Does your dog need more mental stimulation? How can you tell? What are the signs you should be looking for? What should you do if your dog is displaying any of these signs? You want your dog to have the best life possible and you might not even realize that he’s bored all day long. Here are 10 signs that your dog needs more mental stimulation and what you can do to provide that for him.
#1 – Destructive behavior
Do you come home to find your house torn apart? If your favorite shoes have been chewed up or there’s a new hole in the wall, your dog is likely bored and needs more mental stimulation. Dogs have limited options when they get bored, so they may create their own fun any way they can.
Destructive behaviors can also be a sign of separation anxiety, but there are slight differences in what you may discover when you come home. Dogs who suffer from separation anxiety are more likely to urinate or defecate in the house and tend to focus their destruction on exit points like windows and doors. Dogs who are just bored usually won’t have accidents in the house and may focus their destruction anywhere that catches their interest.
Puzzle toys can be a great way to keep your dog’s mind busy while you’re away. If you feed kibble, you can even put most or all of your dog’s food into puzzle toys to keep him busy all day long working for his food.
#2 – Whining or barking
Your dog may be focusing his barking on you, your neighbors, or imaginary prey animals in a corner of the house, but whining and barking tend to be signs that your dog needs something else to occupy his mind. If you catch your dog whining or barking when you’re home, try picking up a ball or tug toy and playing with your dog for a while. The extra exercise of playing will help wear out his body while the stimulation of playing with his favorite person will help wear out his mind.
#3 – Escaping
When dogs escape, they see that the world outside their home is a whole lot more exciting than what they see, hear, and smell in your house or yard every day. Most of the time, your dog isn’t necessarily running AWAY from your home so much as he is running TOWARD something far more interesting than what he is getting at home. Try keeping only 4 or 5 of your dog’s toys out at a time and switching them around every single day so that your dog has a unique experience daily. You can even hide toys around the house or yard to keep him even more stimulated.
#4 – Overly excited “Welcome home” greetings
It’s natural for your dog to be excited to see you at the end of the day, but if your dog starts zooming around, doing flips, or jumping all over you every time you come home, they’ve probably been bored all day long and are relying solely on you to keep their mind occupied. Try taking your dog to doggy daycare a few times a week so that he has something interesting to look forward to other than waiting around the house for you to come home from work.
#5 – Restless behavior
Does your dog constantly shuffle around the house, seemingly unable to get settled and relax? He’s probably wandering around the house looking for something to do. Dogs thrive on routine. If your dog knows exactly when he’s getting fed, getting walked, and getting play time with you every day, he should find it easier to relax.
#6 – Pawing for attention
A dog pawing for attention is announcing loud and clear that he is bored and is looking to your for mental stimulation. Of course, giving him attention every time he paws at you reinforces the behavior, so your goal should be to interact with your dog enough that he doesn’t feel the need to ask for your attention by pawing at you. Your dog may not be happy unless he’s in your lap 24/7, but enough exercise and mental stimulation should reduce the amount of needy pawing.
#7 – Jumping
A dog that likes to jump – on you, on furniture, over the fence – clearly has too much physical and mental energy. There is a lot of truth to the saying that a tired dog is a good dog. Try lengthening your daily walks or hiring a dog walker to take your dog for a nice, long mid-day walk. Walks are also great mental stimulation because your dog gets to experience sights and smells that he just can’t get staying in your home or yard.
#8 – Digging
Some dogs just love to dig, but other dogs develop an obsession for it because they don’t have enough to keep their mind occupied. Consider putting a sandbox in your yard and hiding toys in it to give your dog a more constructive way to dig than tearing up your yard.
#9 – Tail chasing
Some dogs are compelled to chase their tail through an obsessive-compulsive disorder, but most dogs who chase their tails are just bored and trying to entertain themselves. Try giving your dog bully sticks or toys stuffed with frozen peanut butter – something other than chasing his tail to keep his mind occupied. It may be cute, but it’s a sign of boredom and unhappiness.
#10 – Sleeping a lot
All dogs love a good nap now and then, but if your dog is healthy and seems to spend most of the day sleeping, he probably doesn’t find enough interesting things in his environment worth staying awake for. Try engaging him with a flirt pole or rope toy to catch his interest and give him something to chase – other than 40 winks!
(H/T: PawCulture, Puppy Leaks, Modern Dog Magazine, Rover)