Boredom Buster Ideas For Your Dog
A bored dog can cause so much trouble. Not only are they more likely to take to destructive behaviours, like chewing and aggression. But your dog can also slip into doggy depression if they don’t feel mentally stimulated enough.
So this is your ultimate guide to boredom busters for dogs. We’ll talk about what a bored dog looks like and how to keep them entertained every day!
Let’s dive in!
How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Bored?
First thing first: is your dog bored?
It’s funny how often I would mistake my dog’s dozing or need for alone time as boredom. On the contrary. Dogs don’t want or need to play all the time. The level of activity they want depends on your dog’s breed, age and personality.
Though every pup is different, the three main signs that your dog is bored are:
Notice a pattern here? All of these could be described as “bad behaviour”. There is a correlation between boredom and destructive tendencies. (1) Our dog Pip would steal shoes and books consistently until we started agility training with him as a puppy. He then had another outlet to concentrate his excess energy. A mentally stimulated dog is a happy and well-behaved pup.
How To Keep Dogs Entertained
So now we know the value of keeping your dog entertained, how do we do it effectively? In the next two sections, I’ll break done the best ways I’ve found to entertain my dogs.
Note about puppies vs dogs
Though there’s a section for dogs and a section for puppies, many of the tips work for both puppies and dogs. The more important bits will be the “how NOT to play with your puppy/dog” sections.
Explore new places
Walking your dog is the quintessential way to keep your pup exercised and entertained every day. But to take things up a notch, why not take your dog on a different route? Exposing your pup to new sights and smells is a great way to beat boredom.
If you can’t take your dog on any daring hikes or go camping with your dog, don’t worry! It doesn’t need to be that consuming. Simply going in the opposite direction of your daily walk can expose your dog to new things. You can approach the very same walk with fresh eyes by literally walking on the other side of the street every once and a while. Get creative and explore!
But of course, you can’t walk your dog all day every day, so let’s talk about games and toys.
Playing with your adult dog
Dogs love to play. It’s a key part of their bonding abilities. Here are some cool ways to play with your dog.
Interactive dog toys
Interactive dog toys are perfect for bored dogs. There’s nothing better for a dog than a toy that interacts with them as they are playing. Of course, there are lots of different types of interactive dog toys. From squeaky toys to treat dispensers, you can play with your dog with these toys for a short while every day, and notice that they’ll be much less bored around the house.
Top tip: choose an interactive toy that will work for your dog’s physical needs too. For example, snuffle mats work well for elderly dogs because they don’t require too much mobility.
Puzzle toys are excellent for mentally stimulating your dog. There are models for all difficulties so you can customise your purchase to your dog’s intelligence level. Puzzle toys are great bonding tools too as you help your dog learn new skills and use their brain in a different way.
Toy treasure hunt
Treasure hunts are so much fun! All you need to do is hide a few of your dog’s favourite toys around the house and let them find them. This game works even better with treats. A simpler version of this game is to hide a treat in one of your fists. Hide your hands behind your back and swap the treat around a few times. Then present your two closed fists to your dog and let them find the treat.
All variations of the treat/toy hunting game are fun for dogs and will help fight boredom.
Letting your dog play alone
What if your dog is bored at home and you need to go to work every day? Luckily, not all boredom busters for dogs need to involve you! There are ways that dogs can play on their own. Many dogs will find ways to play with their toys on their own anyway if you make the option available to them. However, some toys are specifically designed for dogs at home alone. Here’s what you need to know.
Solo play dog toys
The most important thing when selecting solo dog toys is that they are safe to use unsupervised. That means choosing toys that are the appropriate size and ability for your dog. For instance, a toy that is too small can pose a choking hazard.
In this category, we recommend:
How NOT to play with your dog
Is it possible to get it wrong when entertaining your dog? Surprisingly yes! You could be playing with your dog the wrong way. P.S. This list also applies to puppies.
- Throwing bones
Even though dogs can enjoy bones, it isn’t a good idea to give your dog bones to play with - especially if they have been softened. Chicken bones in particular can splinter in your dog’s throat and cause a choking hazard. There are some exceptions to this. Beef bones can work as a satisfying chew, but you shouldn’t feed them to your dog and leave them unsupervised. We have an article on feeding bones to dogs to help you decide for yourself.
- Playing all of the time
Dogs need rest! It can be overstimulating to play all of the time. This can cause fatigue, tiredness or even aggression as your dog has a limit to how much they can play every day. The key is balance. Play time should be a key feature of your dog’s daily/weekly routine, interlaced with exercise, rest and plenty of cuddles!
- Giving them dog toys that are too big or too small
You must read the manufacturer’s guidelines when it comes to the size of the dog that is suitable for the toys you buy. A toy that’s too small is a choking hazard. A toy that’s too big or heavy can cause strain and injury. Think like Goldilocks. You want a toy that’s just right.
How To Keep Puppies Entertained
Now let’s talk about puppies! Puppies and younger dogs have more energy than adult dogs. They may need more playtime sessions, but they also fatigue quicker than adult dogs. Keep that in mind as we go through the multiple ways to keep your puppy entertained!
Playing with your puppy
Playing with your puppy is not only a way to bond, but it’s also a key part of their learning.
“Play is also important for physical and intellectual development. Puppies run, twist and wrestle, developing muscles, agility and strength. By playing games that require your puppy to seek out hidden items, follow scent trails or make choices, your puppy learns to use his brain and senses.” - Vetstreet (2)
Please refer to the earlier section on playing with your dog because these also work well for puppies. That said, here are some more great ways to play with your puppy!
Hide and seek
Hide and seek is a great game for puppies because it’s relatively easy for them and involves the whole family. All you need to do is have 1 or multiple people hide around the house. They can either call your puppy’s name or use a squeaky toy to help your puppy find them. When your puppy finds the person, reward them with a treat. It’s so much fun!
Puppy classes are fantastic boredom busters for dogs. Out of the different types of puppy classes, agility training is pretty amazing for providing exercise. It’s a class that helps develop your dog’s obedience skills and strengthen their trust in you. It’s also a ton of fun! Because it burns off so much excess energy, you only need to take your puppy to a weekly agility class to see a dramatic improvement in your puppy’s behaviour.
Treat dispensing toys
Treat dispensing toys are fantastic for puppies (and all dogs!). This is the only type of toy I would recommend as a solo play toy for puppies. Generally, it’s not a good idea to leave your puppy to play unattended. (3) However, if you do need to step away from them for a little while, a good treat-dispensing toy will keep your puppy entertained during your absence.
Socialise your puppy
It’s crucial to socialise your puppy from an early age. Socialisation means introducing them to new people, animals, dogs, and environments to give them confidence in moving through the world.
It’s an exciting time in puppyhood. So take your puppy on a play date or explore a new walking path to expose them to new things.
Train your puppy in fun ways
Training can be fun and a great boredom buster for your puppy. By training them in new ways, you expand their intelligence and strengthen your bonds. Beyond the normal “sit”, “stay” and “lie down”, there are a plethora of tricks you can teach your pup. (5) You can also expand current vocal cues with hand signals.
How NOT to play with your puppy
We’ve covered the worst ways to play with an adult dog, now let’s discuss the worst ways to play with puppies!
I put an asterisk here for one reason. Tug-of-war isn’t a bad activity for many dogs though there is some debate among vets about whether it encourages aggression or not. (6) However the reason I don’t recommend tug-of-war for puppies is that it can be harmful to their teeth as they develop adult chompers.
- Using hands instead of toys
As puppies are growing, you want to steer them away from any possible aggressive behaviours they could develop. Using your hands as toys instead of actual toys is part of that. It might be cute to have your little pup nibble your fingers but it won’t be so cute when they get older!
Bottom Line: Boredom Busters For Dogs
So there you have it! The best boredom-busting ideas for dogs at each stage of life. Check out our reviews of the best dog toys in Australia to help you entertain your pooch!
No. Did that shock you? Consider this. Dogs need time to rest, eat, hydrate and cuddle. Some dogs are naturally lone wolves who prefer their own space more often. Other dogs require more attention and mental stimulation. That said, ALL dogs have an “off” mode - even puppies. One of the key things to teach your family members is to allow your dog the space to be by themselves and rest. The level of entertainment you need to provide your dog depends on your dog. So pay attention to boredom cues! They’ll teach you how much your dog needs to be entertained daily.
Nothing. Gasp! We’re not supposed to say that as it’s recommended that you walk your dog every day. But honestly, life and the weather are rarely so consistent. Your dog probably won’t rejoice at the idea of walking in a raging thunderstorm. Likewise, if you or your partner goes into labour, you’ll probably have to skip the dog walk for that day. Your dog will be fine! If you stop walking your dog for a week, you could notice restless behaviour. Don’t make a habit of skipping daily walks but the odd missed walk won’t kill them.
- Gibeault, S. April 24, 2019. “Bored Dogs: How to Recognize Doggy Boredom (and Help!)”. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 3, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/bored-dogs-how-to-recognize-doggy-boredom-and-help/
- April 19, 2012. Vetstreet Editorial. “Why Play Is Important for Puppies”. Vetstreet. Retrieved December 3, 2022. https://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/why-play-is-important-for-puppies
- Driver, S. August 4, 2021. “How Long Can You Leave a Puppy Alone?”. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 3, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/puppy-information/leave-puppy-alone/
- Donovan, L. July 7, 2022. “Puppy Socialization: Why, When, and How to Do It Right”. The American Kennel Club. Retrieved December 3, 2022. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/puppy-socialization/
- Bender, L. March 3, 2020. “10 Easy and Fun Dog Tricks to Train Your Dog”. Spruce Pets. Retrieved December 3, 2022. https://www.thesprucepets.com/fun-and-easy-dog-tricks-1117309