7 Telltale Signs Your Dog is Bored
Have you ever imagined being a dog? Have you ever wanted to be? No responsibilities, no bills, no worries and just happiness!
I think we can learn a lot from our dogs’ happy ways and how they love unconditionally, but I wouldn’t necessarily want to be a dog. Okay, I would want to be one of MY dogs, but I wouldn’t want to belong to just anyone.
I think like a dog and I understand that my dogs need physical exercise, mental stimulation, relaxation and cuddling and I do my best to provide that to them every day of the week! Dogs get bored. Dog boredom is a real issue.
My dogs are a big responsibility. Heck, I don’t even take vacations without them, but they are worth every moment of my time. You see, your dog can’t pick up a book or flip on the TV when he is bored.
He doesn’t have a smartphone or friends on social media that he can play with. He only has what you provide or what he can find to do on his own. Dog boredom can lead to some serious destructive behavior. So, how do you know if your dog is trying to tell you that he is bored and would like more mental and physical stimulation?
Here Are the Top 7 Telltale Signs that Your Dog is Bored:
He is Destroying Everything
Dogs destroy things when they are bored. Did you ever take anything apart as a kid, to see how it worked? Or cut up your “Stretch Armstrong” doll just to see what it looked like inside? In humans, this is perfectly normal and also a byproduct of boredom and intrigue.
In dogs, we just judge and punish them for being destructive. Ever think that shredding his bed or eating your shoes was just as fun for him as taking apart a car and finding the leak is to a mechanic? A mentally and physically stimulated dog doesn’t shred things (except maybe a toy here and there) because his needs are being met.
A dog dealing with boredom does whatever he can to stimulate his mind, even if it is eating your Michael Kors purse or your laptop! His destructive behavior is fed by dog boredom.
He Steals Things
A pet that is mentally stimulated and whose needs are met won’t notice every item on your kitchen counter. He doesn’t need to pay attention to what you store and where it is. A dog that is bored is searching his environment for anything that he can play with or shred or steal or run around with through the house! Your underwear, your glasses, your food… they are all at risk!
How to prevent your pet from stealing food:
In most families, the best solution is to make food inaccessible to dogs. This can be achieved in one of several ways: Putting food away, gating areas where food is prepared and served, or possibly training a dog to lie in a designated place during food preparation or consumption.
With a new puppy, if you make sure there is never any food within reach of your puppy in your kitchen or elsewhere, then eventually, as he grows and matures, it will never occur to him to look for it or take it. You can teach the ‘leave it’ command with respect to food. We’ll look at that in a moment.
But, food is such a powerful reward that teaching dogs to ‘leave it’ whilst you leave the room is time consuming. It is probably simpler just to get the whole family to put food away.
Boredom can be one of the top causes for stealing. If your dog is suffering from boredom, then he has plenty of time to think of what he can do in order to get a little excitement. Mentally, he is scheming for the moment he can steal something and run. Wouldn’t it be better to keep that mind busy?
He Barks Incessantly
Dogs that bark incessantly are also dealing with boredom.
Imagine being locked in a room with four white walls and nothing else. Would you talk to yourself? Would you yell and try to communicate with anyone else in your environment? My guess is that, after a period of time, you certainly would. You would want to hear SOMETHING or do SOMETHING so you would do whatever it took not to become mentally unstable.
Every dog barks to attract the owner’s attention, communicate or express excitement. The bark does not contain as much information as human speech, but it is not an ordinary noise. There are situations when it is desirable that our pet informs or warns us about something; however, it often happens that the dog starts to bark for no reason.
At first, a dog making funny noise can be cute. When you are there, it’s always possible to find a way to calm your dog. The problem arises when you need to leave it alone, even for a couple of minutes. We believe that your neighbors will not always be happy to listen to your dog barking and whining. If you are a responsible owner, you’ll find a way to prevent your dog from acting like this.
Imagine, if you will, how your dog feels. He can probably also hear other dogs barking in the neighborhood when he is inside. And, like prisoners in lockup, if you have nothing else to do, you try to communicate with anyone who will take notice.
Your dog could develop separation anxiety from being left alone and ignored, and barking could be the way that it manifests. Separation anxiety is a serious problem. For help with how to stop your dog’s barking, click here to have a FREE cheat sheet emailed to you.
He Jumps on You
He is begging you to play! I mean, even if you yell and scream and try to kick him in the ribs at least he is getting some kind of interaction from you. A lot of times, dogs are like kids. They would prefer any kind of interaction over no interaction at all. Even if the interaction is negative and you punish him, he would still rather get your attention.
Instead, wouldn’t you rather play with him and teach your puppy in a positive way so that he doesn’t have to resort to bad behavior?
The key to managing jumping up is to avoid reinforcing / rewarding your dog for jumping and instead rewarding it for sitting or at least having “paws on the floor”. Ideally it would be best to get into this habit from day one, but it is never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!
Specifically what you should do is, whenever your dog jumps on you, immediately turn away, do not look at or speak to your dog. Then as soon as your dog gets down and has all four paws on the floor, reward this with an immediate marker such as a clicker or just a verbal marker such as saying “yes” or “good” and ideally give a food reward of high value.
Practice this over and over, be very consistent. Make sure you are on the ball with timing. You need to reinforce a behavior within 0.5-1 second for your dog to associate it clearly with its actions.
The other important thing to do is teach and practice an alternative behavior for your dog to do which is incompatible with jumping up at you. Teach your dog to reliably sit on cue when asked. Do this using positive reinforcement, lure your dog to sit down by carrying a treat above their nose and dragging it backwards above their head to encourage the dog to look up and lean backwards.
As soon as their bottom hits the ground, say your verbal marker and give them a reward. Repeat this many times until they strongly make the connection. This means your dog learns that good things happen when it sits and that this is the most effective way to get your attention - there is no need to jump up.
Dogs get bored. Boredom is common in dogs that aren’t stimulated enough, but you can solve the jumping problem. Just a few sessions of exercise, paired with obedience, will keep him from needing to get your attention by jumping on you.
Often times, people leave their pets out in their yard for long periods of time. Again, imagine sitting outside in your yard for 8+ hours a day with no phone, no book, no ability to get inside.
Do you think after a few days, you would dig too? I know that I would! Bored dogs dig! Digging is like reading a book for a dog. Each new layer of dirt smells different and watching the dirt fly through the air is fun for a dog! It definitely beats boredom!
Digging is actually a good outlet for your dog’s energy, so if there is a suitable spot (preferably shady) in your yard for it, set up a designated digging area. This could become a favorite place for him to be while you hang out in the yard together.
Help your dog get the idea by burying treats and toys for him to find in the designated digging area. Keep the soil moist (not muddy), so it is cooler and not dusty. You can also use a child’s plastic sandbox. If your dog likes to bury bones, he will hopefully choose this spot. If you catch your dog digging in the wrong place, get his attention and redirect him to the right place where you’ve hidden some treats.
If your dog is one who likes to bury treasures in a safe place and he doesn’t use the designated place, give him less valuable toys that he won’t think are worth stashing. Save the really high-value things for when he is indoors in his crate.
Spring is the time of year when wild animals get busy looking for food and making dens to raise their families, and this makes for irresistible digging temptation. Sometimes moles can be controlled by treating your lawn for grubs, which are moles’ food source. Follow directions carefully for the safety of your pets.
Some animals won’t come into the yard if they know a vigilant dog is around, but others don’t seem to mind the risk.
Maybe you can make the designated digging area more tempting than a chipmunk hole, but if your dog is a terrier, it may be impossible to divert him.
The only certain way to keep your dog from attempting to dig up these critters is constant supervision when in the yard.
Ideally, dogs should not be left outside all day while their owners are gone, even in a fenced yard. They are much safer indoors and less likely to become habitual diggers. If a dog gets anxious, he may dig under the fence to get out—then get lost or, worse, meet with a car.
If there is no other option but to leave your dog outside, install a smaller kennel in the yard that is dig-proof, with buried fencing or concrete under the fence perimeter. Surround it with shrubs and trees so your dog feels safe there and cannot see (or be seen by) any passersby. When you leave him there, provide long-lasting chew toys or food puzzle toys.
There are also products available that are supposed to deter dogs from digging. Some are effective, and some dogs aren’t bothered by them at all. If it rains, they must be reapplied.
In reality, closer supervision and good management are the best ways to curb digging. If special flower beds are in your dog’s domain, try putting a decorative fence around them. If you have amended the soil here with compost, it’s extra tempting.
Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise, mental stimulation, and attention to prevent boredom. Now that good weather is here, a nice long walk every day is a good start for both of you.
If you don’t want your dog to dig, bring him inside and stimulate his mind!
He Tries to Get Out of the Yard
Some dogs are escape artists. This is the follow up for digging! Some pets, when left outside, do all they can to get out of the yard! Perhaps they want to find you. Or perhaps they just want to get out of what they consider such a cold and sterile environment. Either way it is dangerous.
I recently had a friend adopt a dog that had been hit by a car.
The pet was notorious for digging out of the yard.
One day, after such an incident, she was hit by a car and dropped off at the vet for euthanasia (she was 9 months old).
She now lives happily with someone who knows the dog needs mental stimulation and exercise. You see, there was no reason to euthanize her, she just needed someone who cared for her; someone who could meet her needs.
He Nips and Bites You
Again, this is basic puppy behavior. Puppies nip and bite their littermates in hopes that the littermate will then chase them. Remember being a kid?
You antagonize your friend by slapping their face or doing something irritating and then you run! You run like the wind. Because not only do you know your friend will chase you down, you want them to. The fun is in the game!
Puppies are born with needle-like teeth, but with very underdeveloped jaw muscles. One theory is that this allows puppies to safely establish with their siblings the acceptable limits of how hard they can nip their pack mates. This process is called bite inhibition and you can see it in action in the litter.
When one puppy bites too hard, the recipient will give a yelp, and the play will stop. In this way, puppies learn how hard they can nip before their adult teeth and strong jaw muscles develop. Puppies also chew a lot when they’re teething, as it helps to reduce the pain. One of the most common reasons that puppies bite, however, is boredom.
Training puppies not to bite at all is just an extension of this natural socialization process – but it still requires time and patience to make sure the training sticks. It goes without saying this is an exceptionally important element of puppy training, as a biting adult dog is a serious danger to other people – particularly children – and pets. Not only that, the law is very strict about biting dogs, and there is a very real risk that your dog will be taken from you and even destroyed.
It’s tempting to try to cut out all biting and mouthing from the beginning. However, this will miss out a vital step – allowing your puppy to understand the limits of how hard he can press skin before it becomes painful.
This is important to learn as it can mean that, later in life when stressed or scared, if a dog does lose control and attempts to nip a person, he will have a built-in inhibition against causing harm.
To teach your puppy not to bite hard, take your cues from natural puppy play. Gentle mouthing and nibbling is natural behavior, so let you puppy indulge in this but, when you feel a hard bite, make a yelping sound and let your hand lie still.
This will show your puppy that he’s gone too far, and he will learn to adjust. It’s important that everyone in the family adopt this same strategy, so that eventually your puppy will only be doing gentle mouthing, and no nipping or biting.
Now that your puppy has learned the pain threshold for biting human skin, it’s time for the next lesson: no teeth on skin at all. You can do this by continuing with the previous technique, but slowly reducing the strength of bite that will induce you to yelp and go limp, showing your puppy that no level of teeth on skin is acceptable.
You can reinforce this through treats: hold a treat in a closed hand, and only open your hand when your puppy is not mouthing, chewing or pawing at your fingers. The idea is to show them that mouths and skin do not go together – it may take some time and patience but puppies are like children – they’re programmed to learn and adapt!
Chewing, mouthing and biting is natural behavior for dogs, and we don’t want to discourage it completely. Puppies need to know early that chewing toys is fine, but chewing skin isn’t. While your puppy is learning, make sure there are plenty of chewy toys around so she can understand that, while skin is a no-no, her toys can be chewed to her heart’s content.
Puppies and young children have many traits in common – both can find it hard to focus on lessons, particularly when they’re excited. Sometimes, the best thing to do is to give your puppy a little time to calm down in her playpen, perhaps with a nice chewy toy. This isn’t a punishment, simply a chance to calm down. Training can resume when things are a little more tranquil.
Some breeds of dog, such as Border Collies or Shetland Sheepdogs, have strong herding instincts, which can lead them to nip at ankles in an effort to keep the ‘herd’ moving. If your pet does this, stand still so that he understands that nipping ankles will have the opposite effect to what he intends. Only by not biting can your puppy keep the herd on the move!
Stay calm and focused!
Puppy training requires a lot of patience and perseverance. They may not get there straight away, but they should get there eventually, so try to stay calm and focused. Shouting at your puppy or scolding her may frighten or stress her, which can lead to exactly the behavior you’re trying to prevent.
If you think that your puppy is not learning her lessons about biting, then it’s very important to take her to see a professional trainer. Dogs that bite are a danger to you and others around you, and ultimately it’s your responsibility to ensure that your pet is safe to be around.
Most often, puppies and young dogs nip because they want to engage you in play. They’re dealing with boredom. This is their way of letting you know that they have too much energy and they need to play.
Puppies who are tired from a 2 hour hike are less likely to nip…. right? Because, after all, they were physically and mentally stimulated for 2 hours. When we keep our puppies’ needs met and we exercise them, we are much less likely to suffer from their bad behavior!
In order to have a happy and well adjusted dog, he needs to be mentally, physically and emotionally stimulated enough to meet his needs.
Look. We, as human beings, have access to tons of forms of entertainment. It’s almost ridiculous just how large our repositories of knowledge, information, and entertainment are. We have millions upon millions of websites to browse.
There are millions upon millions of videos to stream. The are millions upon millions of books to read. Movies? Yeah, a ton of those, too. We have whole networks and year-round access to various major sports.
Your dogs, though, don’t have a puppy internet or puppy streaming services. They can’t read. They don’t have video games, watch sports, and probably don’t work the nine-to-five shift at the local accounting firm. They can get bored.
Boredom isn’t that uncommon among our canine friends, especially if we aren’t paying proper attention.
Boredom can lead to lots of behavioral problems. There are cures to those problems, but it’s like treating the symptoms of a disease versus actually curing the disease.
Help your dog to remain stimulated. If you’re sitting here, thinking “my dog is bored,” then take the time to improve your dog’s quality of life. They’re worth it.
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.