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