Is My Dog Bored?
By Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM
My lab, Sophie, is a wonderful dog. She is great with kids and other dogs. And she is very “chill”—relaxed and not demanding (except for food). Over the weekend, my oldest, Lily, asked me if I thought Sophie was bored. It was an odd question, because Sophie was asleep at the time. But it raised a good point: how do you know if your dog is bored?
Boredom in dogs can manifest in many different ways. Behavior changes are the most common symptom. Barking and whining may be vocal expressions of boredom. Destructive behavior, such as shredding paper/tissues, scratching at furniture, or scratching walls may also be signs of boredom. Excessive sleeping (>22 hours a day) is possible, but less common.
Physical symptoms can also be viewed. Anxiety is linked to boredom. If a dog has stored energy that is not given a creative outlet, it may turn into anxiety. Anxiety has many forms; separation anxiety is one of the most common complaints of pet parents. Another physical symptom is lick granulomas; they have been tied to anxiety and boredom. A lick granuloma is an area on an extremity (often the forelimbs) where a dog licks repeatedly, until there is no hair, and the skin begins to thicken.
If you suspect your dog is bored, what can you do? Luckily there are a huge number of resources available to help combat boredom and get your pet on the right track.
- Dog Walker: It can be tough for your dog to be left alone for 6-8 hours a day without a break. Hiring a dog walker, or a reliable neighbor, to come take your dog for a walk can be a great distraction for her. You can even see how far she went using her Voyce Pro monitor!
- Puzzle toys: Every time I step into the pet store I find some new puzzle toy that an engineer, or dog-loving Mensa member has put out. Often, these are sturdy toys that the pet parent can place kibble (or another high value treat) in, so the dog can search and hunt and nuzzle it until she gets the treat. One of Sophie’s favorites has a large central cavity; I will put peanut butter inside and freeze it for several hours, so slow down her licking.
- Television: Several clients have reported to me that TV seems to help their dog. The hypothesis is that the sound gives the dog the illusion that someone is home with her, and therefore she is less bored or destructive. I would believe a nature show might be more entertaining than reality TV, but that might just be my personal perception J
- Exercise: Exercise is one of my favorite treatments for a number of diseases and ailments. A tired dog is often pretty exhausted, and doesn’t have the spare energy to spend on boredom or anxiety. A brisk walk or a jog just prior to leaving for the day can help wear out your puppy, help her cardiovascular health, and decrease future boredom as well.
If your dog exhibits signs of boredom or anxiety, and these tips don’t help, I recommend speaking with your veterinarian. A number of treatments are available for anxiety, and in most cases it leads to a better quality of life for the dog, and frequently the humans as well!