Bored Dog? Here’s 5 Ways To Engage Their Brain

Bored dogs can easily become “naughty” dogs, so it’s important to help our dogs beat the boredom to avoid any unwanted naughty behaviors. A sedentary lifestyle can not only harm your dog physically, think obesity, but can also cause depression.

Dogs need both mental and physical enrichment every day, so let’s talk about some of the ways in which we can provide what our dogs need.

1. Playdates

While not all dogs are going to love play dates (I know mine doesn’t), many dogs love them! Do you have a friend or family member close by with a dog? Is there a doggy daycare you’ve vetted and love for your pup? These are great options for creating a time your dog can play and interact with another dog. It’s a win-win for both dogs!

Of course, it is important that both dogs enjoy the company of the other, that you are paying attention to the dogs while they interact and that play doesn’t turn into something more serious, and that each dog is getting a good amount of playtime mixed in with downtime for rest and water breaks.

2. Interactive Toys and Puzzles

The interactive part is the most important, though there is a time and place for toys and puzzles that are intended for solo use.

Some of the best interactive toys are ones you use for fetch and tug, such as rope toys, as well as balls to throw back and forth for your dog to grab and bring back to you. Teaching fetches to your dog is one of the best games because it requires not just physical exertion but a good amount of mental exertion too. Making the choice to hand the toy back over to you is something we should always reward!

Here’s the link to a previous post about teaching tug to your dog and using it in real-life scenarios for training. 

Rotating toys is also important to note, as it can help keep your dog interested in the toys you have!

3. Nose work & “Sniffaris”

Our dogs use their noses all the time, but not usually the way nature intended. Some dogs have stronger “sniff drives” than others, but all dogs need time to sniff. Taking time out of your walk to let your dog sniff and enjoy a lovely garden, for instance, is wonderful!

You can also teach scent work (also called nose work) to your dog at home. Since it’s not always possible to give your dog the freedom to sniff and follow their nose in an outdoor setting, and some dogs live in large cities, utilizing scent training inside could be very helpful for these dogs.

4. Mind-stimulating Games

Games are wonderful for dogs and the more we can get them to use their brains, the better!

One of the ways I like to incorporate games with dogs is by finding activities they love and bonus points for activities that the breed was bred to do. We talked about this in a recent post as well, called “How to help your dog build confidence with a job.” Definitely check out that post to find ideas for figuring out the types of activities your dog would like.

As an example, if your dog loves to dig, then build them a dig box in the backyard. Not only will this give them a fun activity, but it could save your flower beds too!

5. Spend Time With Your Dog

This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised. I’ve heard so many stories about dogs being left alone, being tied up outside, being caged all day and all night. It’s heartbreaking.

Dogs are pack animals and thrive in a family setting – AS PART OF THE FAMILY!

Once you’ve had a nice day of exercise and enrichment, curl on the couch for some Netflix and chill with your best buddy and relax.

🌟 BONUS 🌟

Bonus 1 – Positive Reinforcement Training

Training with your dog using positive reinforcement not only enhances your bond, but it allows your dog to make choices and be rewarded for those choices. Your dog gets to use their brain and gets reinforced for good behaviors. It’s a win-win!

Spend just 10 minutes once or twice a day working on reinforcing cues your dog already knows and new cues too!

Bonus 2 – Make Your Dog Work For Their Food

Whether you choose to use their food in puzzles as we mentioned above, use it for training, or make fun games with it, your dog will love the change! Take their food outside for a picnic in the backyard. Use various feeders to hide food around the house so that your dog has to “hunt” for it. Use it as a reward when teaching a new skill (like the ones mentioned in the “How to help your dog build confidence with a job” post.)

Mix it all up! Dogs thrive on routine, but rotating activities and games, as well as toys, is a great way to keep your dog from becoming bored… and from becoming a destructive monster! LOL

What activities do you do with your dog?