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Boredom Busters for Dogs

LAST UPDATED 12 March 2024

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Belinda Stancombe and last updated by Dr Gillian Hill

Dogs are intelligent, social creatures that thrive on mental and physical stimulation. When left bored or under-stimulated, dogs can develop unwanted behaviours including destruction and excessive barking. As pet owners, it's essential to provide our furry friends with activities that engage their minds and bodies.

In this article, we'll explore a variety of 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!


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 recognise 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 and Running with your Dog Tips.

2. Let Your Dog Sniff

Have you noticed that while you may have a specific pace and time in mind for your daily walk, all your dog wants to do is sniff their surroundings? It can be particularly frustrating when your dog's behaviour interrupts the flow of your exercise and makes it feel like progress is slow.

However, when dogs stop to sniff constantly on a walk, it's often because they are exploring and gathering information about their environment. Dogs rely heavily on their sense of smell to understand the world around them, and sniffing is a natural behaviour that allows them to gather information about other animals, objects, and scents in their surroundings. For dogs, sniffing is not just a way to gather information; it's also mentally stimulating and can be a form of mental exercise. Allowing dogs to sniff and explore during walks can help fulfill their natural instincts and provide them with mental enrichment. While it may slow down the pace of the walk, allowing dogs to sniff can contribute to their overall well-being and satisfaction.

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. You could even consider adding in an extra walk each day which is taken at a slower pace to allow your dog plenty of time to sniff.

3. Doggy Playdates

Letting your dog interact with other dogs (only if your pooch is dog friendly of course), offers a range of benefits for them as well as you. 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, as dogs engage in play behaviours that can help keep their minds sharp and reduce boredom. Dog friendly parks and beaches are perfect for this, or you might even like to consider a doggy playgroup or daycare centre.

Pictured dog is playing with KONG Classic Red.

4. Puzzle and Treat Dispensing Toys

Food 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. Try 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!

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

5. Interactive Toys

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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6. 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.

Shop All Dog Treats

image of white and tan dog sniffing grass

7. Treasure Hunt

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.

8. Create a Digging Pit

Understanding why dogs dig can help you to manage the behaviour if it is becoming problematic, and harness it for good. Digging is a normal, beneficial behaviour for dogs, serving both physical and mental health needs. It allows them to engage in natural behaviours like hunting, hiding food, or creating a den. Some breeds, like Fox Terriers and Beagles, have been bred to dig out their prey. Digging also provides a form of exercise, helping to maintain healthy muscles and joints. Additionally, it can be a source of mental stimulation, especially if they are searching for something buried or creating a comfortable spot to rest. However, it's important to guide this behaviour appropriately, such as by providing a designated digging area, to prevent damage to your yard or garden.

To create a digging pit for dogs, start by selecting a suitable location in your yard. If a permanent spot cannot be found a children's clam shell can be used. Dig a hole about approximately 1m x 1m, depending on the size of your dog. Fill the hole with a mixture of sand and soil, which will mimic the texture of natural earth (dogs are usually drawn to freshly turned soil or a soft substrate like sand). Bury some toys or treats in the pit to encourage your dog to dig there. You can also train your dog to use the pit by rewarding them with treats when they dig in the designated area. Regularly refill the pit with fresh sand and soil to keep it appealing to your dog.

If you don't have the space, or prefer not to dig up your garden, then an iFetch iDig might be for you. The iFetch iDig Stay is an interactive digging toy that does not require batteries or power, and is ideal for small dogs and small spaces. It encourages natural foraging behaviour and helps keep your furry friend busy and occupied! To play, simply load with toys or treats and watch your dog dig and forage for their treasure!

9. Training Sessions

Training sessions can be a fantastic way to overcome boredom in dogs. As we've seen, mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for a dog's well-being. Regular training sessions not only provide mental challenges but also strengthen the bond between you and your dog. Training can include basic obedience commands like lie-down and stay and fun tricks like shake and roll over, or even agility exercises, all of which keep your dog engaged and focused. Keep training sessions short, and use high value rewards, to gain the most out of the time with your dog. By incorporating training into their routine, dogs are less likely to exhibit destructive behaviors out of boredom.


In conclusion, understanding why dogs get bored is key to preventing it. Lack of mental and physical stimulation, as well as unmet social needs, can lead to boredom in our furry companions. To combat this, incorporating a variety of activities into their daily routine is essential.

Regular exercise, whether through walks, runs, or playtime, is crucial for their physical health and mental well-being. Dog play dates provide social interaction and mental stimulation, while allowing them to sniff and explore their surroundings engages their natural instincts. Puzzle toys and long-lasting treats can keep them entertained and mentally sharp. Creating a digging pit offers a safe outlet for their digging instincts.

Finally, training sessions not only teach valuable skills but also provide mental challenges and strengthen the bond between you and your dog. By incorporating these boredom busters into their lives, we can ensure our dogs lead happy, fulfilled lives.

Further Reading

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