Dogs are smart creatures, and just like people they can get bored. When a human gets bored, they are easily able to do things to stop the boredom, such as reading a book, watching TV, or even going outside to play.
Your dog however doesn't always have that option, especially when you are not home to let him out or turn on the TV for him!
This increase in boredom can become a destructive force as your dog makes up his own games which include chewing up the furniture, eating your shoes and shredding the toilet paper.
Some dogs may also resort to self harming behaviors, such as pacing, whining or even chewing up their own bodies.
Boredom that leads to destructive behavior can be a major problem in dog-owning households, and is also one of the leading causes of sending a dog to an animal shelter. Luckily, there are a large variety of activities, toys and games that can help to curb your dog's boredom and prevent bad behavior before it happens.
Puzzle toys are quickly becoming one of the most sought after items in the pet market, and are a great way to help improve your dog's quality of life when you're home or away. Puzzle toys come in a variety of forms including treat based toys, activity based toys, or distraction based toys.
Treat based toys are usually plastic or rubberized objects that are able to be filled with a treat and provide a challenge in getting those treats out. Wooden and plastic puzzles with compartments that open and close, or objects that need to be removed before the treat is accessible are also available for those canine geniuses.
Many owners also opt to place a portion of their dog’s meal in the toy instead of a treat, and then place several of the toys around the house. This benefits your dog by not adding weight-gaining extra calories, and encourages foraging behavior, keeping your dog mentally and physically active while in the house.
Treat based toys are often safe to leave with your dog while you are away, but should always be monitored at first in the case of an exceptional chewer.
Activity based toys may have spots for treats to encourage your dog to try them out, but many are filled with stuffed toys, squeakers or other objects that are enticing beside food. These toys often encourage your dog to take them apart by pulling out a stuffed animal, or hitting a certain button to make the toy move, jump or make a sound.
These toys can help encourage your dog's natural hunting and tracking behaviors, and can keep your dog entertained through their random jerks and movements. Activity based toys are best when an owner is home to supervise, as they can contain small parts that may be harmful when chewed up.
Distraction based toys are toys that offer a distraction to your dog, especially if he becomes easily upset or whines and cries while you are away.
These toys can even include objects such as the radio or television set to a soothing talk-station or nature sounds. Some TV companies have even started to include animal-centric channels in their lineup, providing shows designed just to entertain pets!
Distraction toys can also include toys that randomly play noises or sounds, or that allow you to interact with your dog indirectly through pre-recorded voices or even video and voice chat. These toys are often less interactive, and are not designed to be chewed or played with.
The great big outside also offers a wide variety of activities to help keep your dog mentally active. While some of these activities can be done while you are away, most involve interaction with your dog, making it a great chance to bond and get some exercise together.
Fetch and Frisbee toys are often the least expensive and most interactive choice of activity, allowing your dog to get exercise by running after the object.
For owners with a little more time, entering a dog sport such as agility, fly ball or lure coursing is a great way to keep your dog super active. These sports often require a lot of training with both owner and dog, and are done on a weekly or even daily basis to help tire out your dog's mind and body.
However, owners can keep their dogs mentally stimulated and active without purchasing anything at all. A nice long daily walk with your dog is a great way to stimulate his mind and body through new smells, sights and good old-fashioned physical activity.
Puzzle toys and scented objects can also be used outside when owners aren't home. Making scent trails with fake pheromones and stashing a puzzle toy filled with foods and treats is a great way to keep your dog searching and moving through the yard to keep him active.
If your dog is kept mentally and physically active, he is less likely to resort to destructive behaviors when boredom hits. A healthier mind and body also leads to better health in the long-term, and fewer health problems as your dog ages.
Keeping your dog active is a great way to bond when you are home, and a great way to keep your dog happy while you are gone. While every toy isn't right for every dog, finding the right combination of toys, treats and activities can be a great experience for you and your dog, helping form a bond that lasts for a lifetime!