Quin’s Story: Week 27 – Tackling boredom in your puppy

When your puppy is bored

I find the week between Christmas and New Year boring at the best of times, so it seems a good time to write about how to tackle a bored dog. I feel I am going over the same ground as I talked about a few weeks ago when I explained about punishing your dog, followed by the post about the disobedient puppy.

The purpose of this post is to stress that dogs do get bored if they are not correctly cared for. That boredom will inevitably appear as destructive behaviour, which will then lead to punishment and ultimately, re-homing. That’s no good for anyone, so let’s focus on tackling boredom in our puppy?

How much physical activity does a dog need?

This is like saying how long is piece of string, because not surprisingly dogs need different amounts of exercise and stimulation. Big dogs need not too much walking (bad for their joints) while little dogs need not too much walking (they only have little legs). NB: No puppy needs loads of exercise, but at 8 months old they are fine with an hour or so, if they are fit and healthy.

Walking your dog is NOT the way to stop boredom! If you walk a dog for hours every day what do you get? A fit dog (I typed ‘git’ dog – you’ll get that too :p) And if you walk your dog on lead you absolutely won’t solve the boredom. If anything, you’ll make it worse, by increasing their frustration. What you cannot do is ‘tire out’ your dog. No way.

Out and about

A dog needs to sniff and wander. It needs to move at its own pace, exploring and running around. Dogs do NOT travel in straight lines! Any attempt by you to keep your dog moving with you is detrimental to the dog’s stimulation. Less stimulation means more boredom. An interesting walk, with plenty of sniffing, in a range of different environments (woods, fields, parks, beach) will tire out your dog. It will also make them calmer.

What else is an activity for a dog?

Apart from walking your dog, off lead, there are plenty of other ways to provide stimulation and enjoyment. Playing is obviously the main way you can entertain your dog. Ideally, they should be able to play on their own, or with your other dogs (I recommend having 5 dogs for this).

Quin brings me toys for him to tug. It’s a great game for him and relatively easy for me to do while reading a book, or watching TV. Tug, tug, tug. The girls prefer to bring toys to be thrown. Ounce loves to be thrown a toy, with the challenge being not to let her jump to catch it, or throw it where it causes accidents to furniture or other people or dogs.

Lots of toys for lots of dogs

Aura likes to watch Ounce’s ball or toy being thrown, then try to get it before she does. Ounce will then either take it out of her mouth or tell her to drop it, which she instantly does. That’s their game. You do have to watch that Aura doesn’t sneak off with a toy, as she will then eat it, which the others rarely do.

Busy loves a shaky, snakey toy. Shake it! She does like you to throw it for her, but if you’re busy with the others she’ll just play with it herself. Running around, shaking her toy. Funny girl.

Dog toys do not need to be expensive. You can use plastic bottles, flower pots, or bits of old jeans plaited together to make toys.

Chewing stops boredom

Hmm, well we don’t want our dogs to chew, do we? Well yes, if they have the right thing to chew. Mine have filled bones, which last for months, even years. These are natural treats and really help to keep your dog occupied. You can buy lots of alternatives to these, such as antlers, buffalo horn, chicken feet etc. All pretty yucky if you’re vegan, but dogs love them.

NB: Antlers are very hard and can break dogs’ teeth. Luna broke a canine tooth on one, which had to be removed by the vet. Ouch!

Snuffle mat

There are other food related boredom busters. Kongs are an obvious one, but there are also licky mats and snuffle mats. All these require a bit of input from you to set these up, but can last for hours.

Training to fight boredom

Ultimately, your dog will be happiest and most relaxed if you spend time with him. When you hang out with your dog and better still, when you engage with your dog, they will not get bored and look for other entertainment. Just making a fuss of them, stroking and talking to them, will make them perfectly calm and content.

More tuggy play

Training your dog is an even better way to provide stimulation for your dog. This might be a few tricks, or just a bit of ‘work’ whilst you are out on your walk. Perhaps a practice wait, or a down, or a bit of heelwork?

You might also try out some other activities. Quin and I have only tried a few scentwork classes so far, which I am continuing with Ounce. We plan to do quite a few other activities in the next few months.

Finally – a word of warning

Please, please don’t overdo it? Dogs sleep for around 12 hours a day, which means they should be asleep for large chunks of the day. Having that ‘down time’ is absolutely vital for their wellbeing. If your dog lives in a busy household, with lots of comings and goings, please try to make sure they have a quiet space to go to and are left alone for long periods?

Remember..

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NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

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