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Is your dog bored? Look out for these signs...

Just like humans - dogs can get bored. Unlike humans they can’t twiddle their thumbs, scroll through social media, open the fridge and make a snack or binge-watch Game of Thrones.

A bored dog can develop destructive and unhealthy habits so it’s really important to spot the signs of a dog that’s lacking attention and stimulation (mental and physical).

Here’s what to look out for:

Barking for no reason and for a sustained period of time.

It’s natural for dogs to bark - they might be prompted by the post being delivered or a knock at the door, or you leaving the room for a period of time. But, if there’s no apparent reason for the barking to start and it goes on for a few minutes or longer it could be a sign your dog is at a loose end.

It’s the same with whining. If your furry friend starts whining at you - or at nothing - for a sustained length of time, they’re letting you know, they need some stimulation.

Do you have a garden that’s covered in holes your dog has been digging over a period of time? They’re not trying to support you with the gardening, they’re telling you they want something more productive to do. And digging might be one of the least destructive things you’ll see. If they’re knocking over bins, jumping fences, barking at everyone that walks passed or tearing up the greenhouse or garage, it’s time to step in.

Inside the house, it might be even more destructive if they’re left unattended and idle for too long. Scratched furniture, torn up cushions, cables chewed-through or broken ornaments to name a few. 

If your dog is consistently pawing you for attention, then assume they’re trying to tell you something. Sometimes it might be obvious, particularly if a routine has been set. It might be coming up for feeding time, or the usual afternoon walk, but if it’s random and frequently on-going then the message is, ‘I’m bored’.

Other signs could be:

Sustained paw-licking. If there’s frequent self-grooming, there’s not enough going on around your dog to engage their wider senses. They’re indicating they’re awake and present and want to do something - most likely play and be challenged physically and mentally.

Chewing on things they shouldn’t. Your four-legged friend may well have numerous toys to chew on, but if they’re bored they’ll pick on something more interesting. Watch out shoes, slippers, cushions, wallpaper, chairs, wallets - and if the rumours are true….your kids’ homework!

Sleeping longer than normal. If you’ve noticed your dog sleeping almost constantly day and night, they may well be bored. That shouldn’t prompt you to deprive them of sleep, but it could mean they’re getting into a habit of sleeping simply because there’s nothing else for them to do. On average dogs will sleep around 10 hours a day (this may differ by age and health conditions), so if yours suddenly starts sleeping for an additional few hours to normal - give them some fun!

So, how can you prevent bad and unhealthy habits caused by boredom?

Exercise! Make it a priority to ensure your dog has the right amount of physical exercise based on its breed, age and health. A day without a walk must seem like a lifetime to them. When you’re on the walk - play with them. Throw a stick, play fetch with a ball. Get them into agility classes! 

And don’t forget to include mental exercise. Provide toys that challenge them and rewards them when they work it out. Hide and seek, indoors or outdoors can be as much fun for you as for your best buddy.

Socialisation. Whilst respecting some dogs suffer from anxiety, you’ll need to use your judgement on letting your dog meet and play with other animals. If you have a dog-friendly companion, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the joy dogs get when playing and exploring together.

As always, common sense is the guide. Dogs need your attention, your entertainment and your time, just as much as they need your love and protection. 

With the right balance, your dog will be too content to be bored.

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