As a dog owner, at some point in time we all ask ourselves, is my dog bored?
Today we’ll be talking about entertaining young, active dogs.
How can I tell if my dog’s bored?
Let’s face it, a dog can’t tell us he’s bored.
Or can he?
Signs of boredom can sometimes manifest themselves in destructive behaviours. A short list of behaviours can include excessive barking, digging, tail chasing, obsessive grooming, chewing furniture, scratching flooring and escaping from the yard.
Physical exercise is great for tiring out energetic dogs. The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on his individual needs, age and breed restrictions.
Puppies, especially large breeds, shouldn’t be over exercised when they are young as this can impact on their growth plates.
Breeds with a long spine, eg Dachshunds, should not perform many jumping exercises as it places too much strain on the spine.
Does this mean you shouldn’t exercise these dogs? Not at all! It’s about making an exercise regime to suit your dog.
If you own a dog obsessed with fetch, plastic ball throwers (main photo) are great. The ball launchers have handle at one end of the stick and a cup that clips a tennis ball at the other. I like using these sticks. You don’t have to reach down and grab a wet ball plus you can throw the ball further. If you can’t throw a ball don’t worry, believe it or not, there are ball launching machines, such as iFetch or GoDogGo fetch machine. The dog learns to drop the ball into the top of the machine and the machine shoots the ball out again.
Daily walks are great for regular exercise and training. Many people like to exercise their dogs at off-lead dog parks. The concept of these parks is simple – all the dogs play together happily without confrontations or problems.
The reality, however, can be quite different. It only takes one dog to become disgruntled for a fight to break out. It’s a common scenario, one dog becomes annoyed with another, the situation escalates quickly, and dogs without a lead can’t be separated quickly or easily.
Separating fighting dogs is very dangerous and can result in injuries to anyone trying to intervene.
Even if you escape unscathed, one dog attack can physically and emotionally scar your dog for life, causing long-term fear or anxiety problems for your dog.
Vet bills can be expensive too – not to mention the difficulties in claiming vet costs against the owner of the dog if your dog is injured in the fight.
Mental stimulation is any activity that engages your dog to think. It is often overlooked as a form of activity but it can be extremely useful in tiring your dog out.
Activities or toys that engage your dog’s brain include Kong toys, treat dispensers, puzzle boards, bones (not cooked, and large enough so the dog doesn’t choke on) and frozen treats.
Obedience training also provides an important source of mental stimulation, another important reason to keep up training.
Toys that dispense treats are an easy way to entertain your dog. There are many different types and designs.
When selecting any toy or product for your dog you need to take several things into consideration.
Toys are usually divided into puppy and adult products, puppy being a softer material.
Size is important – too small and it could pose a choking hazard or your dog could swallow the toy causing a bowel obstruction.
Does your dog destroy toys in a matter of minutes? (the “aggressive chewer”).
Toys listed as tough toys are suitable for these dogs – for example, Black Kong range or Nylex Bones.
Unless you consider what interests your dog, you could also be wasting your money. For example, don’t buy a fetch machine for a dog that doesn’t fetch, or a tug-of-war toy for a dog who likes to cuddle his toys.
DIY mental stimulation options
Cheap alternatives to store-bought toys include cardboard boxes. Dogs love ripping them up and running around the yard with them (be warned it can get messy).
Empty plastic softdrink bottles can provide fun too – they’re noisy and squashable.
Treat dispenser games can be easily made using empty softdrink bottles that spin on a rod. When the dog knocks the bottle it rotates and a treat falls out the neck of the bottle.
Instead of feeding your dog from a bowl, try spreading their dry food out on the lawn for them to forage. You can also play a game of hide-and-seek by hiding treats around the yard for your dog to find.
Freeze dog biscuits in water for them to play with until the ice melts – obviously an outdoor activity.
Next time we’ll discuss ways to entertain older dogs and how this can differ to entertaining younger ones.
Melanie Scott is a former police officer with PTSD. She is a qualified dog trainer who is passionate about dogs and helping first responders. Melanie Scott K9 Training (MSK9T) offers a variety of services including group dog-obedience classes, puppy classes, private in-home consults, as well as therapy and service-dog training. You can contact Melanie on 0448 395 797 or visit her web site.