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Help Fido Overcome Boredom by Putting Him To Work!


Help Fido Overcome Boredom by Putting Him To Work!

Most dog breeds were originally bred to work: to hunt, guard, or herd.  Because of this, many dogs get bored easily these days, lying around the house. Most unnecessary barking, and a good deal of chewing, is due to just that – boredom.

A very easy way to help Fido overcome boredom is to create a sense of self-importance to him – put him back to work! A fun and easy way of doing this is to have him wear a backpack during walks.  Specially -designed ones are available online at such retailers as Amazon.com. Also known as saddlebags, these packs give a dog a sense of purpose. Stuff them with a water bottle, some cleanup bags, or even just  small plastic zip bags of sand, anything to give the dog added weight and a sense of contributing. (Note: I do not recommend putting a bag of treats in the backpack. Trust me on this one.  Other dogs smell them, and Fido will as well. It’s better to be safe than to potentially cause issues.)  Be sure to give him treats when first putting on his new pack so he starts to acclimatize to it quickly.

Speaking of treats, always make your dog work for one. It not only keeps him from boredom and excess pounds, it helps the dog make connections between ‘listening’ and ‘treat’.  Tricks are one way of making dogs earn treats, but other ways that are more interactive and cognitive are such things as IQ puzzles (such as wooden slide puzzles that have slots for treats: dogs have to figure out how to move the puzzle to get the goodies), plastic puzzle balls that have a treat inside (more on these in a moment), or hiding the treats throughout the house! You can close off a single room, hide some small snacks, and make Fido sniff them out. Or, you can cook chicken breasts, puree them into a thick liquid with a  little water, then put the mixture in a squirt bottle (like the type you see for condiments in restaurants). A little squirt here, a little dash there, spread out over the lawn makes him ‘work’ at hunting down his meal, at least in his eyes.  Something fun things we do with our three rescue dogs are Easter Egg Hunts and Snowball Retrieves. Fill some plastic Easter Eggs with treats, hide them in the yard, and let the dog sniff them out. (Be sure to stay close so that he doesn’t chew the eggs, just sniffs them.) We pop them open and give them the treat as soon as they sniff the egg out.

For a Snowball Retrieve, our Flat-Coat Retriever mix LOVES the snow and is excellent off-lead. Since we have some acreage, what we do is let her sniff the treat, pack it in a snowball, then throw it out into the field. She will watch it land, hunt it down, and eat through the snowball to get the yummy. Lots of fun for everyone!  We are always amazed that she finds every one . . . even in acres of fresh snow!

Another fun thing you can do is to ‘hitch’ your dog up to a garden cart and have him help with fall raking. Set a bag or two (depending on your dog’s size) of raked leaves in the cart, and he can haul them to the curb for you!  Be sure to hold his leash and walk with him, reassuring him as you go. The sensation of the cart behind him can be a little disconcerting at first.  A treat at the curb is the sign to him that he did well!

So, give Fido a sense of importance. While it would be nice to teach him to mow the lawn or shovel the walk, at least these suggestions above are ‘jobs’ he can understand!  And they’re fun for his family, too!

(A little more on puzzle toys. Never leave your dog unattended. Not only might they chew the toy if they get frustrated, they also may do what our OES/Great Pyrenees mix did with a puzzle ball . . . take it upstairs and throw it down the stairs several times until she broke it, thus ‘earning’ her treat. Sort of.)  

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