It can be difficult to keep a dog stimulated and entertained, especially if your pup has a higher IQ level.
Many dog owners struggle to engage with their pets in meaningful and fun ways. People often wonder:
- How do I offer mentally stimulating activities?
- Which products are worth purchasing from the pet store?
- Am I doing enough to give my dog rewarding life experiences?
Dog People reminds us that not too long ago, dogs were working animals.
They liked having a job to do, such as herding or guarding.
Of course, nowadays dogs are mostly our beloved companions. But even so, they need to be kept busy!
Thankfully, there are plenty of resources available that can help.
Written by Jen, proud owner of a 3-year-old Great Dane/Poodle mix named Luna, who is her once in a lifetime “heart dog.”
Jen specializes in the care and training of large dog breeds. She particularly enjoys working with Great Danes (for their big, goofy natures) and Poodles (for their intelligence).
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Why having a bored dog is a problem…and how you can fix it
Simply put, a bored dog is an unhappy dog.
Dogs that don’t get enough physical and mental stimulation can quickly become troublesome.
Since most of their humans are at work and out of the house (sometimes for up to 8 hours per day) it’s likely that your dog could use some extra attention.
The key is to plan activities that are both fun and engaging.
Failing to do so leads to unwanted behaviors, such as…
Chewing, digging, scratching…Deter your dog from being destructive
There are two ways sure to wreck a house and backyard.
And second, digging or scratching.
I know this well. Being half Great Dane and half Poodle, my dog Luna is uniquely designed to be super smart and something of a troublemaker!
Though she doesn’t dig holes anymore, there was a time (before I learned how to keep her mentally stimulated) that she loved to tear up the grass and flowerbeds…because she was bored.
What I learned is the following.
Dogs who have lots of energy built up need a way to release it.
When canines feel bored, they will try to find opportunities to keep themselves busy and relieve stress.
This can manifest as:
- chewing on carpets,
- eating shoes,
- jumping up on glass windows,
- scratching at walls and door,
- and digging muddy holes in the yard.
Want to keep your home looking clean and well kept?
Don’t allow your dog to become too bored.
Leaving your dog alone for hours? They might cry
Most puppies cry when they are young, but this should stop once they mature.
Now, if your adult dog is howling incessantly and barking until their voice is hoarse, we have a much bigger problem.
PetMD explains that puppies (and dogs) desire affection. If left by themselves in a crate – or in a silent room – for long periods of time, a dog might cry out of boredom, fear, loneliness, hunger, and frustration.
Of course, this unwanted behavior can bother family and neighbors.
Most apartments and residential neighbourhoods have noise bylaws as well, so a bored dog who disrupts the reasonable enjoyment of others can land you – and your pet – in hot water.
Uh oh! Aggression issues are more likely with under stimulated dogs
Nothing is more heart wrenching that seeing a dog chained up outside all day long.
In addition to being inhumane, this also increases the likelihood of reactivity and aggression, as cited by The Humane Society of The United States.
That’s because dogs who are tethered don’t get opportunities to socialize freely.
As a result, they can become anxious, fearful, neurotic, and distrustful of humans.
Dogs who are tied up on a chain are so busy worrying about who is coming and going, why they have been left alone, and when their owner will come back, they find other (often destructive) ways to entertain themselves and occupy their minds.
Basically, they are bored!
No wonder chained up dogs tend to show signs of behavior problems.
8 Fast and easy ways to entertain a dog
However, these unwanted behaviors are all 100% avoidable, if owners are willing to put a little thought and effort into planning their dog’s day in advance.
What to do instead?
Offer exercise and daily “walkies”
Dogs who don’t get enough exercise can be a handful.
They might become destructive or even grow depressed (yes, this is a real diagnosis).
The last thing we want is an unhappy dog, right? Fix the problem by going on routine walks and hikes full of sights, sounds, and smells.
Remember, most dog breeds require between 30 minutes – 2 hours of physical activity each and every day.
You get to leave the house whenever you want. Your dog doesn’t.
Be kind and offer them the same fresh experiences.
A walk downtown or a twenty minute stroll through a new park, where they can watch the squirrels and people passing by, will do wonders for their mental stimulation.
Test your obedience skills with agility and tricks
Don’t have a lure course or dog park nearby?
No problem! Grab some hula hoops from the dollar store.
Cut pool noodles in half.
Fashion a ramp out of some wooden beams.
It’s extraordinarily easy to build your own agility course.
This is a great way to keep a smart dog on their toes.
Stuff a Kong full of yummy treats
When it comes to boredom buster toys, a Kong takes the cake!
Kongs are available to purchase in small, medium, and large sizes.
Load it with frozen or soft dog-safe treat fillers (like cooked ground meat, cheese, bananas, sweet potato, etc.).
Licking out all the goodies can keep your dog entertained for hours.
Beat boredom with a puzzle
Intelligent working breed dogs especially need extra mental stimulation.
Present them with an interactive puzzle toy.
Watch as they use their brain to figure out how to open tricky compartments with their paws to release kibble.
RUFFWEAR sells a fantastic “Gnawt-A-Rock Dog Toy” Luna really enjoys. Thanks to its geometric shape, the ball bounces like crazy as treats are released, keeping her entertained for a solid 20+ minutes.
Not only are these puzzles super fun, but they also alleviate boredom, help with anxiety, and may even prevent dementia in older pets.
Mmm…chew on a bone or antler
Chewing is healthy for canines. Gnawing on a bone or antler accomplishes a few things.
For example, it removes tartar buildup on the teeth, keep jaws strong, and best of all… gets rid of boredom!
Antlers are also all-natural. You can find ones that are sustainably sourced from humane deer and elk herds, such as Velvet Vitality.
1,2,3,4,5…count down for hide and seek!
A dog’s sense of smell is thousands of times stronger than that of a human.
So, it makes sense that they are very good players of hide and seek games.
If you are looking for a simple way to entertain your dog on a rainy day, try hiding their favorite toys around the house.
Or tuck treats in unexpected places and let your dog sniff out their treasure.
Change the channel to dog TV
Did you know there is free television for dogs?
Yup, it’s true!
Search the phrase “videos for dogs” on YouTube and be amazed by the dozens of videos that pop up.
We guarantee you will laugh at the face your dog makes when their eyes spot the squirrels, birds, and other woodland critters scampering across the screen.
The doggy-themed programs will instantly capture and hold your pup’s interest.
Similarly, soothing music or leaving the radio on has been known to work with some dogs.
Make fur friends at doggy daycare
Lastly, consider enrolling your fur baby in doggy daycare or hiring a dog sitter if you are going to be away for a long period of time.
Dogs are pack animals.
A single dog all alone will be bored.
But introduce them to a group of well-trained and socialized pet pals, and suddenly they have tons of new friends to romp around with!
By following these guidelines, it has never been simpler to keep a smart dog entertained and stimulated.
How to Keep a Smart Dog Stimulated
The above list covers easy ways to entertain any dog.
But what if your pup is one of those breeds (like a Collie, German Shepherd, Poodle, or Retriever) who really needs a solid brain workout?
Afterall, the higher the IQ of the dog, the more mentally stimulated they will need to be to prevent unwanted behaviors from popping up.
Running out of ideas? Not to worry!
Praise the Dogs has even more incredible suggestions to excite and challenge your pup.
Freeze Delicious Treats
Did you know?
Freezing treats in an ice cube tray takes less than 3 hours and is an amazing way to keep your smart pooch on their toes. Rather than gobble down treats, dogs must lick to get at their tasty goodies frozen inside. This keeps both their minds (and mouths) focused on the task at hand – or rather, paw!
The Dog People recommends using a blender, silicone molds, and freezer.
Then, just choose your dog’s favorite ingredients to mix. Some recipes to consider: frozen apple, frozen banana bites, yogurt pup-sicles, and so much more.
Test Your Dog’s Athleticism with Dog Dock Diving
Another idea it to try dock jumping – that is, if you have a dock nearby.
Dog dock diving is quickly becoming one of the most popular water dog sports.
Your dog will love running down a ramp and propelling off the end as they reach for a target hanging above a pool until…splash!
They land in the water and retrieve the toy.
This is an A+ way keep smart dogs who appreciate a good swim entertained.
Sign Up to be a Therapy Dog or Search and Rescue Volunteer
Could your dog walk for hours? Do they enjoy being out in the elements, rain or shine?
If yes, think about volunteering as a search and rescue person. This demanding (but rewarding) role is crucial. In fact, Search and Rescue of the United States is always on the hunt for new recruits to certify, and so are similar groups in many other countries.
Brave the wilderness with your dog while helping find people in distress. It’s a unique way to stimulate your smart dog and help out your local community at the same time.
How to Entertain a Smart Dog
Likewise, while most dog breeds will be perfectly satisfied playing a simple game of fetch or chewing on an antler, some require a little extra entertainment.
Here are three more way for your dog to have fun and show their silly side!
Buy an Interactive Dog Toy
Toys that move on their own, make noises, or release rewards are awesome for intelligent pooches because they provide an additional layer of mental stimulation.
One word of caution: Luna and I try to avoid anything with small parts that can be choking hazards.
Always read the warning labels before buying an interactive dog toy.
Play the “Muffin Tin Game”
This next idea is a classic. Honestly, it could not be easier. Simply take a clean muffin tray. Then, hide treats or kibbles in each of the cups. Start with no more than five. Carefully place tennis balls on top.
Now, watch as your clever dog figures out which cup contains and treat…and which doesn’t.
Want to challenge them even more?
Switch it up between rounds and see how sharp their memory is!
Give Your Dog Households Chores and Jobs to Do
Lastly, entertain your smart dog by assigning them tasks. For instance, Healthy Pets shares that high IQ dogs can be taught to retrieve the newspaper, fetch mail, carry wallets and keys, close doors, put away toys…really, anything they can use their paws and mouths to do.
With so many creative tools available at your disposal, there are dozens of ways to keep a smart dog entertained and stimulated.