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Boredom Busters for Dogs

LAST UPDATED 7 JUNE 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe

Just like humans, dogs can experience restlessness and frustration when left without mental or physical stimulation. Boredom can lead to unwanted behaviours in our dogs including destruction and excessive barking. But don't despair, we have the solution!

Our Vet Squad have compiled a list of exciting and engaging boredom busters for dogs, designed to keep their tails wagging and their minds sharp. From interactive toys to brain-teasing puzzles, these activities will not only curb their boredom but also strengthen the bond between you and your four-legged friend. Get ready to unleash a world of fun and adventure for your beloved pup!

Contents:

Why Do Dogs Get Bored?

Throughout history, dogs have been domesticated and selectively bred to fulfil specific roles alongside humans. While modern-day dogs often serve as beloved family pets, their innate instincts and drive to work remain deeply ingrained. Despite not having a specific job in modern households, many dogs still possess a strong desire to engage in activities that tap into these natural instincts.

Boredom in dogs often arises from a lack of mental challenges, insufficient exercise, or a monotonous environment. Dogs are curious creatures that crave novelty and new experiences, so when their routines become predictable and mundane, they can quickly lose interest and become bored. Additionally, dogs are social animals that thrive on interaction and companionship. If they spend long periods alone without enough social interaction or playtime, they will often experience boredom.

Signs of Boredom in Dogs:

  • Restlessness
  • Digging, chewing or other destructive behaviours
  • Barking and whining
  • Following you around when you are at home
  • Depression

It is important for dog owners to recognize the signs of boredom and take proactive measures to provide their furry friends with mental stimulation, physical exercise, and social interaction to prevent boredom and ensure their dog's overall health and well-being.

How To Prevent Boredom in Dogs

1. Get Out and About

Most of us know that dogs need plenty of physical activity to keep them happy and healthy. However, it's not just the physical exercise that is beneficial; the act of venturing out with a pack member (you or your family) and experiencing different smells is beneficial for their mental stimulation.

Walk regularly - It is important for your dog's well-being to include regular exercise in their routine, with different dog breeds having different exercise requirements. Working breeds such as Border Collies and Kelpies require as much as 2 hours of high intensity exercise every day, whereas some other 'couch potato' breeds only really need shorter, gentle walks. Older dogs may need lower intensity exercise to look after their ageing joints. Take a look at our Essential Dog Walking Tips.

Let them sniff about - walking or running is great, but to help enrich your dog's experience and further reduce boredom, it can help to pause and let your dog sniff around. While you don't want your dog to dictate how often you might stop on a walk (as they still need to know you're the one in charge), it might help to invest in an extendable lead or try and off leash area if safe to do so.

Let them interact with other dogs - only if your pooch is dog friendly, of course. Meeting and playing with other dogs will provide your pooch with a whole array of stimulating sights, smells, and experiences, not to mention, excellent cardio exercise! Socialising helps improve your dog's overall emotional well-being and can help reduce anxiety. Dog friendly parks and beaches are perfect for this, or you might even like to consider a doggy playgroup or daycare centre.

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2. Puzzle and Treat Dispensing Toys

Pictured dog is playing with KONG Classic Red.

Puzzle toys are interactive food-dispensing toys designed to provide mental stimulation and challenge for dogs while also rewarding them for their problem-solving abilities. These toys typically involve some sort of puzzle or task that the dog needs to figure out in order to obtain a treat or a reward. They are a great way to engage and entertain dogs, particularly those with high energy levels or breeds that are known for their intelligence.

Why not try adding some of your dog's regular kibble to a snuffle mat or puzzle toy at mealtimes instead of feeding them from a bowl. For wet food, try spreading on a lick mat for a challenging and rewarding mealtime treat.

For dogs that love to chew, interactive rubber toys such as KONG or West paw stuffed with KONG paste or dog-friendly peanut butter, will keep them entertained while fulfilling their natural urge to chew. Make your own stuffer treats at home with our Winter KONG Stuffer Recipes and Healthy West Paw Stuffers. T ry freezing for an extra challenge!

Paws For Life Snuffle Mat

Keep your dog entertained and slow down their mealtime with this interactive feeding mat! Sprinkle their favourite treats or mealtime kibble through the various textured sections to provide a fun and interactive mealtime.

Lickimat Wobble

The LickiMat Wobble is a unique bowl with raised dimbles on the inside surface, to offer extra stimulation when licking. Suitable for use with Wet, Raw, Soft or Liquid Foods, the Wobbling motion adds an extra challenge and prolonged enrichment experience.

Nina Ottosson Brick Puzzle

Add your dog's favourite treats or kibble through the various holes and containers to encourage problem solving and instinct-satisfying foraging.

West Paw Rumbl

Ideal for dogs who love to chew, the Rumbl is a sturdy treat-dispensing toy, which can be loaded up with your dog's favourite treat, kibble or homemade recipe. The playful wobble of the Rumbl adds to the excitement and increased engagement.

Shop All Puzzle Toys for Dogs

Looking for a Pet Subscription Box to keep the boredom at bay?

Check out our Curious Dog Box - a great value gift hamper bursting with toys and treats!

The Curious Box keeps your dog entertained, happy, and fulfilled - and ultimately enhances their day-to-day life! Each box is designed to be highly interactive, stimulating and soothing by evoking all the 5 senses (sound, sight, touch & feel, taste, smell).

With a fabulous new theme every 6 weeks, and the option to subscribe via Auto Delivery, it's the perfect way to keep your dog's supply of toys and treats fresh, fun, and varied!

3. Interactive Toys

Pictured dog is playing with Playology Dual Layer Bone Peanut Butter.

Interactive toys offer mental stimulation, allowing dogs to exercise their problem-solving skills and engage their minds. Additionally, these toys encourage physical activity, promoting exercise and contributing to a dog's overall health and well-being.

For dogs that love to play ball, why not invest in an Automatic Ball Thrower for when you are away from home as it will continue to shoot balls for your dog and keep them entertained as long as they keep returning them.

The Cheerble Wickedball is a fun interactive ball that moves and shakes unpredictably to engage your dog to play, and is perfect for dogs that spend time indoors during the day.

Paws For Life Hide and Seek

Does your dog love to dig and burrow? They will love the Paws for Life Hide and Seek - a plush interactive puzzle that will keep them coming back for more! Simply hide the cookies inside the milk carton and let your dog sniff and dig them out.

iFetch Automatic Ball Launcher

Keep your fetch crazy dog entertained all day with an automated ball launcher, which will continue to shoot balls so long as your dog fetches them and returns them to the top of the chute!

Petqwerks Incredibubbles

The PetQwerks Incredibubble will give you and your pet endless fun in the sun! The bubbles will dry in the air and even land on the ground intact. The formula is safe, non-toxic and ideal for kids and pets. Your pet will have endless fun chasing these peach flavoured bubbles!

Cheerble Wickedball

More than just a ball, the interactive toy is 100% automatic and will shake and roll to encourage play when it senses your dog is near.

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4. Long Lasting Treats

Dogs have a natural urge to chew, which is a normal and instinctive behavior for them. Chewing serves a variety of purposes for dogs, including dental health, stress relief, exercising the jaw and chewing muscles, as well as entertainment and mental stimulation.

Long lasting chewy treats such as bully sticks and ear chews are a great way to keep your dog occupied and distracted. Dental treats such as greenies, whimzees and oravet are also long lasting while helping keep your dog's teeth clean.

Tasty Bone

These durable nylon bones are designed to keep even the most persistent and powerful of chewers satisfied. The delicious range of flavours are designed to last for the lifetime of the bone.

Nature's Cuts Beef Ears

With a delicious aroma and crunchy-yet-chewy texture, dogs love ear treats. Nature's Cuts Beef Ears are extremely tasty, firm but not brittle, and are great for cleaning the teeth. And best of all, these treats are completely natural.

Blackdog Bully Sticks

These bully sticks are made 100% Beef for a tasty treat, ideal for use as a training reward. Sometimes called bull's pizzles, these are 15cm in length and are one of the longest lasting chews in the Blackdog range.

Whimzees Alligator Treats

Whimzees Alligator treats are all-natural, wheat and gluten-free vegetarian treats, making them an excellent option for dogs with food sensitivities and those prone to weight gain and pancreatitis.

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5. Treasure Hunt

image of white and tan dog sniffing grass

Explorative feeding is a fantastic way to excite and mentally stimulate your dog.

Instead of feeding from a bowl, try hiding some of your dog's food or treats in different places around the house or backyard. Sniffing out their next meal will keep them busy and occupied while you are away.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

New Puppy Checklist

Durable Toys for Power Chewers

Managing Separation Anxiety in Pets

Which Dog Toy is Best?