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Understanding boredom in dogs is an important aspect of responsible pet ownership. Pet Insurance Australia takes a look at the symptoms of boredom with some simple tricks to keep your pet entertained when you are not at home.
Boredom in dogs is one of the most misunderstood conditions affecting the canine population. A bored dog can exhibit many unwanted behaviours including;
- Destructive behaviours
The recent cases of neighbourhood disputes causing dogs to be baited was due to noise problems. Sadly, in many cases, these dogs are bored and in need of some entertainment.
Understanding that for a dog; barking continuously at the world outside the front gate is sheer joy, particularly if other dogs join in! If a dog does not have an enriched environment to spend the day, they can easily become bored. Barking at neighbourhood dogs can quickly become their form of daily entertainment the second you leave the family home, to the headache of your neighbours.
The Importance of Exercise
Boredom can also go hand-in-hand with the lack of adequate exercise. A well-trained exercised dog is much less likely to suffer from boredom during the day. The daily walk is much more than just pounding the pavement and moving the joints. For a dog, sniffing the lamppost or any other doggy-spot is like reading the newspaper. The scents of other dogs and animals is wonderful entertainment, alongside the physical benefits, daily walking can offer your dog a huge amount of release and set them up for a good day at home.
Tips to Combat Boredom
If you suspect your dog is suffering from boredom consider enriching their environment and increasing their exercise levels. Other things to consider are;
- Rotate Toys – have a good collection of ‘home alone’ toys and rotate these daily. This will not only increase the life of your dog toys it will also keep your canine companion interested in playing when you are not at home. The trick is to pick these toys up as soon as you arrive back home and completely remove them from the environment. Consider good quality chew toys with squeakers and crinkles for added excitement. There are also many good toys on the market that are specially designed for bored dogs (tug-o-war on the tree etc).
- Treat Balls – These are wonderful balls designed to give your dog a ‘job’ to do while alone. Just ensure you remove this food from their daily amount so you do not have a case of a happy pudgy pooch! During the summer consider freezing ice-cream containers full of water and a few dog treats. Your dog will lick and push this ice-cube fun around for hours before lazing the day away. KONGs are also a great way to utilize this. Soak a handful of dog biscuits in water and then stuff the KONG and freeze. Slap the hole shut with a tablespoon of peanut butter before giving to your dog as you leave for the day. Change this up also and remove the treatball as soon as you get home allowing your dog to realize that this is a ‘home alone treat’.
- Exercise – this is really important. A good walk before you leave and when you get home can increase your pet’s wellbeing and reduce the risk of boredom. If you have a highly energetic dog, consider joining a dog sport such as agility. Allowing your dog a good off-leash run alongside fetch, frizbee and other fun activities will keep them happy and entertained. A dog that has had a good run in the morning, alongside some home alone entertainment (as mentioned above) will be much less likely to exhibit symptoms of boredom. Training is also paramount. Enrolling in a group session or talk to a professional about some in-home training to help you better understand your dog’s behaviour.
- Enriching Environment – have a good look at your backyard. Is it littered with old worn toys and not much fun activities for your dog to do while you are away? For a dog, your backyard is similar to a TV. Could you imagine watching a re-run of the same show day after day? Enrich your dog’s environment with clever toys, and special doggy areas. Consider encouraging birds into your yard with high bird feeders, and think fun. If your dog loves water a half-clam shell or paddling pool filled with a little water can offer a huge amount of entertainment. If you have a dog that likes to dig consider adding sand to the other half and hiding some treats under the sand.
- Talk to your Neighbours – have a chat with your neighbours and ensure that your dog is not nuisance barking when you are not at home. Many times, owners are completely unware that their precious pup is barking non-stop when they leave the home. Together you can come up with a plan and your neighbour can help alert you to any unwanted behaviour.
- Get Help – if you are concerned speak with your vet, as your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety. This could be triggering the unwanted behaviours as your dog is pining for your company. Alongside training and professional treatment this condition can be radically reduced.