There are many dog owners who have to leave their pets at home at some point. Some doggies may stay at home while their owners are out at work, and this may vary from being in a self-contained pen, having the roam of the house (including your bed!) or outside in a run or enclosed garden. I also realize there are some owners who don’t leave their dogs alone, but these people are maybe lucky enough not to be working, or the there are two owners who work at different times.
I know lost of owners who fall into both these categories, and whilst some may think it’s not alright to leave a dog alone during a work day, I think it balances out as these people tend to do more in a shorter space of time. For example, one or two really long walks or outings in the morning, or at night, or around whatever work times they have.
Whether you are at home most of the time with your dog, or leaving your dog for periods of time, they can get bored in either scenario! But how would you know of your dog is bored? There are some real tell-tale signs, so keep reading to see what these are. We’ll also cover further down, what you can do to if you think your dog is bored.
The 5 Signs of Boredom – it’s all in the behavior!
Believe it or not, your dog will reveal if they are bored through their behavior. There are many different signs that will become apparent if you know what to look for. These signs can all happen whether you are in the house and with your dog, or completely away somewhere else. I’m going to take you through different types of behavior that suggest boredom, explaining how they might manifest in your dog.
Most dogs have a little bit of mischief about them, and we all like to say this is part of their personality. I believe this is true, and it’s part of what makes owning a dog so much fun. Just look at this example below – these sorts of things make us laugh and brighten our day…
However, if the mischief starts to escalate beyond what your dog would normally do, then it’s time to ask yourself why. Some examples are:
Occasionally your dog likes to hide the odd toy or treat. This could be inside, under a bed for example. Or, it could be outside by digging a hole (think of an old bone, for example). However, suddenly they are hiding almost all their toys and any treats you give them. Why is this?
Well, your dog has worked out it’s fun to find these things again later on. It’s not really a huge challenge for them, with their great sense of smell, but it is a form of “hide and seek”. They have learned that by placing these objects in another place, they can entertain themselves by going around to find them again at a later stage. When will they do the seeking? When they are bored, and are looking for something to do!
Your dog likes to play fetch. Some breeds are 100% infatuated with this! They may do this already, but placing their fetch toy of choice on your lap. They may place it there, they may semi-throw it at you from their mouth – either way, it will be nice and slobbery! If they already do this, and they are bored it may become a constant thing. I know a border collie-cross who does this when he’s bored – it’s all the time! Some dogs may also take it a step further and start physically harassing you if you don’t get the hint from the ball-in-the-lap tactic. By this I mean they might paw at your leg, jump up with both paws, or even jump right up and nudge the ball. This is a sure sign that they are bored. You might wonder why, after all you have just walked the socks off them, or so you thought! However, the dog itself considers itself mentally bored or is concerned he/or she will be, and they don’t want that to happen.
But there are many dog owners who don’t want their space invaded on an ongoing basis, so it may become an annoyance rather than something funny. (Just as an aside, if your dog is a fetch-addict, you could try one of these automatic fetch toys – saves your arms!)
Again, many dogs are boisterous at one time or another. It could be they are still young and find it hard to contain their excitement. Or, it could be a bit of boisterous activity to welcome you home when you first come in the door. This is one of my favorite dog behaviors – I love the display of affection when I get home and the pure joy my dog shows.
However, if a dog is bored they can start to take this too far. To be honest, it’s perhaps more problematic for medium to large dogs, but if they start to jump up on anyone who comes to your house, it’s a sign they are seeking extra attention. This can especially be a major issue if you have children visiting, as a boisterous dog can dent their confidence and contribute towards fear of other dogs. I’ve seen it in our own daughter where a strange dog jumped up on her for attention and bumped her chin really hard. She’s now afraid that all dogs of that size want to jump up on her, and she’s scared of them.
This over-boisterous behavior may also manifest itself slightly differently. Rather than jumping up, a dog will tear around as fast as they can. In the majority of cases I’ve seen this in smaller terrier type dogs, and sometimes they may even pee on the floor. At this point it’s beyond general excitement, they are just besides themselves with trying to get attention. This is a classic sign of boredom, and most often seen in dogs that are left alone for long periods of time, and especially those that are caged, without enough to do to pass the time.
3. Destructive Behavior
This can be very costly for you! It’s one of the most common behaviors for a bored dog, and it’s still a way to try and get your attention. Most dogs know it’s wrong to start destroying stuff, but for them they would rather you tell them off than not speak to them at all. Think of all those videos we see on Facebook, where dogs are getting a telling off for destroying something. They get a really weird look on their face, almost scrunching up their eyes, or looking at you from under their eyelashes, but they are probably still wagging their tail, just a little bit….all because they have got your attention. Take a look at this video here:
So, this is a classic way for them to say they want you to engage with you more. Eben if you are at home with your dog, engrossed in a TV program for example, your dog may sneak off to destroy something. It could be they slope off to the kitchen to gnaw on the leg of the dining table or chair, or they could sneak off to your bedroom to see if you have left any shoes out to chew on.
If you are away, they simply miss out the “sneaking off” part and do it while you are out. In fact the choice of what to destroy is wider if you;re not there. Our dog chewed into all our feather cushions while we were out, then proceeded to shake them all over the living room floor, then spread them out all over the hall way. Why? He was left alone for longer than usual, and he got bored!
4. The Great Escape
If a dog is really bored, and has either tried some of the above and feels they are still getting nowhere, may resort to more drastic tactics. They may try and re-enact Houdini and escape! This is more common if a dog is the only pet, and left alone, and also is left outside. I know in the film Marley & Me, Marley basically ate through a door, but I’ve not heard of that in real life. However, I know a few dogs that have tried to either dig under a hedge of fence, or even jump clean over it. Either way, it’s usually because they’ve gone off to find an adventure. It’s an extremely frightening occurrence for a dog owner though, if you arrive home to find your dog has disappeared. However, you will usually see signs before this happens. Just like the Great Escape, it can take a while to dig a getaway tunnel, or if they are thinking of trying to jump the fence, you may see them hanging around the same spot, cocking their ears and tilting their head, and also pacing up and down it.
Totally in contrast to the above behaviors, a dog may exhibit boredom by becoming more introvert. They may have little enthusiasm for their food, less zest for life in general and sleep a lot. They become quite hard to interact with, and their usual toys may hold little or no interest. These are all signs your dog is a bit depressed!
What do you do with a bored dog?
The signs numbered 1 to 4 above are perhaps more easier to deal with. These behaviors in response to boredom are all extrovert, and by that I all mean the dog is taking action over being bored. If this is the case, activity is the answer. I know it sounds funny, but your dog is showing that by taking an action due to boredom, they want more activity – and the ultimate is for that activity to happen with you!
So, think more walks, more games of fetch, more talking to them – anything that engages their attention.
But I did say in the opening paragraphs, that many dogs are left alone for certain times, so what do you do to combat boredom in these cases? You have to make sure your dog has lots to entertain themselves while they are gone. Here are some suggestions:
- Some swear by leaving the radio or TV on so there are voices as a distraction to being on their own.
- Getting another dog or pet, if your dog is the only animal in the house. However, this is a major step and I would only recommend this if you think your dog is really bored!
- Plenty of toys to play with – and I swear by interactive toys. These are ones your dog really has to think about to get the reward. It can take them a while to learn and some practice, so they tend to help a dog’s attention for longer than a normal toy.
- Engage the services of a dog walker or someone to visit your dog during the day. Either an extra walk or some human contact will help relieve the boredom if you are away all day
- In the case of the 5th sign of boredom, you may need to seek professional help. Once a dog withdraws into themselves to the point of depression, it is a mental health issue. Yes, dogs can have therapists too!
In conclusion, a bored dog will show you signs they are bored, by the way they behave. These behaviors may vary in the form they take, and range in the degree of seriousness. It’s a good idea to try and identify any signs of boredom early on, so your dog doesn’t escalate the behavior. The last thing any dog owner would want is for their pet to escape to relieve boredom.
I hope you have found this article useful, and you can use it to see if your dog is displaying any signs of boredom. If you have any comments, or want to share your own experiences of how you’ve dealt with a bored dog, please leave the details below.