How Your Dog’s Extreme Boredom Might be Affecting His Health

Springer Spaniel puppy lickedBoredom is a terrible thing!

Actually, sometimes I think boredom can be a good thing for us all to deal with in moderate doses.  I think the generation we are living in with smart phones, and constant contact and video games is bad for our world and our mental capacities.

We all have to learn how to deal with boredom.

But extreme boredom on a constant basis can lead to acting out.

  • In children
  • In adult humans
  • In animals

Extreme boredom leads to exploration of other things and self-soothing.

Which doesn’t sound so bad, right?

For creative people like Walt Disney and Dr. Sues boredom probably spurred imagination and creativity, the likes of which has enhanced the rest of our lives and the world that we live in forever.

But I suppose not everyone is creative.

And, well, dogs aren’t people.  They aren’t writing stories and creating art.

For the Best Dogs

For the best bored dog scenarios, the dog learns to play with and by itself.

I have seen dogs fling balls, play in sprinklers and in the rain and dig and then bite the flying dirt.

I suppose most of those things are considered fairly normal and nondestructive (except maybe the digging for help with that read this).

Some dogs become almost zombie like and sleep away their lives.  I personally think this is sad.   But this is sedate behavior is probably safer in terms of how we humans see and desire things.

Then there are the very “high drive” dogs, these dogs are the ones that eat walls, and siding, shred carpeting, and seem to destroy everything in their path.  After all, destruction is fun especially if you are a dog!

Have you ever had the chance to take a sledge hammer and drive it through a wall?  Most of us haven’t, because the effects of the damages are costly.  But doesn’t it look like a lot of fun when you see the home improvement shows on TV?

Dogs don’t understand the cost of damages; they only understand how fun it is to destroy something.  And, when you put it in those terms do you blame them?  They basically have the intellect of a toddler and if we don’t educated, train, and engage them we can’t really expect much different in terms of behavior.  They aren't people!

Not only is swallowing drywall, wood, carpet, batteries and other foreign objects dangerous to your dog’s health but so is some neurotic behaviors associated with boredom.

Obsessive Lickingdog allergies

Some people do teach or discipline (some not so nicely) their high drive dogs for chewing or destroying their things.

But often the root of the problem, the boredom is not addressed.

The dog learns, often through physical pain, that chewing carpeting and destroying everything in the house is not acceptable but they aren’t left with an outlet for their mental and physical needs.

I suppose this would be like not allowing your toddler to explore the world, play or learn.

As you could imagine some not so pleasant coping mechanisms would develop.

Some children cut themselves, or pull their hair, others develop severe personality disorders; most don’t cope well by turning into great literary artists.

Dogs can develop the same types of destructive behavior.

But instead of seeing some things as a product of a bad or undeveloped environment (like with children) we blame “behavior problems” on the dog or individual himself.

Some dogs will pull their fur out or chase their tail, until it is naked and bleeding.

Many of these dogs will begin licking themselves until they create sores.

Say your dog gets poked on his paw pad, or gets something between his toes, perhaps a small scrape; so he does what dogs do and he licks.  The licking on a small sore releases endorphins, and endorphins feel good.

A normal dog will lick until the wound is clean and then move on to do something else, play with a ball, or a toy, go on a walk, train or play with his owner or even sleep from the exercise and stimulation from a long walk.

But dogs that are bored can feed off the trigger from the release of endorphins, which causes licking and licking and more licking until they actually create a much larger sore.

I have seen dogs lick through their skin and expose muscle and tendons.

I have seen dogs chew their own toes off.

I suppose this is like cutting or self-harm is to people.  It is not a “huge” problem for the majority of society but it is a huge problem for the people who suffer from it!

How to Keep Your Dog from Developing this Problem

Always make sure that you are meeting your dog’s mental and physical needs with training and exercise!

Dogs can’t read books, they don’t watch television, they don’t play video games and they can’t drive themselves to the mall to shop.

Dogs rely on us to provide them with stimulation both physically through exercise (walks, runs, games of retrieve) and mentally with training and learning.

Without an outlet, dogs will try and entertain themselves when they are bored and the results usually aren’t what we consider positive.

If your dog gets a lesion or starts licking, don’t let him pursue it for long.

It is okay for your dog to lick a sore or a wound, or a toe nail for a brief time.

It is NOT okay for your dog to lick himself compulsively.Dog after surgical intervention

If he wants to, take him to the vet to have him diagnosed.

He may have a wound, or pain from arthritis or another injury.  Diagnosis can be critical to knowing which is the safest way to exercise and stimulate your dog.

Once he given the all clear for exercise, get him active!  Well exercised dogs sleep and rest, and dogs that are sleeping don’t have an opportunity to develop some of these obsessive compulsive behaviors.

If your dog is licking work on “leave it”.

Or, you can utilize an Elizabethan Collar so that he can’t reach the area or a sock to cover the area he wants to lick.

Do not ever bandage an area on your dog without first having a vet diagnose and do the bandaging.

Bandages can be wrapped too tight which can cause blood loss to the extremities (like toes).

And, bandages need to be changed frequently to assess the skin beneath and let it breathe.

If you think your dog is suffering from this condition, again make an appointment with your vet to discuss both veterinary diagnosis and behavioral modification.

For more on lick granulomas click here for an article on PetMD.

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  1. I have a Lhasa apso who has a problem with scratching. He goes crazy scratching his nose or at the minute his chin or throat. He cries when he is doing it so must be hurting himself. Also he swallows all the time yawns and shakes his head. His ears had dirt in them and the vet that cleaned them and his teeth made an infection which a different vet sorted please help no one can find anything wrong with his skin etc.


    Minette Reply:

    Sounds like an ear infection to me. Time to take him back to the vet


  2. Katie says:

    Have a Bull Terrier, 2 acres yard (not fenced). Spent tons of money trying to find out why she is licking, itching, broken out on feet & belly. She will be 10 months old the 10th. Almost impossible to go on a long walk with her, she wants to eat everything, her nose stays on the ground, pulls constantly… passed puppy classes with honors, wonderful intellect, only puppy to run all the agility course without a leash, but she looks like an orphan nobody loves… we’re heartbroken and I’m afraid she’ll end up hurt from all the things she eats, tears up everything! Literally carpet, rocks, bugs, paperclips, worms, poop, string, anything she comes into contact with. She’s out of control, no matter how hard we try! I’m so worried, her breakouts are so bad vet won’t spay her… I’m afraid for her and I feel helpless!


    Minette Reply:

    First she needs a veterinary dermatologist. Many dog allergy cases start between 9 months and 2 years and the younger often the worse the condition. A dermatologist can get her on meds and shampoos that will help her condition. I had an allergy dog and had to bathe him every other day for a while until we got him under control then he was fairly easily managed.

    And, your puppy needs more exercise. She is bored and she is trying to relieve her boredom in ways that are unacceptable. Take her running, play retrieve games until she is exhausted, train her. Training is NEVER done and if she is pulling etc she certainly needs more work! Plus her mind needs it!


  3. Venetia says:

    Great article, just like with kids if they are kept occupied doing supervised sports or whatever activity that requires physical exertion they are exhausted and hopefully stay out of trouble. Same with dogs. Its funny that I received this email today because I was listening to the radio this morning and one of the host was saying they have a labrodoodle mini and this dog is just mean and is always nipping at peoples feet. All I could think about was one of your articles that everything people complained about could probably be brought to a halt by exercise.


    Minette Reply:

    EXACTLY!!! You should forward it so he gets some knowledge and relief from the behavior!


  4. Carole says:

    My dog is starting to lick the floor and rug. Not all the time but when he starts it is hard to stop him.


    Minette Reply:

    Often this is when they begin to lick themselves


  5. cathy chevlin says:

    I have a Great pyrenees 1 year old puppy , and My Husband and I Work out of our house , We take her out 3 times a day , She can be very active and destructive! She does get bored very easily ! We do not have a back yard for her and I can not entertain her all day? I need to be very focused in my work, How to we keep her from getting bored ? Thank You I love reading your posts they are very helpful Cathy Chevlin


    Minette Reply:

    HARD exercise AND training. I typically have my dogs retrieve a ball, thrown as far as I can and then also make them do obedience in order for me to continue throwing. 20 minutes of this and they are physically and mentally exhausted


  6. June says:

    I have a Bernese puppy 9 months old, she is well taken care of we have a back yard and she is walked 3-4 times a day one of them being out at the off leash park for an hour. she bites my arms consistently no one else just me, now she is digging holes in the backyard and chewing the tree trunks? i have tried leaving the door open for her to come and go but she still seems to be destructive and biting?


    Minette Reply:

    She is still bored and she is telling you that. Dogs don’t exactly put together an exercise plan and do push ups and constantly run at full speed in a yard. They wander, they get bored, and they try to alleviate their boredom.

    Also she needs mental stimulation. First my guess is a walk to you is meandering on leash… as that is what most people do. A walk is not really exercise read this

    She needs real obedience training, mental stimulation and physical exercise.


  7. Star says:

    Our dog is alittle over 1 yr. yes I have noticed her chewing on her back paws, also she likes to jump up at nip at my arms ? She has almost an acre of yard to run in.


    Minette Reply:

    But she doesn’t… You have a whole continent to run in, but do you? Just because you have it doesn’t mean a dog is sitting down and mapping out an exercise plan to make sure he is feeling challenged and exhausted… that is up to us to provide for them. Not to expect them to do on their own.


  8. Alyne says:

    Thank you! Our wirehair Terrier/cross with Jack Russell 1 year maybe is chewing every thing to pieces in and out of house just chewed up the remoter to my orthopedic bed and it no longer works. Only about 2K worth of damage and Co. no longer makes that remote. I put a new leather harness on him last night to take him walking today, He chewed it off over the night. I have severe arthritis and my husband is an invalid with pancreatic cancer. I walk but it sure isn’t speedy anymore. Checkers came from the Haven Society and was picked up in a mountain town in our county. We love him so must get this solved. Thanks again,


  9. Jeanine Ryan says:

    My dog is not licking herself, she is licking the air on her way towards something, it could be a person and then she would be continously licking the person, it could be on her way out the door then she would stop and lick the door continually. If you pat her she licks you, she just seems to be always licking.


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