Bored Dog? SOLVED With These 6 Games
When you have a bored dog, nothing is safe and trouble is on the horizon. Or maybe a little bit closer.
Bored dogs are often the ones that chew destructively, have excessive barking problems, or self-mutilate. They can also develop things like separation anxiety or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, lose trust in you if they aren’t receiving proper stimulation and care. Bottom line: dog boredom is a problem.
If your pup isn’t receiving the proper physical and mental stimulation, its development can be stunted, your pet can become uncooperative, and bad things just tend to happen.
However, we’ve compiled a list of plenty of ways to entertain your bored dog in productive ways whether you are frolicking inside or stuck in your house.
When You’re Trapped Inside
Weather often forces us to be inside the house during the day. It may be rainy, or freezing, or too hot to function outside safely. And, although I don’t embrace blaming the weather as an excuse for not taking your dog out for exercise (there is usually a time of day that is better and less affected than another), I do realize that it can happen.
On those days, it is important that your pet has some kind of mental stimulation while he is inside the house and bored. Think rainy day and toddlers.
Your dog still needs to have his mental and physical needs met even if he can’t spend a large amount of time outside! It's one of the pre-requisites to responsible dog training.
Here Are a Few Interactive Dog Games to Help Entertain Your Bored Pet Indoors:
I like teaching my pup how to use his nose. Many dog breeds have been specifically bred to use their nose to hunt. It can be beneficial to teach these dogs to use their nose appropriately. I begin with teaching them the “find it” game. I, personally, like using popcorn for this game. It is easy to see and easy to find as well as being low calorie and low fat. At first, I begin by showing my dog the popcorn, and tossing it while saying “find it”. I want my dog to chase after the popcorn.
After a few tosses, I need to be able to teach my dog to use his nose and not just his eyes, so I toss one that the dog can see and as he goes to get that food reward, I toss another (close by) that he cannot see. After he has consumed the first treat, I command him “find it” again and wait for him to begin sniffing and looking around. If he doesn’t find it easily, I simply make a step toward the treat without pointing it out.
Again, I want my dog to learn to sniff and find an item.
Once my pet dog is pretty good at this, I begin tossing treats behind his back fairly far away so that he has to sniff and look around to discover the treat.
Eventually, you can hide the treats under furniture and on top of furniture and allow your dog to use his nose to find his tasty treat.
Teaching your pet to discover prizes using only his nose is a great game for the body and mind. While all dogs have a great sense of smell, sometimes they have to be reminded to use it, and this exercise can get your dog excited about solving the problem of the hidden prize.
Set up a bunch of boxes or opaque containers (start with at least four or five) upside-down next to each other and, without your dog seeing you hide it, place a prize (a favorite toy, a bone, a treat, whatever works) under one of the containers. Next, encourage your dog to smell the boxes and as he (hopefully) pauses at the one with the prize, lift up the box and enthusiastically congratulate him on his discovery. Let him eat the treat, fetch the toy, or indulge in whatever prize your dog found.
Soon, your dog will know what's expected during this game and be excited to sniff out the prize. Keep adding more boxes and space them at farther intervals to increase the challenge as your dog's scent work improves.
Indoor Scent Work
Once your dog has figured out the above game, you can begin to use certain scents and teach your dog to find them. Birch, Anise, Clove, and Cypress are the scents used for AKC scent detection or “Nose Work”. You can also use approved spices (for instance nutmeg is toxic to dogs) or other scents used for hunting (deer, fox, etc.) which can be found online or at places like “Bass Pro Shops”.
At first, you can condition the dog to smell and find the scent with a great reward.
When the pet sniffs, click and reward.
Then, begin hiding the reward like in the above description.
First, “hide” it in a fairly open area. Once the dog gets the idea, you can begin to make more complicated hides. Use different heights. I don’t always hide the scent on a certain surface (like the ground); I prefer to use many different heights (i.e. a chair, the sofa, an accessible counter, and the ground). This is great mental exercise for your dog!
“Push-ups” is another fun game! And it is easy, provided that the dog knows how to sit and lie down. I like my dog to sit and down in rapid succession for several “sets”. The trick to this game is “the faster, the better”. And, if you want an extra challenge, teach your dog to “stand” on command. That way you can choose “sit”, “down”, or “stand”. Again, this can be great mental stimulation for your dog when he is bored.
To sharpen my dog’s listening skills and obedience, sometimes I command my pup to “down” (hopefully while we are still in motion) and then I ask for multiple “sits” and “downs”, changing it up when I feel like it, before finally rewarding him with a tasty treat or his favorite toy.
I LOVE TRICKS! Tricks can be a Godsend to a boring puppy training regimen! I take basic, intermediate, and advanced dog obedience very seriously (meaning you can’t choose not to do these commands when I ask). You can choose not to perform your trick.
If you choose not to listen, you WILL NOT be rewarded. This, in and of itself, usually ensures that the dog learns to listen! After all, he wants the reward. There are literally hundreds of commands and things you can teach your dog. From finding his specific toys on command, to:
Say Your Prayers
The list can pretty literally be unlimited.
Training your dog to perform new tricks like high-fives or lying down is great mental exercise. However, training them to do tricks that require physical skill exercises both mind and body, making teaching certain tricks perfect for pooping out the pooch when inside on a rainy day.
When my pup and I are stuck indoors, we work on things like perfecting his handstands, balancing on tiny or wobbly objects for a long time, going up and down step ladders and other tricks that will have him panting and laying down to rest after a while. One of the things you can do with your dog to get started is training him to go under, over and through objects.
Set up an item like a kitchen chair, a step stool, or some other sturdy object on legs. Next, teach your dog how to crawl under the object and stay there, crawl all the way through the object, walk around the object, and how to jump over it entirely.
Clicker training is especially effective for this since your dog has to work out what you're asking of him, using your click-n-treats as a guide. Once he knows how to go over, under and through, you can ask him to do combinations before he earns his reward.
After the basics of learning how to go over, under and through are set, you can keep the game rolling. My favorite method for increasing the challenge and fun is letting my dog figure out what it is he should do with this object for himself, and he earns rewards (a click-n-treat) for creative behaviors. We call it "new trick" and we do it with all sorts of commands, but when the wooden stool is set up, he knows to use that as his prop.
Each time he does a "new trick" like putting one paw on it, both paws, jumping on it, crawling under it, crawling under then backing out from under it and so on, he earns a reward — but is only rewarded for something new. If he repeats a trick, I say "you already did that" and he tries something else. It's a great way to keep the fun going!
These advanced tricks are a lifesaver when it comes to stopping boredom and engaging your dog in a productive, fun way. Once you do a couple, you’ll find yourself trying to think of new tricks that your dog could try around the house.
You could even take this outside and try doing things like dog parkour once your puppy is confident enough.
Puzzle games have been a great invention for pets!
You may not always be able to spend all day with your dog exercising him, working on his training, or otherwise entertaining him.
Puzzle games can be a great way for your dog to entertain his mind when he is alone.
Most of these games require you to hide food in an object and then your dog has to figure out how to get the reward out! This is a great way to feed your dog! Click here for a great comprehensive list of puzzle games for your dog.
Catch Him Doing Something Right
This is probably MY FAVORITE.
So often we discount when our dog does something “right”. Perhaps he lays down to chew on his bone, or he sits quietly at your feet while you are making dinner.
It is crucial to reward these choices.
By rewarding these choices, we are communicating to our dogs that we like these behaviors.
This communicates to the dog that these behaviors are rewarding, so that he can choose these behaviors more often! You will find your dog constantly trying to show you the wonderful things he is doing!
Too often we are busy pointing out only the bad things that our dog does and ignoring, or “expecting”, the good. When what we should be doing is telling them when they do something that we want to continue to see! If you play this game, you will see a HUGE change of behavior in your dog within a few short days!
The Great Outdoors
Sometimes, the weather is perfect, you’re off work, the house is clean, and you have absolutely zero excuses for why you shouldn’t go outside and enjoy some Vitamin D with your pup.
Playing outside is a great way to provide your dog with physical and mental stimulation. More specifically, there are a lot of activities that you can enjoy with your dog outside that will help your dog to become more responsive, more intelligent, more obedient, and healthier. In other words… it’ll give your dog a much-needed workout and keep away the dreaded boredom!
A Few Ways To Entertain Your Dogs Outside
The flirt pole is what you’ve all been waiting for. It’s an easy DIY toy (that you can also buy for under $30 bucks, if you hate making stuff). It not only helps your dog work on their basic manners and impulse control, but it also gives them a rockin’ workout in just a few minutes.
The best part is that you hardly have to do a thing.
This is a great way to physically and mentally challenge your dogs.
Here are some flirt pole benefits:
It is great exercise. It teaches coordination, for both the dog and the human! I am continually having to develop new “moves” as my dogs learn to outwit my old ones. You can use it to teach impulse control. You may have a better chance of teaching a good release than with tugging.
The dog gets to chase something at high speed but also stays close to you (you are part of the picture). She can’t run off with the toy, and thereby develops a habit of sticking around you with it. As long as the dog has a reliable release, the human doesn’t have to move at all. It can be outdoor couch training!
Soccer is a fantastic choice and a pretty good game to teach your dog.
It’s relatively simple, allowing dogs to complete it, and there are so many things that you can do with a ball! I highly recommend integrating clicker training into your soccer game, as that makes it much easier to train your pup.
Teach your dog how to dribble a soccer ball.
Remember that biting and puncturing the ball is a penalty.
The two likeliest ways for the dog to "kick" the ball are by using his paws or by using his nose (across the top of the nasal bone is best). While some dogs are particularly skilled at using their paws to propel a ball with accuracy, the easiest way to train most dogs is to teach them to use their noses. Many dogs will already know how to nose target, and that's a very good start.
When you’re trying to teach your dog to kick a goal, you should hold the ball in position directly in front of the goal. Click and encourage your dog to hit the ball with its nose. As soon as it hits the ball, reward it! Encourage your dog to hit the ball towards the goal, and whenever the ball enters the goal, reward your pup generously. Eventually, it’ll be scoring goals consistently.
Soccer is a fantastic way to both improve your dog’s coordination and fight off boredom.
Exercise is essential for the physical health of a dog. But, what many owners don’t realize is that exercise is just as important for their dog’s mental health as well. Many dogs, when they don’t get the exercise they need to burn off energy, will act out in various ways, almost all of them destructive.
Taking your dog to a dog park allows him to burn off all of his/her pent-up energy. After all, dogs are instinctually designed to run, and chances are pretty good that the local dog park offers much more open space than your own back yard for your dog to run.
Another positive reason to take your dog to the park is the social aspect of the setting. At the dog park, your dog gets to communicate with others of his/her kind through body language and other communication skills. Because your dog will routinely meet unfamiliar dogs at the park, the experience strengthens your pet’s ability to deal with issues of fear or aggression around other dogs.
However, dog parks have a few disadvantages. Your dog may not play well with others. Some dogs may not be socialized properly. Some dogs may carry diseases. For the most part, however, dog parks are an option worth consideration when you’re looking at ways to keep dog boredom at bay.
Care For Your Dog
Caring for your pup will go a long way towards forging a strong bond between you and your trusty canine companion. Mentally stimulating your dog can help prevent things like destructive chewing, separation anxiety, and aggression. Physically exercising your dog will help a lot with keeping away illness, keeping your dog’s energy levels in check, and making sure that your dog is healthy and fit.
Dog boredom is a serious issue for a lot of owners. However, it’s a problem that’s easily fixable. It just takes a little time and love, and you’ll end up with a perfectly healthy, happy pet!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.