If you’ve ever attempted to entertain your dog with their favorite toy, only to have them stare blankly at you and trot away towards something more interesting, you may have found yourself wondering: Am I boring? Is my dog bored with me? Wait—can dogs get bored?
The short answer is: absolutely.
It’s unlikely you are the source of the problem, but you may need to take a different approach to engage your pet. While boredom is an innocuous, even common, state for humans and dogs to experience intermittently, monotony can have taxing psychological, emotional, and physical effects if it becomes the norm. A dog might even develop a mental disorder if this persists.
There are also many fun things to do with your dog at home if going outside or for a walk is not an option. This guide will break down how to know if your dog is bored, along with the best ways to address their doldrums, lift their spirits, and restore their zest for life long-term.
First Things First: What Is Boredom?
Boredom is an emotional-psychological state characterized by tedium, restlessness, and a generalized feeling of dissatisfaction. In humans, boredom may be linked to:1
- Inadequate mental, intellectual, or cognitive stimulation
- Insufficient rest or nutrition
- Lack of variety in routine activities
- Perception of time as slower than normal
Boredom is a normal shade in the palette of emotions, though like most mental states it exists on a spectrum of severity. If spells of boredom become frequent and more intense, it can be a harbinger of sadness and listlessness to come.
An important misconception about boredom is that it is confined to people (and pets!) experiencing fatigue, lethargy, or low energy. Boredom can also exhibit alongside elevated physiological states, such as:
- Restlessness or jitteriness
- Inability to focus
Understanding that boredom can manifest in a host of mental-physical states is vital for expanding our repertoire of tools for its treatment.
Why Do Dogs Get Bored?
While every dog has their own distinct personality, dogs, on the whole, are notoriously social creatures.
Long before their domestication, dogs descended from gray wolves—pack animals—which means that they lived, thrived, and evolved in group settings.2 This group-oriented temperament is engraved in dogs’ DNA: just like humans, dogs are healthiest and happiest when they can regularly fraternize with other creatures, be they their owners, other dogs, or other household pets.
If you’re like most modern humans, it’s unlikely you’re not able to spend as much time with your dog as they might prefer. Work, kids, errands, and other responsibilities that attend “adulting” probably claim a large portion of your attention—even if you and your pet are in the same space together. Given these conditions, it’s no surprise that many dogs tend to get bored.
Signs Your Dog Is Bored
When puppies or dogs get bored, they will take matters into their own paws. There are some tell-tale signs of doggy boredom:
- You come home to a mess – If you return home to find your bathroom TP’d, your couch dismembered, or your trash bin capsized, chances are your dog is bored. Your pet isn’t trying to cause trouble—they’re just trying to entertain themself. It’s up to you to give them a less destructive diversion to occupy the unchaperoned time with.
- They’re running amok even when you’re home – Just as young children will often hover around their parents when they’re bored, you may find your dog trying to do the same —no matter how important your WFH assignment is. Your dog may tear around the house, bark at you for seemingly no reason, or grab things away from you to make you engage.
- They don’t listen – Even if your dog is characteristically obedient and well-behaved, a bored pup may disregard your commands. This is neither a sign of a lack of discipline nor malice. It just means that they’re overly limited in their activities, and they want to find something a little more stimulating to do than “sit.”
Some of the time, stress, sadness, or other blue moods may be responsible for your dog’s misbehavior. Keep in mind that some dogs have difficulty with separation, which can require a more targeted intervention.
If other symptoms of stress with separation arise—such as bathroom accidents, pacing, or excessive whining—consider consulting with your vet, trainer, or dog behaviorist on ways to assuage their nerves.3
How to Combat Boredom in Dogs
Just like humans, dogs crave physical, mental, and social stimulation. Deflecting boredom is chiefly a matter of ensuring your pet is getting all of these needs met—and there are plenty of ways to do so, whether or not you’re around to supervise.
#1: Get Moving
There’s no better way to fight canine boredom than making sure physical activity is a part of your dog’s daily routine beyond the daily bathroom trips around the block.
Every breed of dog has different physical needs, so some dogs may crave more exercise than others. While a Yorkshire Terrier may be able to exhaust themself with some high-energy friskiness in the backyard, larger dogs like retrievers tend to crave wide open spaces with the latitude for more physical activity.
If you’re not able to keep up with your dog’s desired level of physical activity, consider bringing a toy along. Playing fetch with a frisbee, a ball, or even a stick you rustled up in the park can be a great way of meeting your pet’s physical needs while you stay put.
#2: Break out the Brain-Teasers
An idle mind is the devil’s playground, and dogs can certainly get diabolical with their human’s shoe collection when left to their own devices.
Fortunately, there are a host of games you’re sure to know from childhood that you can modify to bond with your pup and stimulate their intellect:
- Hide and seek – If you’re worried about coming home to a mess when you arrive home from work, try playing hide and seek with your dog. Hide their favorite toy or snack for them to sniff out while you’re gone.
- Puzzles – Many pet-care companies make puzzle toys for dogs, which may include squeaky noises for entertainment or even hidden pockets to incentivize their interest with a snack. There are also food-releasing floor puzzle toys you can incorporate into mealtimes to give them a chance to play with their food.
- Create-your-own – Depending on the kind of bond you and your dog share, you may find that when you spend quality time together, games are created seemingly by themselves. To spice up your downtime, try adding an element of challenge to your traditional activities. Tug-o-war, catch, or an Easter egg-hunt-style trail of treats to their favorite plushy can pique their interest and be an endless source of entertainment.
If you’re running out of ways to engage your dog’s mind, you can always lean on sensory activities to keep them on their toes. Hiding a spot of peanut butter or cream cheese for them to sniff out or setting off a squeaky noise out of their line of vision is bound to pique their curiosity and train their senses.
#3: Make New Friends
While puppies, in particular, need plenty of opportunities to socialize, dogs of all ages can benefit from spending time among their kind.
Dog parks, doggy daycare, puppy play dates, and even just giving them the extra go-ahead to sniff around a neighbor they met on their stroll are all excellent ways of ensuring your dog is putting themselves out there.
That said, be mindful that you aren’t using their time at the dog park to tune out (or into your phone). While some play areas designate areas for small and large dogs to keep playtime safe, there’s no guarantee your dog’s peers will always be on their best behavior. Make sure to clear the decks before you hit the park so you can stay engaged and keep an eye on your pup while they’re making new friends.
#4: Find the Right Hobby
In many cases, engaging activities aren’t just about defeating the here-and-now doldrums—they may tap into your dog’s greater purpose.
Many kinds of dogs were bred over generations for a specific job, such as:
- Protection & security
If you’ve found that your dog’s boredom persists no matter how many chew toys you toss their way, it’s possible they’re just not all that interested in what you’re offering.
Do some research on the history of your dog’s breed to get a sense of the types of activities they may have an ancestral predilection for. For example, if you’ve been palling around with a Portuguese Water Dog—bred for herding fish, retrieving tackle, and relaying between sea and shore—skip loafing around the house and see if they perk up when you bring them to your local lake, beach, or sprinkler park.4
Curbing Canine Boredom with Canna-Pet
Alongside these behavioral changes, you may want to consider incorporating plant-based therapeutics into your pup’s wellness routine to help deflect the doggy doldrums.
Canna-pet’s CBD for dogs such as oils, supplements, and treats are custom-made for canines to help promote levity and calm while mitigating distress that straddles the physical, mental, and emotional domains. Your dog may benefit if they suffer from any of the following:
- Excessive aggression
- Appetite loss
Humans have been using plant-based medicines for thousands of years, and their supportive properties don’t stop short at our species. Talk to your vet about how cannabinoids can help your dog beat their boredom, lift their spirits, and nurture their overall well-being now and long into the future.
- Healthline. Boredom. https://www.healthline.com/health/boredom#symptoms
- PBS. Evolution of the Dog. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolution/library/01/5/l_015_02.html
- Chewy. Dog Separation Anxiety: Everything You Need to Know to Help Your Dog. https://be.chewy.com/reducing-separation-anxiety-dog/
- American Kennel Club. Working Dogs: Meet 31 Purposely-Bred Dogs. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/working-group-dogs/