By Victoria Stillwell
Boredom and inactivity contributes to destructive behaviors such as chewing, house soiling, excessive barking and other anxiety-based behaviors. Dogs that are left alone for long hours on a regular basis cannot be blamed for taking out their boredom and loneliness on the couch. Chewing relieves stress and having nothing to do all day can be very stressful particularly for those breeds that were originally bred to work. Because the domestic dogs’ role has changed to that of family member and companion, trainers like me see too many bored dogs with behavioral issues that are easily solved with a daily schedule of walks and other activities.
Think of it like this. Your dog is a car with a full tank of gas in the morning and it’s your responsibility to make sure that by the end of the day the gas tank is empty. Each dog’s needs are unique but all dogs need daily physical and mental stimulation with plenty of walks, great toys and fun games to play.
A walk not only exercises your dog physically but provides a different environment that challenges and stimulates his senses. Unlike their wild cousins, the domestic dog lives in a sensory deprived environment and walking is the best way to provide the exercise and stimulation he needs by allowing him to experience the world around him while breaking up the monotony of the day. I’m still astounded however, by the number of people I meet who seldom walk their dogs, if at all. Leaving a dog in the back yard all day is not exercise and can become just as boring as an indoor room.
If you stimulate your dog’s senses by allowing her to experience different environments each day and introducing her to new smells, sights, sounds around the neighborhood or at your local park, you’ll be repaid many times with a happy, healthy dog. Walking also relieves human stress and is great way to exercise and socialize with other like-minded people.
If the weather is too hot or cold to be outside you can still play games inside your home such as hide and seek, fetch or tug-of-war. Hide treats around the house and send your dog on a treasure hunt. Vary your dog’s toys by rotating them each day so they remain unique and exciting and get toys that challenge your dog such as treat balls and puzzles.
Dogs do get bored but enriching their lives doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It just means a different approach and an awareness of your dog’s needs. Sharing the responsibility with the whole family ensures your dog never becomes bored and receives the attention and time she deserves.