Boredom in Dogs: A Source of Unwanted Behavior and Disturbance to Household Harmony
As the title implies, I want to elaborate on the effects of boredom in dogs, how it manifests and what its consequences can be in the short and long term. This is a blog post without scientific citations and purely one in which I share my experiences and visions.
For starters, I like to distinguish between puppies and adult dogs and focus on the latter in this blog post. Perhaps not everyone will agree with my statement about puppies, but I believe that young puppies are not easily bored because they always find things to do and are still busy discovering the world. The biggest risk in puppies is overstimulation. If your puppy is bored when you are at home, in my opinion you fall short as an owner and you should think to yourself whether taking a puppy was the right choice.
How do you tell if an adult dog is bored? From my experience, I see many of the same patterns recur in different dog breeds, although depending on individual to individual, certain things are a regular trend.
Undesirable behavior. What do we mean by this? Stealing things when we think they “know very well that it is not allowed”, demolish things and listen less to the owner. When one of these things shows up in our household, I see this as the dog raising the alarm and clearly showing that it is not feeling well and is bored. I respond to this by taking the dog out of the circle of unwanted behavior (yes, this will be a vicious circle with greater long-term consequences) and anticipating his behavior.
The best solution is to do something with the dog, such as a walk or play with the dog. My personal preference is always for an outdoor activity to get the dog completely out of the rut. The undesirable behavior occurs indoors and a change of environment is the preferred choice for me. The short-term consequences if you do not anticipate this are in this case frustration (dog is punished for unwanted behavior) and for us valuable stuff that do not survive the day and frustration because we are angry that the dog is doing things that are not allowed. We don’t understand why and think we have a bad dog.
If this behavior repeats itself over a longer period of time, we will create more problems. What we should be aware of in case of unwanted behavior due to boredom is that the dog has developed a way to get attention from us, albeit negatively. That attention ensures that the dog gets what he wants to prevent boredom at that moment, the dog is frustrated and wants to do something. The dog sees that by showing certain behaviors the routine is broken. That is how one enters that vicious circle of unwanted behavior that becomes self-rewarding and we start to develop larger behavioral problems that could have been avoided very simply from the start. An aspect that I also see due to longterm boredom, and this is then in a household with different dogs, is that the harmony between the dogs is disturbed.
One dog that exhibits unwanted behavior can quickly initiate a chain reaction of unwanted behavior among the other housemates or worse, frustrations and discomfort. If this continues and you as the owner do not recognize the signals, this can eventually escalate. Constant frustrations and boredom within the household can lead to insufficient rest, which can lead to overstimulation. This has an influence mentally and the least trigger can lead to bigger problems between the dogs. When frustrations build up, fights can arise. Two dogs that got along so well can now start fighting because of the build-up of different circumstances and signals that the owner has missed. Major consequences for a simple aspect such as boredom.
Knowing how to recognize boredom in your dog is the first thing, then doing something about it is the most important thing. By recognizing boredom in your dog early, you can avoid a lot of behavioral and household problems. The opposite of boredom is overstimulation, here we see the same consequences. The bottom line in both cases is that the dog gets into overdrive, the way they get there is different in the two situations. In the future I would also like to continue about overstimulation in a further blog.