Is your yard filled with holes? Do you fear for your new couch each time you leave your house? It’s true that dogs enjoy routine, but if they have too much time on their paws, they may resort to barking, chewing, or any number of common destructive behaviors.
Our dogs bring simple pleasures to mind—long naps, bowls full of food and water, and neighborhood strolls. But all dogs are susceptible to boredom, and need plenty of activity to stay mentally and physically healthy. Although we can’t chalk up your dog’s destructive behaviors only to boredom or excess energy—some dogs truly suffer separation anxiety—we can provide enrichment activities to help ensure your dog stays mentally and physically engaged. The next time you are looking to enrich your dog’s life, try one of these five activities recommended by our Cote Animal Hospital team.
#1: Change your dog’s walking route
Wild dogs walk many miles per day, sniffing and scent-marking all the way. Leash-walking your dog can be exciting if you allow them to pause, sniff, and mark—expressing their natural instincts—where they choose. This can be fulfilling, but they need more. So, try something new to make the walk more enriching. Take a different route, get out on some new terrain, drive to a new park, or simply walk around the neighborhood in the opposite direction. All these changes to your dog’s routine can be mentally stimulating and help stave off boredom.
#2: Try a new dog class
Enrolling your dog in a class can be a wonderful way to enrich their environment. Many classes are available, often through the local dog-training or boarding facility or kennel club. Try one of the following classes:
- Nose work
- Rally (i.e., obedience) trials
- Lure coursing
- Barn hunt
- Farm dog tests
- Dock diving
- Field trials
If your dog really loves one of these activities, you can work up to event competition.
#3: Be creative with your dog’s meals
From your dog’s perspective, feeding time may be one of the most exciting times of the day. However, their satisfaction is typically short-lived, since most dogs scarf down their food in a matter of seconds. Instead, lengthen the enjoyment and enrichment by using an interactive feeder or food puzzle to slow down your dog’s mealtime.
Making your dog work for their food, as they would in the wild, can be satisfying and enriching. Try hiding dry food under a few different bowls in the kitchen, or hiding treats in the yard, which will encourage your dog to use their nose, brain, and body to find the rewards. Wet food can be stuffed inside a Kong toy and then frozen, which will really give your dog something to work for.
#4: Socialize your dog
Socialization is fundamental for a happy and healthy dog. The best time is during the puppy socialization window, but all dogs need to experience new situations, people, and places throughout life to help avoid boredom. Dog play dates with dogs with similar play styles and temperaments, trips to the dog park, doggy daycare, a trip to the pet store, or hiking a new trail can also enrich your pet’s life. Always introduce a new experience slowly, gently, and positively.
#5: Put your dog to work
Many dog breeds were bred to work, and have a drive to perform. This doesn’t mean that your dog needs to work as a K-9 police dog, or on a farm with livestock, but it does mean they will be more fulfilled if they have a purpose. Any task or game can be “work” for your dog. For example:
- Train your dog to work with their nose to find specific items in different areas of your home.
- Learning a new “trick” is essentially the same as work for your dog. After a full play time, teach them to “clean up” by putting all their toys in a bin.
- If your dog is a herding breed, teach them to gently gather your other pets in the kitchen for dinner.
- Teach your dog with a high prey drive to guard your yard, and house from pests—they may do this without any guidance from you.
Dogs whose lives are not enriched tend to be bored and engage in destructive behaviors, such as chewing, barking, and digging. If you have questions or concerns about your dog’s behavior or how to provide enriching activities, call the Cote Animal Hospital team to schedule an appointment. We want your dog to be healthy and happy—and definitely not bored.