5 Vet-Approved Ways to Perk Up a Bored Dog

🎶 Bored in the house and I’m in the house bored🎵

We’ve got a long pandemic winter ahead of us, and your pooch is tired of making TikToks with you. What’s a cooped-up pup to do? A bored dog needs loads of enrichment to stay healthy and happy, so we asked wellness experts at a grrr-eat group of Twin Cities veterinary clinics to sniff out stimulation ideas. 

Mental Enrichment for Bored Dogs

bored dog with a toy
::Ultra dramatic sigh:: What else ya got? | Juan Gomez

The common conundrum, “What should I do if my dog is bored and therefore eating the sofa?” is as much about a lack of mental stimulation as it is about excess physical energy, according to Dr. Erin Hoff and Dr. Lisa Martinson of Blaine Central Veterinary Clinic. And simply providing a big ol’ pile of toys isn’t going to cut it, says Dr. Martinson: “Ironically, dogs get bored if they have too many toys around all the time.” Instead, she recommends a rotation: only have a pawful of playthings available on any given day, and switch ‘em out with the rest of your stash every few days. “Dogs will think they’re getting new toys all the time,” she says. 

Dr. Hoff suggests adding nosework to your dog’s mental fitness regimen. “Training a dog to identify and search for specific scents leverages his natural abilities, engages his brain, and keeps boredom at bay,” she says. Nosework can be as simple as hiding Fido’s breakfast around the house, scavenger-hunt style.

Physical Enrichment for Bored Dogs

Smells like frozen boogers. | Kameron Kincade

“Piles of leaves and fresh snow this time of year make for perfect natural enrichment,” says Dr. Melissa DeWoskin of Keller Lake Animal Hospital. She recommends hiding treats or a toy in a leaf pile or snowball; double the fun when you toss the snowball for your fetch-loving pup. “A bored dog will have a blast sniffing and playing in nature while looking for treasure,” she says.

Turning to the great indoors, the team at Plymouth Heights Pet Hospital suggests creating an indoor obstacle course. No need to break the bank on fancy equipment–use your imagination and whatever you have lying around the house. (Win-win: those Amazon boxes you’ve been hiding from your spouse can be disguised as agility tunnels.)

Food Enrichment for Bored Dogs

Teach an old toy new tricks. | Gleb Bogdevich

For food-motivated friends, Dr. Mary Jo Wagner of East Valley Animal Clinic has a brilliant new use for a muffin tin. Hide treats in the compartments, cover ‘em with tennis balls, and watch your dog’s wheels spin. “Once your pup gets more proficient with this game, only put snacks in some of the compartments so she has to use her nose to figure out where to find the treat,” Dr. Wagner says. 

What other tricks do you have up your sleeve for a bored dog, SWDers? Woof at us in the comments and be sure to tag @sidewalkdog in your enrichment Insta pics!

Featured photo: Alexandra Lammerink

These tips were brought to you by the animal wellness experts at Blaine Central Veterinary Clinic, East Valley Animal Clinic, Keller Lake Animal Hospital, and Plymouth Heights Pet Hospital. North, south, east, west: their vets give your pet the very best. Plus they’ve got a pawesome loyalty program; book your annual wellness exam today to start earning rewards. COVID-safe curbside service is available, so don’t wait til post-pandemic to take care of your pup’s health.

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