Dogs, like people, can get bored and when they do, they resort to looking for ways to entertain themselves – just like you or I would. They could be having a real riot of a time chewing up and spitting out bits of your slippers or scattering your scatter-cushions – before tearing them apart: it’s such an easy and fun way to pass the time!
Many of us quickly assume that the dog is punishing us for leaving them alone in the house, all day, but we’re barking up the wrong tree! For example, a dog ‘gone native’ would be out scavenging for food all day. It would also be very excited about searching out food with a group of buddies (or ‘pack’, as we like to say), much the same way as we do, in fact. According to the Dog Trust: ‘To keep a dog from being bored and out of trouble in the home, you need to devise all sorts of fun and interesting ways to feed your dog his daily food ration.’
It’s not just food issues, though. Recent changes in weather patterns have also exposed an increase in boredom among pet dogs. Persistent wet, damp weather has meant dog-owners have been less inclined to go out for walks. Animal behaviourists have noticed a sharp increase in the number of depressed and distressed dogs needing therapy, lately.
Carolyn Menteith, a dog behaviourist and Britain’s Instructor of the Year 2015, told The Independent: “I’ve been working with dogs for more than 20 years and I can’t remember a time when they have been this bored. I tend to see boredom in bursts but I’m seeing it chronically this winter.”
Dogs are highly intelligent and are social creatures. They need mental and physical stimulation, social interactions along with variety to spice up their hum-drum lives, just like you and me. According to Kate’s Pet Corner: “A bored dog is a stressed dog. Behavioural issues can result from boredom and they are normally destructive. When dogs are bored they make their own entertainment. Unfortunately for you this tends to involve digging up your garden or chewing your favourite pair of shoes.”
Other behavioural symptoms she notes include: stealing; chewing; digging; excessive barking and hyperactivity. “A bored dog usually knows that their behaviour was wrong and they will look guilty on your return,” she points out, which explains why we conclude their behaviour is deliberate.
Walking is the most obvious and beneficial means to combat canine boredom. Maybe you have other friends with dogs that you could invite too? Such social interactions would enrich your dog’s life. If you work all day, could you pop home in your lunch break for a quick walk? If that is not possible and you don’t want anti-social or destructive behaviour from your dog you should look into a dog walking service. Nine million dogs can’t be wrong!