How to Keep Your Dog from Being Bored

Three Methods:Doing Things TogetherEncouraging Active Alone TimeEncouraging Activity With Other Dogs

Boredom is one of the most common causes of behavioral issues in dogs. Dogs have an innate desire to lead an active lifestyle, and for thousands of years, dogs were bred in ways that fulfilled this natural desire for an active life (e.g. by working alongside humans for hunting and farming). Today, as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports, the most common job description for domestic dogs is being a couch potato.[1] This article offers a number of ways in which you can encourage your dog to lead an active lifestyle and prevent the unpleasant, and sometimes destructive, behavior that results from boredom in dogs.

Method 1
Doing Things Together

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    Spend time with your dog. When you are not at work or are otherwise busy, organize activities to do with your dog to keep her from getting bored. These activities can range from playing games to outdoor exercises.[2] Spending time with your dog is a great way to keep yourself physically fit while at the same time allowing your dog to enjoy the active lifestyle that she is naturally inclined towards.
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    Go for a jog or walk together. Try to take your dog for a jog or walk at least once a day. This will keep both of you fit and will allow your dog the physical activity that she craves while at the same time exploring the outdoors. The ASPCA encourages taking a variety of routes and visiting new places ‘so that your dog can experience novel smells and sights.’[3]
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    Travel with your dog. Traveling with your dog is another great way to keep your dog from being bored while spending time together. Depending on how much time you have, this could be as short as a car ride (which dogs love) to the supermarket or even an extended vacation.
    • Before going on an extended holiday with your dog, bring her to the vet and ensure that all her vaccinations are up to date. Keep her shot records with you and remember that you require a health certificate for airline travel.[4]
    • Buy a crate for your dog. Crates keep dogs safe during travel by automobile and are required for travel by plane.[5]
    • Make sure your dog has proper identification in case she gets lost from you during a vacation.[6]
    • If traveling by car, be sure to keep your dog safe and healthy. This means you should avoid car sickness by letting her travel on an empty stomach. In addition, keep your dog safe by not let your dog ride with her head out of the car window. Make frequent rest stops, and do not leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle, especially in the summer, as temperatures in a closed vehicle can get extremely high. [7]
    • Check with your airline, cruise carrier, train line, or bus service as to their rules on canine travel because not all of them allow it and each may have particular rules that apply to such travel.
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    Play games with your dog. Playing games together will keep both you and your dog active and, therefore, healthy. Doing so will also have a positive impact on your relationship with your dog.
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    Play tug-of-war. Play tug-of-war with your dog. This game is useful because it allows your dog ‘an outlet for her natural canine urges to grab and pull on things with her mouth.’[8] A helpful guide from the ASPCA on how to teach your dog to play this game is available here.
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    Play fetch. Play fetch with your dog. This game is good if you do not wish to exert yourself a great deal while at the same time wish to give your dog a good workout.[9] A useful guide on how to teach your dog to play fetch is available here.
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    Play hide-and-seek. Play hide-and-seek with your dog. This game will exercise your dog’s mind because it will encourage her to look for you. This game also offers your dog the chance to exercise her sense of smell.[10] A helpful guide on how to teach your dog to play hide-and-seek is available here.
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    Play find-it. Play find-it with your dog. This game is similar to hide-and-seek except your dog in this game will be looking for items that you hide from her for the purposes of this game. Hide treats for your dog in your choice of hiding spots (e.g. behind furniture legs) and instruct your dog to find these hidden treats. This game also encourages your dog to use her powerful sense of smell. The ASPCA notes that offering your dog the opportunity to use her sense of smell ‘can really wear her out!’[11]
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    Play chase. Play chase with your dog by tying one of her favorite toys to a rope and allowing her to chase the toy as you twirl it in the air or drag it along the ground. You can also purchase toys from your nearest pet store designed specifically for playing chase with your dog.[12]

Method 2
Encouraging Active Alone Time

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    Assign your dog healthy activities to do by herself. One of the best ways of ensuring that your dog will not engage in destructive or otherwise poor behavior when she is by herself is to assign her appropriate tasks to do while you are away. Doing so will ensure that your dog is fulfilling her natural desire to remain active while at the same time engaging in healthy, non-destructive activities.[13]
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    Buy food puzzle toys. A great way to simulate an environment in which your dog can hunt for food is by making use of food puzzle toys. These are containers that hold food and treats but do not provide your dog easy access to their food. Working for her food in this manner will fulfill her innate desire to hunt for food, simulating an environment similar to what wild dogs experience when scavenging for food.[14]
    • Food puzzle toys make your dog work for food in ways that are healthy for your dog because of the skills (e.g. pawing, nibbling, rolling) required to access the food. In addition, these toys also have a calming effect on your dog by encouraging her to engage in chewing and licking.[15]
    • Allow your dog time to learn to play with food puzzle toys. Gradually increase the amount of effort required to access the food from her food puzzle toys. If your dog is used to being served food in a bowl, she will take some time to learn to enjoy playing with food puzzle toys. Be patient with her as she learns this skill and do not force her to do too much too soon.[16]
    • For detailed instructions on how to stuff a particular brand of food puzzle toy known as a KONG food puzzle, visit this website.
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    Hide your dog’s food to simulate a hunting environment. Make your dog hunt for her meals around the house by hiding treats and food puzzle toys around the house. The ASPCA suggests that you can hide 'one of your dog's meals right before you leave her home alone, and she'll have great fun hunting her chow while you're away.'[17] You can vary this activity by doing the same in your yard so that your dog can hunt for food both inside the house and outside in the yard. Most dogs love playing the game of looking for pieces of kibble in the grass.[18]
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    Provide chew time. All dogs have an innate need to chew. The ASPCA observes that chewing helps dogs keep their jaws strong and teeth clean and that both wild and domestic dogs spend hours chewing.[19] Providing your dog chew time with acceptable items to chew on will not only help her in maintaining a strong jaw and keeping her teeth clean but will also prevent her from chewing on items around the house that you do not want your dog to chew.

Method 3
Encouraging Activity With Other Dogs

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    Create opportunities for your dog to engage with other dogs. Dogs, like humans, are social animals who enjoy spending time with others within their species. Allow your dog to play with other dogs by creating opportunities for such social interaction.[20]
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    Get a companion animal for your dog. A companion animal (e.g. a trained dog) for your dog can provide an array of benefits, which include encouraging exercise and physical activity, relieving loneliness, and providing affection and companionship to your dog.
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    Arrange activities with friends and family who have dogs. A good way to create opportunities for your dog to enjoy time with other dogs is to arrange play dates with friends or family with dogs.[21] Doing so will allow your dog an opportunity to socialize with other dogs and will also allow you to catch up with friends and family at the same time.
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    Take your dog to a park or daycare. You can also take your dog to a dog park or dog daycare to allow her time to socialize with other dogs. You may not have the time or the financial means to take her to daycare everyday but try doing so at least a few times a week if possible. For more information on dog parks and daycares, visit this website. Be sure that her vaccinations are up to date before going to social gatherings of this nature.


  • If you are struggling to incorporate the above activities in your busy schedule, consider taking your dog to daycare at least a few times a week.[22]
  • Visit your dog from work during lunch time if you live close to your place of work.[23]
  • Hire a dog walker to take your dog for a walk or consider asking friends or family if your dog can spend time with them during the day when you are away at work.[24]

Sources and Citations


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Categories: Dog Toys and Play