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Is your dog bored?

20/11/2019 - Welcome to Best Behaviour Dog Training

Boredom is one of the biggest causes of unwanted canine behaviour and doggy mental health issues. If your pooch seems withdrawn, anxious or excitable, reducing his or her boredom levels could well make your life much easier.  Zoe Willingham from Best Behaviour Dog Training in Suffolk shares her best advice on providing mental stimulation for bored doggies.

Is your dog bored? How can you tell?

Each dog is an individual, but the one thing they all have in common is that they cannot say the words “I’m bored”. They will however give out clues with body language. Here are just some of the signs of boredom that dogs exhibit. Each one of this signals suggests that your dog might benefit from a little more mental stimulation.

  • Sleeping too much
  • Not sleeping enough
  • Pacing around the house and/or garden unable to settle
  • Destructive behaviour, chewing, emptying bins, ripping toys
  • Excessive barking
  • Over exuberant greetings
  • Obsessive behaviours such as spinning or tail chasing
  • Continually licking or chewing at themselves
  • Hassling other dogs or pets
  • General anxiety or fearfulness
Before I go much further, it’s important to note that if you dog is showing unwanted behaviours it’s well worth visiting the vet to rule out physical illness. All the mental stimulation in the world won’t take away pain.

Talk to a dog trainer or a behaviourist too – there may be other underlying issues leading to unwanted behaviours. If that’s the case, anti-boredom activities might need to be tailored to address deeper problems such as separation anxiety, fearfulness or poor social skills.

How to fix boredom and have a happier, more manageable dog

A dog can be walked 10 miles a day and still be bored. Physical exercise is important, but so is mental exercise and agility. It doesn’t matter if either you or your dog are not able to run, jump and play rough and tumble games. You can still use those little grey cells to make life more interesting.

Here are my suggestions for activities that you and your dog can share. Starting with the simplest and working up to more advanced activities.
Scatter feeding

Your dog’s wild cousins spend around a third of their day searching for food. That of course involves walking, scentwork, a bit of foraging and some hunting. Most modern day domestic dogs miss out on all that. One way to simulate foraging and hunting for food is to scatter feed.

Instead of putting all of your dog’s dinner into his or her bowl, try spreading some of it on the floor, on the patio or on the lawn. Obviously it’s not practical to smear wet dog food on the carpet (yuk!) but there’s no reason why dry kibble can’t be sprinkled hither and thither. Or, if the weather allows, distribute pieces of chicken or cheese on the lawn.
 
You don’t have to do this with the whole meal – A favourite game for my dogs is to go find treats that I’ve hidden all around.

Rucksack Walk

Make a short dog walk (or a trip into the garden) into a brain-teaser for your dog by introducing the rucksack walk.

It needs a little bit of preparation but it’s well worth it.

You will need.
  • A dog
  • A rucksack containing…..
  • An object that your dog doesn’t normally see – eg a hairbrush, an assortment of twigs, leaves and flowers, a cuddly toy,
  • Something super-smelly – either in a tub or wrapped up – perhaps some herbs, a piece of clothing,
  • A “different” edible treat – chopped up hot dog is good, or cheese, or, if you have one, a fully loaded lickit mat or a stuffed kong toy. Again, pack it into a lunchbox or wrap it up in newspaper.

The rucksack walk itself should take around 15 minutes – yes, that’s all – just 15 minutes out of your day.

Pop your dog on the lead and take a short, relaxed stroll to somewhere quiet. You might choose to go into the garden, or you could drive to the park and walk to an abandoned bench somewhere.

Once you’ve found your spot, sit down, make yourself comfortable and draw your dog’s attention to the rucksack. You can be as animated as you like – this is a bit like unwrapping presents with a small child.

Bring out the unusual object and allow your dog to examine it thoroughly. Lots of sniffing, maybe mouthing and possibly even playing. Don’t rush it – go at your pet’s pace.

When the object has been explored, pop it back into the rucksack and bring out your second surprise – the smelly stuff. Again, allow your dog to examine it thoroughly, first through the packaging and then as you unwrap and expose the “thing”.

Last, but by no means least, bring out the treats. Make the “reveal” slow with lots of anticipation and then let your dog enjoy his or her snack in a nice controlled way. No snatch and grab, just great manners, lots of concentration and a smidgeon of impulse control.

Finally, the slow and relaxed saunter back home. Your dog’s brain has been working hard and he or she will be in need of a nap.
 
Trick Training

This is sooo much fun and of course it can be tailored to any level of physical ability, any age dog (or person!) and any place.

Trick training will focus your dog’s brain and use up lots of mental energy so that he or she is too tired to misbehave. Think how tired you get when studying for an exam or filling in your tax return.

Little tricks like the “peek a boo” are just for fun, but some tricks have a real purpose. The “chin rest” for example is a great way to help your dog behave perfectly at the vets or the groomers. “Roll over” is good for a laugh when you have visitors, it’s also a wonderful way of letting the vet examine your dog’s belly. Ditto for “high five” – what better way to be given a paw that needs to be washed after a walk?

Trick training is covered in detail by Dogversity online dog training classes. The great thing about Dogversity is that you don’t need to leave the house to access really great dog training advice. It’s delivered straight to your smart TV, your tablet or your smartphone. You can watch it over and over again and at any time of the day or night.

Find out more here.  https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/dogversity/trick-training-skills/
 
Agility Training

High energy pets absolutely love agility training. It’s a fun sport that uses the dogs (and the owner’s!) body and brain. Come along to a workshop or classes and then carry on the training at home. Trust me, once you start, you’ll never want to give it up.

Click here to explore more opportunities for doggy activities   https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/classes/

Scent Work

The ultimate activity for dogs of any age, breed, size or temperament. Scentwork uses their natural abilities to the full and gives you the chance to find out just how talented your pet is. Can’t make it to class? Try the online Scent Detectives module from Dogversity. https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/dogversity/scent-detectives-online/
 
Hoping to improve your dog’s mental wellbeing?

Here are some helpful links

Dogversity fully supported online dog training courses  https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/dogversity/

How to choose a dog trainer  https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/news-and-advice-post/how-to-choose-a-dog-trainer/

Rainy day games and activities for your dog    https://www.bestbehaviourdogtraining.co.uk/news-and-advice-post/rainy-day-brain-games-for-your-dog/

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