Imagine a preschooler left to his own devices in a room without toys, television or adult supervision, and you have the average dog left alone without his best friend. He can't read, there is nothing to stimulate his mind and there's little room for meaningful exercise. In short, he's bored.
Let There Be Toys
If you don't provide your dog with a toy of your choosing, he will find one for himself -- whether it is a worthless old magazine or your expensive new pair of designer shoes. There is no "if" in this equation, only when. Bored dogs make their own fun. Give your dog plenty of fun toys to play with to prevent destructive behavior. Solid rubber balls, treat dispenser toys and heavy rope tugs are good choices, but if you are not in the room, make sure that there are no small parts -- like squeakers, buttons, knobs and so forth -- to choke on. Also be sure the toys are durable enough to withstand serious chewing and play. Never leave your dog alone with brittle plastic toys or stuffed toys that may tear. Make your pup a toy box and change out the toys regularly to keep him interested.
Take a Hike
You don't literally need to take a hike, but at least one good long walk each day -- not a potty break walk, but a real walk -- is the best antidote to boredom for most dogs. Walking not only gives your dog the exercise he needs to stay fit, but it offers a change of scenery and opportunity to experience new things. He will enjoy sniffing the ground for interesting smells, watching people and interacting with other animals. Vary the walk from time to time so things stay new, and be sure to give him at least an hour so he is tired when he comes home. A tired dog does not necessarily mean a good dog, as the cliché goes, but it often results in a sleeping dog -- which has to help.
Challenge His Brain
Not every dog is a canine Einstein, but they all enjoy mental stimulation to some degree, and extremely intelligent dogs absolutely require it. You don't need to spend a fortune on commercial puzzle toys and brain teasers, either. Your dog will probably enjoy homemade “scent work” better. Try hiding small treats around the house when your dog is in another room or outside, then let him find them. In the wild, dog ancestors spent a good part of each day searching for food in nests, cavities and burrows, so your dog will love looking under couch cushions and rugs, behind furniture and on easily reachable tabletops for his “prey.” For more confined play, use an old muffin tin with treats inside each cup and tennis balls over the top to hide them. Let your dog find the treats by removing the balls.
Be Your Dog's Best Friend
It works both ways -- he is your best friend and you owe it to him to return the favor. Often bored dogs just want some old-fashioned attention from their person. You wouldn't expect your toddler to entertain himself, so you shouldn't expect your dog to, either. Play with him. Pet him. Be there for him. Dogs are so wrapped up in us that whatever we do is interesting to them, but throwing a ball with him or playing chase around the backyard is like a trip to Disneyland. Even a quiet tickle session before bedtime or some playful wrestling on the living room floor will make your dog feel like he died and went to heaven when you are there with him, giving him your full attention.
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