Solving Boredom In Dogs

by Dr Cam Day

If you have a dog which is ‘home alone’ all day or have a work-depleted working dog, it is likely to have a soggy brain unless you know the solutions. Boredom is the scourge of backyard dogs but with some creativity, you can develop all kinds of ‘delayed action’ rewards that have an effect some time after you leave for work.

Here are some ‘Home Alone’ Boredom Blasters that will certainly tone up your dog’s grey matter.

Ice magic
The leaking milk bottle
Clamshell sand pits
Day walkers
Companion animals

Ice magic

How can a lump of melting ice help to solve boredom? Try the following:

The Stuffed Kong: A Kong Toy is a three level, rubber pyramid that bounces unpredictably, however, it also has a hole through the centre. This makes it like a bone with intelligence. Kongs can have a delayed action. Fill it with a good brand of canned dog food or with fresh mince. Then freeze it! Give this to your dog as you leave for work. While it will be boring initially, as it defrosts some time later it will become an island of joy for your pooch in the middle of the day.

Milk and Soup Ice Blocks: Get some tetra packs of lactose free pet milk from your supermarket. Put them all in the freezer. Each day open a pack and put the frozen milk in a bowl for your dog (or cat). The milk will defrost gradually giving your pet a slow-release reward. Do the same with soup by making up a nutritious broth for your dog, or simply dissolve some vegemite or a stock cube in warm water. Freeze it in a plastic cup or the bottom of a milk carton and place it in a bowl for your dog as you leave.
Frozen Clangers: This is a neat trick. Get two lengths of bacon rind, a raw bone and a plastic cup -place the ends of the rinds into the cup and fill it with water, then freeze it. The rinds will now be joined only by the frozen water. As you leave, tie one end of a bacon rind to a branch of a tree well above dog height. Secure the other rind to the bone by sticking it through a hole in the flesh and tying a knot. The bone will now be suspended in mid air by the bacon rinds, joined only by the ice. When the ice has melted, the bone will fall to the ground giving your dog an unexpected food treat. While it is easier to use string instead of the bacon rind, the rind is safer as your dog might eat the string. The rinds can also be frozen into a Kong ball so that the Kong, filled with food, drops to the ground as it defrosts.

The Leaking Milk Bottle

For this trick you will need a plastic milk carton, a length of light wood such as a ruler and a small tin containing some food rewards.

Put a slit or hole in the bottom of the carton. Fill the carton with water. The water will slowly leak out over time, the length of which is determined by the amount of water you use. Now place length of wood high up on a ledge with the leaking bottle to balance it. Place the food can on the other end. The milk bottle balances the weight of the ruler and the can. When enough water has leaked out, the ruler and food will clang to the ground and give a sudden food treat for your dog.

Clamshell Sand Pits

A clamshell sand pit, commonly used for children, is wonderful for dogs that dig. Fill one half of the shell with water and the other half with sand. Burry the dog’s toys under the sand or place them in the water. Vary the toys each day so that as your dog explores, it will discover new joys.

Day Walkers

Why not consider hiring a dog walker to visit your dog regularly while you are at work? Select a person who is prepared to spend 15 to 30 minutes with your dog in your own backyard, but limit the street walking. During this time the dog walker should play with your dog and most importantly, train it to learn different ‘fun’ tasks in your backyard. This will alleviate boredom and give your dog the company it needs.

Companion animals

Many dog owners ask if getting a companion for their pets will be useful. A second dog often provides a playmate but this doesn’t always work. The dog wants your company, not necessarily the company of another dog and many dogs with dog playmates have significant behavioural problems. It may work well or fail totally.

If you think your dog is bored or worse still, has a separation anxiety, consult your veterinarian for details on how to solve the problem.

Dr Cam Day BVSc BSc MACVSc is a veterinary surgeon, an animal behaviour consultant and media presenter. In 1995 he qualified as a Member of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in the discipline of Animal Behaviour and is one of only 15 veterinarians with this qualification in Australia. He works full time in animal behaviour management in Queensland, consulting with dog, cat and bird owners on a daily basis as well as appearing on air as Brisbane’s radio Pet Vet, and writing for various magazines.

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