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.
Do you ever go for hikes with your dog(s)? Hiking is a fantastic form of enrichment for most dogs. Here in NE Ohio we are very lucky to have the Cuyahoga Valley National Park that has a ton of different trails. We also have the Metro Parks which have a ton of trails.
Hiking is a great form of enrichment because there is so much to take in. All the sights and smells provide mental stimulation for your dog. Obviously as well, hiking is a great form of physical exercise. Depending on where you live you may have flat trails to choose from or even trails with many ups and downs to get you and your dog's heart rate going. Hiking for Kelly and I serves as a great way to just shut off our brains from all the day to day stuff that we deal with.
There are some rules to follow when hiking. Here in Ohio all of the trails that we know of have leash laws. Leash laws are in place for a reason. The biggest reason for us as dog owners is because a lot of us have dogs that do not enjoy the presence of all other dogs. Especially when approached in a very enthusiastic way. So it is nice to be able to hike with our dogs with the piece of mind that other dogs will not bombard us.
Another rule is to clean up your dog's waste. People really appreciate walking on a trail that isn't littered with dog feces. Okay, enough with the rules, let's move on.
What to bring
- Anti-pull gear (Front hook harness or Head Halter)
- Poop Bags
- Spray Shield
- Hiking boots really make a big difference
- Depending on where you're going you may want to bring some snacks
- Cell phone (put it away unless you're taking photos or have an emergency)
All of these things listed are important. Spray shield is something that we always carry just incase someone isn't following the rules and lets their off leash dog run up to our leashed dogs. (In general it is a bad idea to let your dog meet other dogs while on leash. This can create a lot of frustration and things can go south.) Anti-pull gear is super important. This can really make your hike enjoyable because your dog won't be yanking your arm off the entire time. If you're looking for ideas in this department we sell some at the training center. Hiking boots for us are really important too because we are going over different terrain which includes walking through streams. It feels good to have dry feet!
If you're new to hiking, try to find an easy trail to start. The CVNP for example has all the trails mapped out with the elevation changes and the distance. See if where you're planning on going has something similar. Be prepared to have some fun!
At ADGTK we do not use nor recommend the use of collars that cause pain or discomfort to change behavior. The collars mentioned in the title do just that. People use these collars because they can change behavior relatively quickly. If the timing is correct and the dog finds the result to be aversive, you will see a change in behavior.
So if they can change behavior, why do we feel this way? For multiple reasons. One big reason is because these devices have side effects. What do we mean by that? Well, dogs are always learning via associations. This means that whatever is causing the dog to act in a way that results in a collar correction or a shock, can cause the dog to start to associate the presence of that thing with pain or discomfort. An example: A guest arrives and your dog has a history of jumping on guests. You decide to put a collar on him and "correct" him for jumping. After a few guests coming over and your dog receiving corrections your dog is probably going to start to associate guests coming in with pain. If your dog is associating guests coming in with pain or discomfort, your dog probably isn't going to like guests coming in. If every time you saw a spider you got bitten by that spider, you'd probably not like spiders. In this case, the guest isn't the one doing the harm, but the presence of the guest is resulting in something the dog doesn't like. This is just one example.
Another example is walking your dog while using one of these collars. In a lot of situations dogs pull when they see other dogs or other people. Often times it's because they're excited and want to get closer. If every time they see a dog or a person and start to pull towards them and that results in pain or discomfort, they will start to associate the presence of people and dogs with pain and discomfort. This will result in your dog disliking people and other dogs. Here's an example of how this has happened to our dog V.
So why should you believe us? How do you know we aren't just making this up? Well, science tells us this is true. Here's the position statement on The Use of Punishment for Behavior Modification in Animals from the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. This goes along with what we've found to be true while working with thousands of animals in our career as dog trainers.
Another reason we don't recommend them or use them is because they aren't needed. We successfully change behaviors in dogs without having to hurt or scare them. This is done by reinforcing the behaviors that we want them to do instead, and by managing their environment so they do not receive reinforcement for behaviors that we don't want to see more of. If there is an instance where we have a behavior we want to see less of, we either reinforce incompatible behaviors or we use punishment that consists of taking away what the dog wants. This is all done in a way that won't have your dog build negative associations or hurt/ cause pain. We also use training devices that help but don't hurt or scare the dog. You can find more about those here.
And finally, we don't recommend the use of these collars because we don't want to hurt or scare dogs. We love dogs. And as we mentioned above, there is no need to. We even work with dogs that are labeled "highly aggressive" and work with them without the use of these collars. (You can probably figure out why by now.)
If you're currently using a collar like one of these, this isn't meant to bring you down. This is meant to inform you on what the side effects are of using these things. If you haven't seen your dog start to build negative associations, there is a good chance you will in the future. Before this happens, switch to a front hook harness and put on a treat bag. (Or look at the link above for other equipment we recommend.)