Mom, I'm BORED!
If our dogs could speak English, I have a feeling we’d hear this from them sometimes. Our kids get bored. Heck, sometimes we get bored when we don’t have enough to do.
Our dogs often have a set routine. Get up, eat, nap, go pee and poop, nap while waiting for everyone to get home from work and school, play, nap, eat dinner, go for a walk, nap, go to bed. Some dogs are much busier of course - they have dog sports including agility, fly-ball, training classes, or conformation shows to attend. And then there are weekend outings like hiking or trips to the beach.
But there’s a lot of “down time” for our dogs. And they need physical AND mental exercise. It’s no fun to be bored. And a lot of dogs will find their own amusements if we don’t provide them. That antique table may look like a good chew toy. And those couch cushions would be GREAT fun to de-stuff!
So, I do recommend exercise. Walks, visits with other dogs, even trips to the mall (many malls allow this these days) will get their bodies AND their brains working.
But we have a chance every day to add some enrichment - and we often waste the easy opportunity. And that chance comes at feeding time.
Rather than putting their food in a bowl, I often get my dogs to “work” for their meals. Sometimes they earn it during training. But a lot of time, I simply present their food in interesting ways. Sometimes I hide it around the house - scattered on the floor or the grass in the back yard or tucked here and there around the living room. Sometimes I drop their kibble in a snuffle mat (which is sort of like a piece of shag carpeting). When I have a little more time, I can hide their food in puzzle toys. And, of course, there’s always the chance to use feeding toys like Kongs and other food-dispensing toys.
All these give your dogs something to think about while they are using noses and bodies to find their dinner. It makes dinner time more fun and interesting for dogs. These can also slow down dogs who have a tendency to eat too fast.
Here are places where you can get these things:
We also know that dogs love chewing. For many dogs, chewing is pleasurable in and of itself - sort of like digging into a good novel is for me. I like to give my dogs plenty of legal outlets for chewing - so you’ll find tons of toys around my house. Some are partially dissected, some have had all their stuffing removed, some rubber ones show tooth marks. Some dogs are serious chewers and go through toys too fast. So, here’s an article that will help you find TOUGH DOG TOYS to slow them down a bit. Do keep in mind that no toy is indestructible and some dogs also swallow the things they chew - so keep an eye on your dog to prevent choking and possible surgery because of blockages.
And then there’s training. I find that training tires my dogs as much as physical exercise. When done right, training is fun for the dog and the owner. Costs for group classes are usually less than for private lessons and you may meet new friends for you and playmates for you dog. Whether it’s basic obedience or a dog sport, I hope you’ll consider ongoing training as an enrichment opportunity.