Once upon a time, in a past life, I volunteered at our local aquarium here in Utah (the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium in Draper, Utah). One of the things we stressed at our aquarium was “Enrichment.” Enrichment with animals is anything that keeps up their mental or physical stimulation. When not given the proper enrichment, animals become bored and lethargic. Their quality of life is drastically reduced. The same concepts apply to your dog. But alas! (I can hear you thinking from across the netherworld of the internet) How do I know if my dog needs more enrichment? What are some good enrichment options for my pup?
Well, let’s start with how dogs display boredom. Often, they’ll do things to get attention. My dog will start racing in circles around the house, even though he usually sleeps and snuggles with us all day. Your dog also might display boredom energetic feats they usually don’t do otherwise. Misbehavior, barking, and escape attempts are also very common ways that dogs will try to get this attention. Changes in your dog’s behavior are usually the biggest signs of boredom.
Okay, so now you know some basics of what your dog might do when they’re bored. Now what?
1: Rotate their toys or get new ones.
Swapping out toys stimulates dogs and makes them more excited to play with them. You can purchase new toys, and then after a couple of weeks switch them out with the old toys. Your dog will tend to be just excited about this change as they were when you brought home the new toys!
2: Fill toys or other dog-friendly items with peanut butter or other safe foods.
This is a very common and proven enrichment technique for most animals. At the aquarium, almost every animal has this as an enrichment option. It helps animals learn problem-solving and gives them heaps of mental stimulation. Here’s a good link that provides some more specific instructions on these toys, as well as gives you some other toy ideas: DIY Food Puzzles For Dogs
3: Make your dog an agility course.
If your dog is particularly hyper; set up some poles, boxes, and tunnels and train your dog to go through the course. You can do this with just whatever you have around the house, or spend a little bit more time and money to create a more involved course. Here is a link for some instructions to create a course that would cost you roughly $175: Doggy Agility Course Instructions
4: Set up a doggy play date.
Social stimulation makes a healthy and happy dog. In the current COVID-19 climate, this can be difficult, but it is still good to mention here. If you have family or close friends who own dogs that you can safely visit, set up a time for your pups to play together.
5: Put treats in blocks of ice.
This is another common enrichment technique. We used this one often at the aquarium because it teaches animals patience and gives them a fun project!
Bubbles happen to be a great stimulus for dogs. Most dogs love trying to figure out what the bubbles are. They might bite at them, run in them, and bark at them. You can even buy these bacon-flavored doggy bubbles to give your dog more incentive to play with bubbles: Bacon Bubbles
Whatever way you enrich your dog, as long as you are consistently trying you are doing a great job! It can seem overwhelming sometimes, but your dog will thank you!
How does your dog show his boredom? What are some things you do to help combat it? Leave your comments below!