t’s not always easy to recognize boredom in children and adults. They may seem fidgety, depressed, or disconnected, depending on the individual.
The same holds true for our dogs. And while our canine friends may not come out and say “I’m bored,” dogs definitely tell us in many ways that they’re under-challenged and not getting enough activity and mental stimulation in their environment.
“Boredom can cause dogs to exhibit destructive behavior such as chewing inappropriate items, digging or excessive barking for attention,” explains dog trainer Diane Silver, founder of To Dog with Love, a blog that focuses on staying healthy and active with your dog. Silver trains and competes in agility with her Havanese, Rocco, so she’s very aware that her energetic dog may become bored away from the agility ring.
As with humans, signs of boredom can vary. “Each dog may exhibit boredom in [its] own personal way,” points out Silver. “For my Rocco, it means climbing up on me and grrring softly—which can escalate into barking—until I give him some attention or play a game with him.”
The slower pace of many winter days can easily lead to boredom, so Silver suggests watching for those signs when the temperature drops. “Just like with people, dogs can get cabin fever. And, if they are getting less exercise than normal due to bad weather, boredom can set in, resulting in unwanted behaviors.”
While dogs like Rocco might approach their owners and exhibit signs of boredom, you can also check on your dog remotely to see if he’s bored—or just resting in your absence. Setting up a pet video monitor allows you to play “I spy” on your pet and see exactly how they are faring in real time when they are home alone says Sandy Robins, pet lifestyle expert. “Often dogs left alone are bored, and that’s when they get up to mischief such as nosing in the trash and chewing the cushions on the couch.”
Whether you’re monitoring your dog remotely or hanging out in the same room, Robins says to look for telltale signs your dog is restless. “Signs of boredom (which is often exacerbated by anxiety) include pacing up and down and incessant barking. Some dogs will even attempt to escape by scratching the back of a door or pulling down a blind. Physical signs can also include chasing their own tail and even chewing on their feet.”
Boredom is nothing to yawn about—but a clue that it’s time to enrich your dog’s environment. “Keep dogs stimulated with indoor interactive toys and games and try to keep up with their exercise routines even in inclement weather,” suggests Silver. “The results with be satisfying for both you AND your dogs!”
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