You can find these on Amazon or Petco.
- Foraging toys. Treat dispensing toys, snuffle mats and dog puzzles provide mental challenge and foraging that dogs naturally love to do. Fill these with their favorite small treats or kibble. You can find these on Amazon or at Petco. Also google Sniff Games for dogs.
- Kiddie pool. Buy a plastic kiddie pool and fill with hard plastic (dog safe) balls and hide treats in the pool. Or for the digger dogs, provide an A-OK place for them to dig by filling it with sand and hide treasures (treats) in the pool. You can find these on Amazon or Petco.
- Splash pool. Get a splash pool for hours of entertainment. Many different varieties can be found on Amazon.
- Keep a toy box filled with a variety of different toys and chew bones. Variety is the spice of life for active minds.
- Schedule doggy playdates with a friend or neighbor. Having time with other dogs is critically important for continued socialization and enrichment plus dogs will love you for it. NOTE: If your dog hasn’t spent time with other dogs, follow these steps found here: https://www.animalhumanesociety.org/resource/how-successfully-introduce-two-dogs
- Car rides. Dogs love seeing the world. A nice car ride is a great alternative to a walk, especially on a rainy or cold day. This is a great way to wear them out. NOTE: If you have a dog that gets carsick, check this article out: https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/car-sickness-in-dogs/
- Provide an entertaining window view. Dogs love watching activity. They love sitting in front of a window waiting for you to come home. Keep the curtains open and shades up so pup can watch the world outside.
- Canine Enrichment FB page. If you are on Face Book, join the Canine Enrichment FB page for some great ideas from other dog parents just like you.
- Doggy Day Care. Enroll your dog at a local doggy day care place. Be sure to do your research to make sure it’s a positive, safe place for your dog to go to.
- Group dog training. Enroll you and your dog in a group dog training class. It’s important for you to be with your dog when going to any type of dog training. Learning together helps you form an important bond with your dog. It also gets you out to meet like-minded people and make new friends. Group classes will help build your dog’s confidence. Dog socialization is very important throughout their lifetime, providing many positive experiences. Be sure to use “force free” training classes. Petco, Petsmart, and for those in St. Louis, Greater St. Louis Dog Training Club at https://gsltc.org/ is a great place to check out.
- Dog Agility Clubs. For the Einstein doggies out there, or those that LOVE to climb, leap, herd, and run, joining a local agility club can be awesome for your dog’s brilliant, busy mind and a lot of fun for you as well. For those in St, Louis here is the link for Greater St. Louis Agility Club http://www.stlouisagility.org/