How to Determine If Your Dog’s Bad Behavior Is Caused by Boredom or Stress
As a dog trainer, I am often approached with questions about different dog behavioral problems.
Some people believe the issues that arise due to boredom are caused by lack of exercise or a lack of attention given to a dog.
And these things certainly can make the behavior worse. However, many of these behaviors are actually a direct result of an underlying leadership issue.
For example, separation anxiety can cause a dog a lot of stress, which results in unwanted behavior from the dog.
So, is your dog bored due to a lack of stimulation? Or, is there a bigger issue like stress at play?
Today, I’m going to talk about why dogs get bored so you can uncover the reasoning behind why your pup feels the need to…
- Eat furniture
- Be destructive
- Run away
- Bark nonstop
- Express other behavioral issues
…and how you can get these bad behaviors under control.
So, is your dog bored? Or just stressed out?
Let’s find out now…
Why Dogs Get Bored
Dogs are extremely intelligent, social animals.
For this reason, dogs can certainly get bored.
You might be thinking, “Well, all my dog wants to do is sleep on the couch.” And, that could be true.
Some breeds are more relaxed than others.
For instance, Greyhounds, Great Danes, Basset Hounds, Pugs, and Bulldogs are often low energy and like to spend a large part of their day napping.
However, breeds such as Border Collies, German Shepherds, and Poodles are among the breeds who are most likely to get in trouble when bored.
The phrase “a tired dog is a happy dog” is absolutely true.
Not only does mental stimulation relieve boredom, but it can also help relieve any stress your dog is feeling and help your dog’s personality shine through.
What type of physical and mental stimulation am I referring to?
Well, there are all different types of stimuli. But, I recommend exposing your dog to new things and new places. And, providing them with as many learning experiences as possible.
Training, for example, is an excellent way to burn off some steam if you have run out of ideas for the day and your dog is still bored and ready to rock and roll.
Even if your dog knows sit, come, and stay, reinforcing those commands doesn’t hurt, and it makes your dog feel like he’s doing a good job.
A walk in the park or learning a new trick can also be a great way to channel a dog’s nervous energy. Naturally, as a dog’s energy is released, his anxiety should also start to decrease.
Two Indicators That Help Identify If Your Dog’s Poor Behavior Is Due to Boredom or Stress
Determining whether your dog is bored or stressed (and if there is an underlying cause) is not an easy problem to solve.
There are two indicators that I look for…
The first indicator is to see if the unwanted behavior stops when you are in your home.
For example, if you return home from work and your dog lies down in the sun and relaxes (instead of chewing furniture like he did when you weren’t there), then it certainly seems like your dog’s stress has more to do with YOU not being there!
This is what we call separation anxiety and is not too tricky to stop.
The second suggestion to test whether your dog is bored and or simply stressed is to take him for a walk.
If your dog charges around and runs at a million miles an hour, then chances are he has a lot of pent-up energy that needs to be let out!
If your dog walks calmly, it’s more likely that the underlying cause of your dog’s bad behaviors is a lack of mental or physical stimulation!
Signs of Stress in Dogs
There are also many other very clear warning signs that will tell you if your dog is stressed.
For instance, does your dog still pace up and down the hallway, even after you’ve taken a walk in the park?
Does your dog continually bark and whine when something in his environment changes?
Or, is his behavior dependent on where he’s at or whom he’s with?
The key to identifying stress in dogs is to take note of patterns.
For instance, if your dog only digs holes in your carpet when you aren’t there, it’s a clear indication that your absence causes him stress.
If it was boredom, he’d likely dig holes regardless of whether you are there or not.
Keep track of the behavioral issues that occur when your dog’s environment changes.
If a lap around the park or a Kong stuffed with peanut butter doesn’t deter bad behaviors, it’s likely that stress is at play.
Ways to Prevent Boredom and Unnecessary Stress
The good news is that there are many ways to prevent boredom as well as alleviate stress. Here’s what I recommend…
First, let’s talk about doggy daycare.
If you’re going to be gone for hours and hours, having someone come to your home or dropping your dog off at a doggy daycare could be extremely helpful in deflecting destructive behaviors due to boredom.
Doggy daycare will also help if your pup gets stressed when left home alone.
At doggy daycare, your dog will have something to do all day. And, when he comes home, he will likely be ready to cuddle on the sofa and watch a movie.
Look around for local doggy daycares or professional pet sitters. Then, ask for a meet-and-greet to see if your dog is comfortable being with them.
If you’re home most of the day, or your dog comes with you on outings, don’t forget to give her plenty of exercise during the day.
The general recommendation is a minimum of 30 minutes to 1 hour of exercise, but this varies based on breed and age.
Take your dog for a long walk each day, even if it’s just at your home.
If you don’t have time for a walk, I recommend hiring a dog walker to help you out. You can usually find a trustworthy dog walker for about 10 US Dollars a day.
A daily walk will alleviate boredom as we as help your dog get rid of some nervous energy.
Structure is also extremely helpful in managing your dog’s behavioral issues and preventing boredom and unnecessary stress.
It’s important to establish a routine.
Your dog will begin to understand when it’s time to go potty, when it’s time to play, and when it’s time to go to sleep for the evening.
You’ll notice a much happier, healthier dog with a routine in place.
Another way to stimulate your dog is to turn mealtime into a fun game.
Place your dog’s kibble throughout the house and have your dog sniff to find it. You can also take a look at slow feeder bowls to increase mental stimulation.
And last but not least, I recommend playdates!
This might sound silly, but most dogs absolutely love playdates with their dog buddies.
During playdates, your dog will be able to run, jump, play tug-of-war, etc. and release a ton of energy.
This also provides your dog with another opportunity to be social and interact with both dogs and people.
As you know, dogs are pack animals. So, encouraging play with other dogs can be helpful.
Don’t panic if your dog isn’t a fan of other dogs, though. Some dogs are just that way.
Just like us, some people love being in crowds of people. Others would prefer to stay home and relax by themselves or with several select people.
The Bottom Line on Doggy Boredom and Stress
In order to keep your dog from exhibiting destructive behaviors due to boredom, make sure he gets plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
Let him play.
Let him run.
And, make sure you’re spending plenty of time with him to give him that social interaction piece of the puzzle.
However, if those solutions don’t work, stress may be the bigger problem at play.
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety or is being destructive even after being exercised, it’s possible that your dog has an underlying behavioral issue that is causing him to feel stressed (as I mentioned at the very beginning of the blog).
This comes out in the form of unsettled behavior where a dog continually wanders around, can’t relax, jumps up at noises, or follows you everywhere…
When you are not there, things get even worse for your dog.
This is the underlying issue to much of what is seen as boredom:
If your dog is experiencing behavior problems that exercise and stimulation don’t fix, be sure to…
- Check that the behavior is not being caused by stress and an underlying behavioral issue. Discover whether stress or another issue is at play while checking out my Dog Calming Code here.
- Give the information in The Dog Calming Code a try and see if it helps. (After working with over 3000 dogs, I am sure it will!)
- Remember that a dog that sleeps and lies for hours relaxing in the sun after a nice walk is not depressed but relaxed!
Still not sure if your dog’s behavioral issues are due to boredom or stress?
No problem…there are several things dogs do to communicate that they are stressed out…