What is a bored dog?
A bored dog is an under stimulated dog that has not had his physical or mental needs met. A bored dog has lots of energy that needs to be released. When a human does not meet the needs of their dog, the dog finds a way to meet it's own needs. When a dog meets its own needs, it's typically happening in a way that annoys the human. Some examples are digging, barking, barking, barking, jumping on counters, getting in the garbage etc.
How to prevent boredom
Preventing boredom is a little labor intensive. Every dog is different so their individual needs are different. Generally speaking though about an hour of physical exercise is a good rule of thumb. This can be all done at once, or it can happen over multiple exercises. You can meet their physical exercise needs by going for walks, jogs, playing fetch, lure coursing, agility etc. This will keep their body active and obviously helps release energy.
If you think about it, most dogs spend 23+ hours inside the house each day. This is an animal that would probably be spending 20+ hours per day searching for food. Their bodies are designed to be active. Even for the dogs that get a lot of outside time in their yards, it's still pretty boring because it's the same old environment. Here in NE Ohio a lot of electronic containment systems have been popping up in residential areas. In most cases these dogs are being left outside by themselves. These dogs get bored pretty fast generally speaking and end up barking at everything that passes by. In those cases people are wondering why their dog is bored. Unless you have a huge property, most dogs don't find it very enjoyable to be out in a yard surrounded by an invisible line that produces a shock if they get too close. This actually causes a lot of frustration which leads to more barking. In that case too, whenever adding in aversives, negative associations can and will be built. So a dog that is bored at first and barking at things passing by, gets frustrated because it can't get to the things that are passing by. From there, at some point the dog will get too close to the line when the thing passes by and then the dog receives a shock. In the dog's mind the thing passing by caused him to get shocked and then the association is built. The dog now really dislikes when things go by and the barking increases.
That is just one example of how a bored dog leads to more unwanted behaviors that annoy their humans.
Another downfall of a bored dog finding it's own things to do is that your dog will probably be reinforcing it's own behaviors. If your dog is bored and gets into the trash, and in the trash is a bunch of tasty stuff, there is very good chance that in the future your dog will get into the trash. This means the behavior has been reinforced. This is just one example. But any behavior that a dog does to relieve boredom, it's very likely that the behavior will happen more and more which will get very annoying for you as the owner.
Another important way to prevent boredom is to provide mental stimulation for your dog. For starters, throw away that traditional food bowl. The easiest thing to do that isn't labor intensive at all for the human is to give the dog an interactive food toy. This means that your dog will have to work for its food. This will actually provide mental and physical stimulation. There are a lot of different options out there for interactive food toys. We actually sell some at our training center. Interactive food toys are beneficial because it makes the dog work for its food. If your dog is currently eating out of a bowl, the meal probably lasts less than 5 minutes. Using an interactive toy can take anywhere between 5-20 minutes to consume a meal. During that time your dog is using its brain to get the food. Additionally, a recent study showed that animals prefer to work for their food. It's a win-win.
Other ways to work your dog's brain include 10-15 minute training sessions, hiding food around the house and cueing your dog to find it, teaching tricks, playing hide and seek, chewing bones etc.
They say that 10 minutes of mental stimulation is equivalent to about 30 minutes of physical exercise. That isn't going to be true for every dog, but what we have found is that when you seriously work a dog's brain, it really tires them out. Dogs will even start panting from a mental workout.
While it may be a little labor intensive to meet your dog's needs, it needs to be done if you want to have a relatively stress free life with your dog. If you put the work in, your dog is less likely to go around looking for things to get into. You'll also see a huge decrease in the amount of barking your dog does. With some training, management, and ensuring your dog's needs are met, you will have a very happy life with your dog.