Bored to be Wild: Preventing Bad Dog Behaviors Caused by Boredom
Everybody has a little down time, including your favorite four-legged companions. Even a well-behaved furry friend can get bored from time to time, which means it’s only natural for a dog to try and find some alternative activities to pass the time.
The problem with a bored dog is that your best pal may redirect his energy toward some less than acceptable behaviors. This doesn’t mean he’s a bad boy, but it can lead to your canine companion developing some bad habits.
How Bored Behavior Can Turn into Bad Behavior
Being bored isn’t an issue – everybody gets bored sometimes. Unfortunately, bored behaviors can turn into conditioned ones. Examples of typical bored behavior include:
- Clawing at certain spots on the carpet
- Digging holes or tearing up grass in the backyard
- Chewing at miscellaneous clothes or furniture
These actions, even if inspired by boredom, are issues. Even worse, regular bouts of boredom can lead to more bad behavior in the future if it leads your dog to repeat these bad behaviors.
“When dogs become bored and do these things on a daily basis, it can become a ritual – those are harder to break,” says Professional Animal Trainer and TV Show Host Joel Silverman. “The longer that’s able to continue on a consistent basis, the more challenging it is to get rid of that problem.”
Preventing Bad Behaviors Caused by Boredom
There are a few different ways that you can help prevent your dog from developing bad behaviors, but it all comes down to one basic idea – don’t let them behave badly.
Of course, stopping these behaviors is easier said than done. To help, Silverman suggests three different ways you can keep boredom at bay or prevent bad behaviors from becoming the norm.
Redirection and verbal corrections
The first method involves catching the dog in the act and teaching him that his bored behavior is not okay. If you let the dog complete the behavior, it’s only going to incentivize him to do the same thing in the future.
“You always need to break the cycle and not let the dog complete the action,” Silverman says. “If he’s able to complete the action, whatever it is, letting him play it out is reinforcement to your dog because that action is a reward.”
To solve this issue, Silverman suggests using redirection to divert your dog’s attention before he decides to take the lack of excitement out on the couch. Redirection is the act of taking the dog away from what’s he’s currently thinking about – scratching that spot on the carpet or digging up the new patch of grass – and redirecting his energy to a toy or something else. For example, have a soft toy or cloth on hand if you notice your furry friend getting antsy. That way you can give him this toy to chew on so that he spares your couch from the same fate.
It’s also good to reinforce that certain actions are not allowed. When dogs are bored, they typically pick a certain out-of-sight spot to break the monotony, such as the back corner of a couch or a patch of grass behind the garage. If you see your dog start to saunter over to this spot, that’s when you want to intervene.
“If you can catch a dog right when he’s starting to dig or chew and say, ‘knock it off,’ now you’re sending a message the dog can understand,” Silverman explains. “A verbal correction combined with preventative training, which is not giving the dog the opportunity to be in that situation, is how you get rid of those problems.”
As Silverman suggests, verbal corrections and redirection are only part of the process. While you may want to spend every waking minute with your buddy, there are times where you won’t be able to watch him. Fortunately, a few precautions should be able to prevent your precious pooch from developing bad behaviors while you’re not around.
“I would highly recommend not giving the dog the ability to be near that couch when you’re not home or near that area on the floor or backyard,” Silverman suggests. “If you don’t give the dog the ability to be in that place when you’re not there, the dog won’t be able to be in that position to complete the behavior.”
The first part of this process involves identifying your dog’s go-to spots for when he’s bored. Once you know where he goes, limit his access to those spots if you’re not around. If this spot is in your backyard, that means making sure you go outside with him to monitor the situation. If his spot is inside, you can sue a combination of closed doors or baby gates to prevent him from accessing certain furniture or parts of the carpet. You can also crate train your dog to make sure he stays in a safe spot where he can’t complete bad behaviors.
Introduce new activities or training
While bored behaviors aren’t necessarily an issue with pent up energy – there are plenty of low prey drive dogs that still get bored – introducing some new activities can help break up the monotony. Giving your dog a new outlet to burn energy can help limit bored behaviors, especially for high-energy breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds. According to Silverman, the following activities are great ways to give your dog something fun to do:
- Agility training
- Dock diving
- Fly ball
Each of these activities can not only help your dog exercise, it’s a great way for your dog to work and bond with you. There are also various facilities and organizations around the country that are open to the public, so make sure to search for a place near you if you think your furry friend would like to partake in a fun, new activity.
Training is also another way to battle bouts of boredom. Even if you’ve never spent much time training your dog, there are little things you can do to help teach good behaviors. Fortunately, some Bil-Jac Little-Jacs® Small Dog Training Treats can help make this process a bit easier.
“Start by holding a treat between your thumb and your forefinger to create a lure where the dog has to follow the treat,” Silverman explains. “The art is letting the dog stay in contact with the treat wherever you move it. If you can get really good at that, you can start to train a ton of behaviors because so many of them start with you luring the dog with the treat.”
According to Silverman, many of the behaviors used to train dogs for movies and commercials utilize this method. Of course, you don’t have to worry about preparing a dog for a film crew. Start with the basics like teaching the dog to sit and stay and your furry friend will have more on his mind than the carpet behind your loveseat.
Beating Boredom with Your Best Friend
It’s okay to be a bit bored every now and again. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep your best friend entertained – and to teach what not to do when boredom strikes.
Want to learn more about what you can do to keep your furry friend happy, healthy, and entertained? Join our Best Friends Club today to receive our exclusive email newsletter full of informative articles, training tips, and members-only discounts on Bil-Jac dog food, treats, and other products.