5 Ways to Challenge Your Dog’s Bored Mind

You know how much I love my dog, so when I found Cat’s blog, Oddly Lovely, I was smitten. She’s like a cooler version of me because not only does she share posts about controversial topics and her pets, she also creates recipes that look and sound far too good. Today she’s got some awesome dog boredom buster suggestions and ways to entertain your dog because really, there’s nothing better than a tired dog!

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My dog Ru is my best friend. It’s funny, because I was really never a dog-person before she came along. Then I took a trip to “just visit” an animal shelter, and the moment we looked into each other’s eyes, it was all over. Now I am a crazy dog lady. Ru comes with me to the office, and she waits for me outside grocery stores and coffee shops. Together we got our Canine Good Citizen certificate and now we’re starting a nose-work class so we can try out container searches like bomb and drug sniffing dogs. She is so happy and smart and eager to please. It really makes me understand the expression “Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am.”

5 Ways to Entertain Your Dog / @oddlylovely for @hellorigby

In addition to exercise, the #1 thing most dogs lack is mental stimulation. Sure, they can hang out on the couch all day and stare at the wall for what seems like hours. But their boredom certainly contributes to the destruction of your shoes and the holes in the yard. Dogs are not children – they want to WORK. They love to be challenged and they love discipline. Find little ways you can turn your dog’s boring life into little puzzles, and they will thank you for it.

Here are my five favorite ways to mentally challenge my pup:

Turn meals into challenges with food toys

This is my absolute favorite way to keep Ru entertained when I’m busy at the office. Pick up some food toys like these Kong Geniuses, stuff them full of regular kibble (or stinky treats if your dog feels so-so about food), and let them puzzle out how to get the food out. In fact, you can feed your dog entire meals exclusively out of food toys, effectively turning a ten-second activity into an hour long mental challenge. Other than the Kong Genius toys, Ru also loves the Tug-a-Jug and the Bob-A-Lot.

Take a training class or practice a new trick

Dogs love to work, especially when it ends with being praised and rewarded. Dedicate an hour a week to a training class, even if it’s something just fun like a tricks class. Your dog will learn how to puzzle through your commands while getting plenty of exclusive attention from you, plus it will promote bonding and remind your dog how to listen to commands in general. Check out your local animal shelter for affordable classes (I can take 6 weeks of classes for less than $100 through the Berkeley Humane Society!).

Teach them games like hide and seek

The other night I came home slightly tipsy, and Ru and I started playing hide and go seek. She’d sit on the couch and I would run and hide somewhere in the house. I’d whistle for her, and then try and jump out and scare her when she found me (trust me, this was hilarious when drunk). After a while, I decided to grab a bag of treats and instead of hiding myself, I began hiding little treats around the house. I would strongly give her the command “go to the couch,” then “wait.” I’d hide the treat, then say “go find it!” She had the idea in about ten minutes, then started listening where I was walking in the house to deduce where I was hiding the treats, haha.

Rotate out their toys

Ever notice that a brand new toy is exciting, but after a few weeks it’s forgotten? Just like kids, dogs often lose interest in objects that they’re used to seeing around the house. Even though Ru loved her stuffed tiger when she first got it, now it’s mostly laid on the floor dejected. Instead, try putting the toys she’s lost interest in away in a closet for a few weeks, and give her new toys or ones she hasn’t seen in a while. A week or so later, swap the toys out again, always keeping fresh ones around the house.

Take them to run errands, to the dog park, etc.

One of the best things you can do for your dog is taking them to a lot of places so they can see and be introduced to a lot of new things. When possible, I bring Ru over to friends’ houses so she can learn how she’s supposed to behave in homes that aren’t ours. I bring her into pet-friendly stores like the bank and Paper Source. She loves how much attention she gets, and we have to work hard to remember our manners even around lots of unfamiliar people and new smells. A safe and friendly dog park (which mind you, does not describe all of them) is one of the absolute best places to teach your dog how to be polite around new pups.

How do you make sure your dog isn’t getting bored?

Be sure to check out Cat (and Ru!) at Oddly Lovely, and on Bloglovin’, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest!

21 thoughts on “5 Ways to Challenge Your Dog’s Bored Mind

  1. Chelsie

    These are all such great tips! One way we keep Rosie from getting bored is by hiding her favorite toys around the house and making her look for them. She loves to sniff them out and find them.

  2. Danielle Eskdale

    This is a brilliant post! I’m a big believer in most of these things and am happy to say that (well I think) my dog is rarely bored. He loves his Kong, he has a huge toy box of which we pick a handful out of each week or so to play with and we love playing games like hide and seek together. :)

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Best wishes, Danielle xo

    1. Jenn Post author

      So glad you enjoyed the post, Danielle! I also like to think I keep my dog’s brain pretty busy with some of the same things that you do. A busy dog is a happy one! :)

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  4. suki

    Love it! I agree that it’s definitely important to keep ’em stimulated because a bored dog is a troublesome one. ;-) They’ll be up to no good and chew up things you don’t want them to pay attention to. LOL – great post.

    1. Jenn Post author

      Oh that’s awesome – I was a lot like your boyfriend is on the research before we brought home Rigby. I’m really glad too – all that reading comes in handy!

  5. Cat

    Psh, cooler than you? Girl, you crazy! Although I do love the phrase “dog boredom busters.” Seriously, that should have been the title of the post, hehe.

    PS, I’m loving all your vacation pics! I hope you’ll do a full blog post when you get some time :)


  6. Isaac

    As someone who’s best friend and shadow is their dog; I love this post! And your Blog! My dog Sheldon has this Glow-in-the-dark ball he loves to drop at my feet as if to say, ‘try it, just try it.’ He swipes it before I can get it.

    As a ‘single parent’ I sometimes I worry I don’t do enough for him so thank you for the wonderful suggestions of how to keep him entertained!

    1. Jenn Post author

      So glad you enjoyed the post, Isaac! Ha, I think Rigby may have a similar ball. He also enjoys dropping his toys at my feet and stealing them back.

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  8. Mai T.

    I go out with my dog at least 2 hours every day so she gets enough exercises outdoors. Indoors, I also make her go around and find things a lot. She gets smarter by those activities I think.

  9. Debbie

    My Roscoe is half German Shepard and half Blood hound and he love to use his nose. he is 5 months old and we play and have fun but I needed some ideas on how to stimulate his curious mind thanks. I never thought about hiding treats around the house. He has been a blessing to me and I want to give back to him. Thank you I will keep reading

  10. MrRoger

    The park is our favorite hangout place, too! But it is quite difficult when the weather gets bad, though. I had to think of something to keep my dog busy without breaking the house!

  11. Ivana Kinsley

    #Jenn That’s great resources for us to increase dog entertain. I like your tips especially hide and seek and dog food toys idea. I think these two ideas totally change the dog mind and increase their natural activities.
    Thank you so much, I wanna it with my little pups.


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