No dog or dog owner enjoys boredom. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior, such as chewing, digging or barking. Dogs need more than a few short walks a day or a yard to play in.
Dogs are thinking, social creatures who were bred to work alongside humans and therefore require mental stimulation.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, and offer some variation to your routine. Explore new neighborhoods by varying the route you usually take, or change up the pace frequently. Be sure to allow time for sniffing rather than hurrying your dog along—they learn a lot from all of those interesting smells, so giving them time to sniff can offer mental stimulation.
Work on a new trick
Mental stimulation often makes dogs as tired as physical exercise does. Working on a new trick will allow their brain to engage and work on figuring out what you’re asking. You can work on the basics with them, such as ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘shake’, ‘lay down’, etc. If they’ve mastered basic commands, search for new tricks online or in books. Make sure the training is positive and enforced with rewards.
There are some simple games you can play with your dog that will offer some fun and excitement. ‘Nose games’ are ones where your dog must use his nose to find the treat—this can be something like hide and seek, or ‘find it!’. You can use toys and treats you already have that have a smell your dog will recognize easily. Tug-of-war is another game that can be a physical and mental outlet for your dog.
Doggy day care
If your dog has never been to doggy day care, boy, are they in for a treat. Most doggy day care centers offer supervised play for dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes, often separated by age or energy level. The combination of mental stimulation (figuring out their place in the pack, interacting with new dogs) and physical exercise (chasing other dogs, swimming in pools, etc) is hard to beat when it comes to engaging your dog.