5 Signs of a Bored Dog (and Games to Keep Them Entertained)

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The "pack animal" terminology rears it's furry head once again. Dogs are not "pack animals" they are social creatures. Using this terminology perpetuates the debunked dominance theory of canine behavior.

Sometimes you wish your dog could tell you how they feel. For the most part, dogs are energetic creatures who want to spend their days playing and socializing. But how do you know if your dog's had enough playtime? What if they're bored? Just like humans, dogs can get bored — and a bored dog is an unhappy one. That's why recognizing boredom in your dog and knowing how to combat it is an important part of being a pet parent.

Start With an Enriching Environment

The first step to staving off boredom is setting up your home with your dog's physical and emotional health in mind. In the animal care world, this can be referred to as "enrichment." According to the Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, environmental enrichment is "the process of manipulating an animal's environment to increase physical activity and normal species-typical behavior that satisfies the animal's physical and psychological needs." Making sure your pup feels comfortable and appropriately stimulated in their home is key to their daily well-being.

Stock your house with plenty of toys that will keep your dog engaged, especially while you're busy, such as treat-dispensing toys. You can also try a puzzle feeder to add a fun challenge to mealtime. It's best to alternate toys — hiding some for days or weeks at a time — so that old favorites feel new again.

5 Signs of a Bored Dog and How You Can Help

Here are five signs your pup is bored and some games for dogs you can try to help get them back to their playful self.

1. Barking

If your dog has been barking more frequently than usual, there's a good chance you have a bored dog on your hands. Out-of-the-blue barking is one way your dog gets your attention, even if they don't appear to be barking at you. Think of it as a mild way of acting out.

Training Fun

You may be surprised to learn that training is a great way to play with your dog. Dogs generally enjoy having a job to do. To help quell your dog's boredom, give them mini missions. For example, ask your dog to stay. Once they're in position, throw a toy in their direction, but don't give them the go-ahead right away. After they've waited a while, let your dog out of the stay position with "OK," "go" or whatever command you use.

Once they get to the toy, ask them to deliver it back to you (they may even do this on their own). Play this training game over and over, increasing their wait time each round, until your bored dog becomes a sleepy dog.

2. Chewing

Bored dogs can become destructive. If your once-angelic pup is suddenly chewing your couch or shoes — or anything else for that matter — it's important to stop the behavior before it becomes an issue, as chewing household objects can put your dog in harm's way. In the meantime, provide them with healthy, safe alternatives.


Tug-of-war is a great way to help redirect chewing behaviors and teach your dog what's chew-approved. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), "Tug can promote impulse control, build confidence, and strengthen the bond between dogs and their [pet parents]." It can also help calm all that extra dog energy. The AKC explains that certain working breeds, such as border collies and terriers, are especially likely to enjoy this game. Keep tug-of-war sessions brief at around 15 seconds.

Jack Russell terrier chases tail from an overhead view.

3. Running In Circles

Has your dog suddenly started chasing their tail? Do you find them pacing the room in circular motions? A circle runner might have a lot of energy to burn off.

Hide and Seek

Highly physical games are often the best way to beat boredom for athletic, energetic dogs. Hide and seek is one option that can involve the whole family. If you have children, encourage them to join in on the fun. Have one person hide, and then encourage your dog to go find them. The hider can call out to your pup if they need a hint. Once your dog finds the person, remember to give them plenty of praise.

4. Whining

Whining can be overwhelming and even annoying, but consider why your dog is whining before getting too frustrated. It's simple: They need you. Analyzing the situation can help you change your perspective and get to the root of the issue. For example, much like human babies, dogs may whine when they need a little more attention.

Treat Hunt

Helping your dog overcome the boredom blues may be as simple as engaging them. This can take many forms. Sending them on a treat hunt is one game that's mentally and physically stimulating — and gives them the bonus of a tasty reward. Try hiding healthy dog treats or pieces of kibble around the house and let your dog play detective. If they find a treat, it's theirs to eat! Just be sure not to overfeed your pet. Treats shouldn't make up more than 10% of their daily nutrition.

5. Following You Around the House

You knew you were popular with your dog, but you didn't expect to be followed around all evening. Your dog is your sidekick — but if they insist on being your shadow, too, consider giving them something else to do.

Simon Says

For a dog who spends hours at your heel, try a game of Simon Says. Start with your dog on one side of your yard in a stay position. Then cross the yard and call a command to them from afar, such as "sit" or "down." If you want to make it more difficult, try calling "come" for your dog to come to you, and then "stop" to make them halt in their tracks. For this and all games for dogs, reward your pup with praise when they follow your directions. If the commands don't quite land, ask your dog to move back to the starting side of the yard and try again.

While these five behaviors can indicate boredom, they can also be signs of an underlying health concern. Contact your vet to rule out any health problems. And remember, the easiest way to avoid a bored dog is to keep them occupied. Regularly walking and playing with your dog is key to leading a happy life together.

A dog chasing bubbles.

Contributor Bio

Mary Washburn

Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.