Tips for the Bored, Attention-Seeking Dog

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Not Bad - Just Bored

Money isn’t the root of all evil; boredom is. Boredom is defined as feeling weary as a result of repetitive, uninteresting activities or pursuits. Boredom isn’t just a people issue. It’s a real concern for animals as well, and certainly true for our dogs. Bored dogs get into trouble.

I have had more than one client argue with me on this point saying, “My dog has a million toys, a yard to play in, etc. How in the world can you say he is bored?!” My response is to say that is exactly why he is bored and then give a human example of the woman standing in front of a closet full of beautiful clothes lamenting, “I have nothing to wear!” Always seeing the same toys on the floor, in the basket, and around the yard (and doing the same activities day in and day out) leads to a lack of interest in those things, and the search for new stimulation. And it is certainly the case that the mall is full of enticing store windows for the woman who needs something new to wear!

A sable and white Rough Collie stands on a snowy porch barking
Barking - a dog's answer to boredom. PC: Mike Burns

Boredom Busters

So, how do you deal with bored dogs? You need to get creative. It isn’t expensive to treat boredom, but it does require work. Start by picking up all of your dog’s toys…. Yes, all of them. Put them in a box in a closet. Now, select a couple of those toys that your dog hasn’t had any interest in of late, and start a game with him. A few hours later, pick those up and put them away, then choose something else to bring out.

Maybe it’s time for a bone or an edible “toy” such as a Nutrident Bone, bully stick, etc. Experiment even with the edibles you give your dog. If you gave a bone today, then tomorrow give your dog a homemade pupsicle. Or if you used a Kong one day, then the next day give a Busy Buddy toy, or one from Starmark. I have a dozen interactive toys for my dogs from the Busy Buddy company and Starmark that I rotate in with bones, bully sticks, and frozen treats.

Dogs do not have object permanence, so if you put toys away or change the edibles you provide for their enrichment, they think whatever you are giving them is new and exciting. Toy rotation makes the toys last longer, too! You are basically creating novelty for your dogs by rotating their toys and chewing options so that no two days in a row are the same.

An older Rough Collie puppy with unusual color and markings (almost a tricolor, but more gray than black, and definitely not a blue merle) lies on the ground with a red dog toy held between her crossed front paws
Lovely Mosa from Texas with a good chew. PC: Jordan Michele

In addition, you will want to observe your dogs and “feed” their needs. For example, if you have a puppy and he is chewing on your wood furniture, that is a pup looking for something hard to chew on, with a bit of give – something like a bully stick. Or, if you think your puppy is teething, how about a rope toy soaked in water and then frozen for a maximum, gum-soothing chewing option?

Treating boredom does not have to break the bank. I love buying new toys and treat games for my dogs and consider it to be a job-related expense: however, that may not be the case for everyone. Rotating the toys you already have, adding a few new ones on occasion, and making your own treats or getting creative with boxes or egg cartons is the key to creating novelty and keeping your pets’ brains engaged, stimulated, and out of the bored zone.

The collies chewing on "Dogswell Boundless Chew Bones!"
The Collies chewing on "Dogswell Boundless Chews"

Find more helpful hints and general dog-expert wisdom from Julie on her personal blog, The Animal Behaviorist Is In.

Julie Bond

Julie Bond is a certified animal behaviorist, treating pet behavior problems in the San Francisco Bay Area through her business, P.E.T.S. She is also a writer, blogger, speaker, and keen observer of all things Collie.