Dogs are very social creatures and can very easily turn into bored puppies. Boredom prompts puppies to find interesting things to do, and what is great fun for the puppy often can be destructive to your home or even dangerous for your pet.
The signs of puppy boredom are not hard to spot, but may present a challenge to the busy owner. It will be up to you to figure out ways to get your dog to refocus its energy (and puppies have a lot of energy) into more productive outlets.
Why Puppies Get Bored
Remember that healthy puppies do not come with an off-switch. When your puppy becomes bored with not enough attention, toys, or interaction it can become frustrated and act out in inappropriate ways.
Problem behaviors that get practiced become ingrained and can be more difficult to stop, so it’s important that puppies be given lots of opportunities to express themselves in positive ways. It's just as important to make sure dogs know as early on as possible what behavior is not acceptable.
A puppy introduced into a multi-dog household has the advantage of having playmates. Of course, bored youngsters also may pester the older dog and annoy it.
For singleton pups, keeping them entertained always falls to the humans in the house. Engaging a solo puppy not only keeps the puppy physically active and healthy but also engages the brain in productive ways through training and play activities.
Most dogs want a job to do and are happiest when they’re busy. It’s up to you to find ways for your pup to stay busy.
Signs of Boredom in Puppies
A large percentage of “bad” behaviors in puppies are just the dog's way of expressing boredom. Puppies that are bored when left alone in a fenced yard, for example, may turn to barking just to hear the sound of their voice.
Others decide to dig their way out of the backyard enclosure to seek more exciting things to do. Digging is a very common sign of boredom and one of the tougher puppy habits to break.
Puppies often chew out of boredom and that especially can get them into trouble when they don’t have access to enough of the “right” types of chew objects.
How to Stop Puppy Boredom
- Puppies get bored with the same old toy day after day. Be sure your pets have several toys—3 to 4 minimum per pet, so they don’t need to argue over them. For a single puppy, 8 to 10 is a better number.
- Rotate toys to keep them fresh. Set up a schedule and swap out the toys every two or three days.
- Offer puzzle toys like the Orbee Tuff Mazee that engages the puppy’s attention for long periods. The toys that have places to hide treats are big favorites. You can rotate the kind of treat for even more boredom relief. Peanut butter, liverwurst, cream cheese and commercial treats all work.
- Provide chew opportunities as well. Teething puppies need something to gnaw to relieve tender gums, but any age dog chews to relieve stress and boredom. Rawhide chews, dental chews and other canine safe chew-options like sterilized bones (if your veterinarian approves) may offer a more suitable outlet.
- Terriers love to kick up dirt. Without an outlet, the bored terrier may un-plant your potted palm in search of dirt. Offer a sandbox and hide some favorite toys for your pup’s excavating pleasure. If it has a permitted place to dig, your dog will be less likely to try to dig where it can do damage.
- Some dogs enjoy hearing music or watching a video that relieves boredom. Tune the TV to an animal program for the pup to enjoy squirrel antics when you must go out. Caged pocket pets like hamsters or mice, fish and birds also may be fun viewing for the bored puppy. Just be sure the smaller critters are safe and not stressed by the staring, yearning attention of your puppy.
- Nose work can also keep your bored puppy out of trouble. Sniffing out rewards engages the pup’s senses, its brain, and puts its paws to work as well. Create a canine treasure hunt while leaving Hansel and Gretel smelly crumbs to follow in order to find the reward. Hide stuffed Kongs or dry dog biscuits around the house (or yard) before you leave for the day. Be sure to pick them up to avoid bugs finding them if the puppy fails the sniff test, though. The first time, show puppy where you hid the treats, but after that, noses will do the rest. This works particularly well with hunting dogs such as Golden retrievers and Labradors.
- It’s best to separate new pups from the adults until you’re sure everyone gets along well. But being alone can lead to puppy wails howls. If that’s the case, a baby gate can keep the pets safely separated but allow them to see each other and not feel so lonely and bored. That also cuts down on howling, scratching or digging at the door.
Planning ahead to keep pups entertained can prevent boredom that breeds bad habits. And that keeps everyone tail-wagging happy.