The ‘bad behavior’ that experts say is a flag your dog needs more stimulation.
“Let kids get bored,” a recent New York Times read (essentially). The piece argues that letting children get a little bored (rather than scheduling every aspect of their days) leaves room for creativity. Fair point. But chronic boredom in dogs may spark creativity you don’t particularly appreciate—at the expense of your sofa, shoes or lawn.
“Bored dogs will look for ways to entertain themselves, which may lead to destructive or unwanted behavior and illness,” says Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM, CVA, CVCP, CVFT, a veterinarian and founder and CEO of Dr. Judy Morgan’s Naturally Healthy Pets.
Chronic boredom isn’t great for your pup’s mental health, either.
“Like humans, dogs need mental stimulation to keep their minds sharp and their spirits high,” says Dr. Lindsay Butzer, DVM, a PetMeds partner. “Without it, they can become anxious, depressed or even aggressive.”
But unlike a human child (or adult, for that matter), dogs cannot tell us they’re chronically bored. Instead, they show us. Two veterinarians and a dog trainer shared the biggest signs your dog is chronically bored and what to do about them.
Why It Matters That Your Dog Is Chronically Bored
Pet parents want the best for their furry friends, so knowing if your dog is experiencing chronic boredom is critical.
“Recognizing if your dog is chronically bored is important for their mental and emotional well-being,” says Trevor Smith, a certified dog trainer with Pupford, “It helps prevent behavioral issues, promotes physical health through exercise, strengthens the bond between you and your dog and prevents feelings of loneliness or separation anxiety.”
You may get a serious case of pet-parent guilt if your dog is currently chronically bored. But Smith says just recognizing the signs makes you a good dog parent—and can put you on a path to rectify it.
“By addressing boredom, you can provide a more fulfilling and enriching life for your furry friend,” Smith says.
The No. 1 Sign of Chronic Boredom in Dogs
All three experts agree: The biggest red flag of chronic boredom in dogs is destructive behavior.
“One telltale sign that your dog may be chronically bored is if they start engaging in destructive behaviors like chewing up your favorite pair of shoes, redecorating the living room with their teeth or excavating your backyard like a professional archaeologist,” Smith says.
Dr. Morgan concurs and says that chronic boredom may also be triggering two other issues in your pet.
“If you find that your dog has been destructive, like chewing, digging and shredding items, or that they are soiling in the house, those can be signs of anxiety and frustration secondary to boredom,” Dr. Morgan explains.
Why Do Dogs Get Destructive When They Are Bored?
Experts say it’s natural for dogs to engage in destructive behavior when bored. “Dogs, especially young ones, are naturally curious and energetic,” says Dr. Butzer. “If they don’t have an outlet for their energy, they’ll find one—even if it means destroying your favorite pair of shoes.”
Smith agrees. Destructive behavior may get mistaken for “bad dogs,” but it’s actually your companion’s way of communicating their feelings.
“It’s their way of saying, ‘Hey, I need something more interesting to do around here,'” Smith shares.
Finally, dogs may be domesticated these days. But they still have inherited natural inclinations from their ancestors.
“Dogs have a natural instinct for hunting, chasing, scavenging and working [as herding and guard dogs],” says Dr. Morgan. “They are pack animals which means they are social. Lack of interaction is detrimental to their health and well-being.”
Other Signs Your Dog Is Chronically Bored
1. Restlessness and pacing
If your dog can’t sit still or is pacing back and forth like they’re about to attend a stressful Zoom call, they may be bored.
“This behavior is a result of their pent-up energy and frustration, seeking an outlet for their boredom,” says Smith.
2. Excessive barking
Your neighbor called. They want you to know that your dog has barked all day, every day, for the last month while you were at work. According to experts, your dog has also been trying to drop you a line.
“Excessive barking when left alone, which might be reported by neighbors or seen on home camera systems, is a sign of frustration and calling for someone to interact with,” Dr. Morgan says.
3. Attention-seeking behavior
Bored dogs sometimes take matters into their own paws.
“Dogs may resort to attention-seeking behaviors like nudging, pawing or demanding excessive petting when they are bored,” Smith explains. “They crave interaction and stimulation, so they resort to seeking your attention as a way to alleviate their boredom.”