Like us, dogs are complex emotional beings and can get bored and depressed easily. Some dogs are more emotionally sensitive than others, but in general dogs are very attentive to their people. Changes in the home can affect your general mood, and they can even respond to our emotions. Dr. Tory Waxman, small animal vet and co-founder of the Sundays human dog food brand, states, “Both mental and physical enrichment are essential to a dog’s wellbeing. Dogs are social and active beings. And although different breeds and individuals have different needs, all dogs thrive when their needs are met both physically and mentally. “
When dogs don’t get enough physical or mental stimulation, they can get bored easily. Not sure if your dog is bored? Dr. Waxman explains, “Like humans, dogs can express their boredom in very different ways.” She notes that when bored, “some dogs become anxious and pace, chew, whine, bark, or fixate on certain things (like cars, shadows, etc.).” On the other hand, “Other dogs may show one behave in the opposite way and become calm, not getting out of their box, losing their appetite, or appearing uninterested in activities that have made them excited and happy. ”Dogs can feel bad for a variety of reasons that are unrelated to their general physical health (although this is always ruled out by your veterinarian first). These include:
Changes at home – This can include adding a new family member: adult, child, or pet. Likewise, the end of a relationship and moving out of the house or death in the family of a person or animal can affect your dog’s mood. Something that a lot of dogs have had to adjust to over the past year is changes to the work flow or daily schedule. And they will have to adjust again as many family members will return to work or school after COVID.
Your stress – While dogs can be an amazing emotional support to people when they have a tough time, sometimes our moods can affect our dogs as well. If you’re struggling, or particularly stressed, from work or family, your anxiety can rub off on your dog and cause his or her mood to drop.
Lack of mental stimulation / enrichment – Dogs are intelligent beings who need to be able to use their minds. While different dogs have different needs or enrichments, all dogs require mental stimulation. A lack of engagement or mental stimulation can quickly lead dogs to become depressed or angry.
Lack of physical exercise / activity – Just like us, sitting around can be fun for a day or weekend, but if you don’t get enough exercise or activity over time it can lead to depression. The same goes for dogs. All dogs, regardless of age or breed, must exercise. Not enough exercise can make dogs bored and affect overall emotional wellbeing.
Change in routine – When we got into the pandemic, many dogs lost access to activities that were previously a routine part of their schedule. For my dog, this meant that he could no longer go on trips to the river or beach. To other dogs, this may have looked like they couldn’t go to daycare or other fun outings.
Don’t be sad, there are 10 simple things you can do to make your dog feel better (and yours, too!). Know your dog in choosing which and how much to do. While some dogs may be content with a quick walk around the block, others may have to walk or run for miles to be happy. Even dogs that don’t require hours of exercise will benefit from mental stimulation, including trick training and fun games, to stimulate their brains.
Care / massage
Do you know how much better you feel when you get a haircut, shower, or take a long bubble bath? This can also apply to your dog! Making grooming a regular part of your daily or weekly routine can help you have a good time with your dog, which in turn can improve your dog’s mood. Also, keeping your dog’s fur clean and matted and clipping its nails will improve your dog’s overall mood.
Incorporate massage into your grooming to make your dog feel very special. Take 10 minutes a day to groom and massage yourself. Good places to massage: ears, neck, chest, stomach, and legs.
One of the best ways to add spiritually to your dog’s day is to teach your dog some new tricks. Trick training is a great mental (and sometimes physical) exercise for dogs. Great tricks to try out are crawling, weaving, putting toys away or turning, high five and wishes. (See how on dogster.com). Reward your dog for a good job with treats or play with a toy!
Update basic skills
Basic skills like walking on a leash, sitting, sitting, coming and leaving will get rusty if you don’t practice them with your dog on a regular basis. For added fun, tighten your dog’s leash and take some of your pup’s favorite treats and practice or take some basic refresher training. A refresher on the basics will stimulate your dog mentally, but it will also make it easier for you to get your dog out in more places, which for both of you is synonymous with confidence and mood boost.
A great way to break the boredom around the house is to provide your dog with dog food puzzles for solution. These puzzles are designed for dogs who use their nose, mouth, and paws to manipulate the pieces to reveal goodies! Find dog food puzzles in all pet stores and websites. Note: If you have multiple dogs, use the puzzle on one dog at a time in a room that the other dogs cannot get into. If you have a resource efficient dog, only use the puzzle when the dogs are separated. Take the puzzle in your hand, clean it and put it away after use so as not to cause a resource-saving situation.
Dance with your dog!
Dancing with dogs (also known as musical freestyle or heel work to music) is a real sport where people put together routines that delve into tricks and heels. This is a wonderfully enriching activity to get involved in, and it’s also great fun to play around casually around the house. Turn on your favorite music, grab some treats to reward your dog, and get silly! As you dance around, ask your dog to do some of his favorite tricks or see if he gets excited and starts improvising and offering tricks with you. This is especially good for dogs that don’t really care about agility. For more information, see the World Canine Freestyle Organization (worldcaninefree-style.org).
Parkour (sometimes called urban agility) is both a competitive sport for dogs and a fun activity that you and your dog can participate in on occasion. Parkour turns the world around you into an obstacle course for you and your dog. On walks, look for natural obstacles such as rocks, logs, empty play equipment, picnic benches, etc. that you and your dog can keep busy with. Examples of parkour skills include jumping or climbing, putting two or four paws on different obstacles, and walking under or around obstacles. Parkour is physically and mentally stimulating for dogs, which is a significant mood booster. For more information, see the International Dog Parkour Association (dogparkour.org).
Your daily BOOST
It’s easy to improve your dog’s (and your own) mood in 10 minute increments each day. Here is a suggested schedule:
Morning walk: Spend at least 20 minutes getting you and your dog moving. Let him sniff for mental stimulation as well.
Mid-Morning Cue Review: Take five to 10 minutes to quickly brush up on the basics: sitting, staying, lying / lying, coming, taking off / leaving. (If you’re away from home work, just add this to your morning running routine.)
Afternoon fun: Time for some mental stimulation with trick training or a food puzzle. Again, this only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. (If you’re away from home work, add this to your post-work routine.)
Before dinner: Time to spend around 10 minutes greeting or playing with your dog. This is a lovely time to touch the base and keep you both relaxed and in a good mood.
Time for dinner: Instead of using a traditional bowl to feed your dog, use a food puzzle for mental stimulation.
Evening processing: This is a great time to take your dog for a nice walk. You can also include cue review or trick training during this time. Or if your dog is older or the weather is bad, try a game like hide and seek or what’s under the cup?
Bedtime relax: Take 10 minutes to care for it. Do a quick brush and check the paws and other spots for concerns. Then finish with a nice dog massage.
Weekly sport: Register yourself and your dog for a course! Agility, nosework, parkour, coursing, and dog dancing are all fun sports to do with your dog that will strengthen your bond and improve both of your moods. If you don’t want to go out, set up an agility class in your own backyard.
Overcome boredom and improve Fido’s general mood with great fortification products like these:
The dog training platform from Blue-9 Pet Products is suitable for all types of indoor training – for example for teaching “go-to-place” instructions as well as for tricks and parkour skills such as two and four paws. $ 159.95 plus $ 29.95 for the KLIMB traction mat; blue-9.com.
JW Pet Hol-ee Rolling Dog Toy
One of my favorite toys for active play. Available in a variety of sizes, it is great for outdoor chases as well as tug games to bring you and your pup together energy and playtime. $ 9.99; Chewy.com and your pup some energy and play time together.
Hide N ‘Slide Puzzle Game
Stimulate your dog’s mind and fight boredom with the Nina Ottosson from Outward Hound Hide N ‘Slide Puzzle Game Dog Toy. (Always supervise your dog while he solves his puzzle!) $ 24.99; Chewy.com.
Massage Groomer De-Shedding Brush
This flexible silicone handheld massager from PetWell brushes the fur, stimulates blood circulation and at the same time relieves muscle tension. $ 14.98; Chewy.com.