For most dogs that live either inside a house or in a fenced area, boredom will be the biggest behavioral problem, especially when the family is not directly interacting with the dog. Just being in the area with the dog is not the same as interacting with the dog and this is an important consideration for dog owners to keep in mind. This will also depend very much on the breed as well as the individual dog's temperament and personality. Some breeds are very happy just finding a quiet corner to sit and observe the family, whereas others need to be in close contact with the family to be satisfied. This is why it is so important to learn about the requirements for the breed before choosing a dog, plus it is also important to watch the puppy or dog interact to learn about its own personality and how closely it matches the typical breed temperament.
As a general rule of thumb smaller dogs have been bred for human companionship and will need more intense, frequent and direct human contact to avoid feeling bored. Larger working breeds will need less direct contact although most still prefer to be close to the family as opposed to away from humans. Some dogs are true pack animals and are fine without a lot of human interaction provided they have other dogs to play and socialize with. Typically the hound and hunting dogs are more inclined to accept the company of other dogs as a substitute for human interaction. Some of the hounds and dogs that are raised together from puppies will also bond very closely with other dogs and will keep each other company and provide entertainment and exercise, but will still need human interaction on a regular basis.
When a dog is bored, regardless of his or her size or breed, they tend to find outlets for their energy and boredom. These outlets are typically the destructive behaviors that result in hundreds of dogs per year being turned into shelters and rescues due to their destructive behaviors. In more cases than not this could have been prevented if the owners had just matched their lifestyle with the correct breed or dog or rearranged their schedule to provide more time with the dog or puppy.
Just like with people, dogs that are bored are despondent, lack enthusiasm and may also become depressed and non-compliant. The typical boredom behaviors that owners will note is chewing, digging, barking and even urinating or messing in the house. These behaviors may be seen in combinations or it may just be one particular behavior. Most breeds will typically start with barking, which can really be an issue in apartments and residential areas. Digging is another serious issue as the dog will get out of the yard and run the streets, possible being killed or injured in traffic or even being injured by other dogs.
Chewing and destroying items poses more of a problem than just a monetary loss and a big mess for the owners. It can also cause choking and stomach and bowel perforations in the dog, often resulting in death.
What Can I Do?
The good news is that with a bit of management, effort and cooperation between all the family members it isn't hard to find ways to prevent your dog or puppy from feeling bored. The biggest issue with bored dogs is to give them something appropriate and entertaining to do when you are not home, or try to ensure that the dog is left alone for the minimum amount of time per day.
Some simple and easy strategies for keeping your dog from becoming bored include:
Increasing the structured activity time for the dog just before you leave the house. This means getting up a few minutes early to play a good, long game of fetch, take the dog for a long, interesting walk, or even start your dog on a jogging routine. This does NOT mean letting your dog out into the backyard on his or her own. Most dogs will just do a quick trip around, go to the bathroom, then come and sit on the back step waiting to get back inside. You may want to take them for a walk or some structured exercise then let them spend some time outdoors before you have to leave. If the dog stays outside when you are gone, letting them spend some extra time in the house with you may keep them busy until you leave.
Add lots of toys to their area. This means buying a variety of good quality, durable dog toys that are safe to be left with the dog when unsupervised. Toys like Kongs, nylon chew bones, various types of balls and other rolling and moving toys are a great idea. Be careful if leaving meaty bones and be sure to check that they are large and will not become a choking hazard for the dog before they can be removed. Although many people leave the leather chews for dogs, these can also be a choking hazard as the chewed material tends to form a sticky ball or mass that can lodge in the throat.
In some cases it may be possible for a family member to come home for lunch or just to take the dog for a quick, short walk throughout the day. A neighbor or friend may also have time to do this, which can really help break up a boring eight hour day of sitting around the house for the dog.
Leaving a radio or television on for the dog is sometimes recommended, although some dogs don't seem to respond to having the additional noise, especially if this is part of the background noise in the house at all times.
If you dog is going to be left alone during the day, consider getting another puppy at the same time that can be a companion dog. This must be carefully considered as some breeds do well with other dogs while others do not.
Preventing boredom in your dog is something that everyone has to work on. Spend as much time as possible when you are home interacting with the dog and keep times away short or consider taking the dog with you if at all possible.
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