Do Dogs Get Bored?

If you’ve ever attempted to entertain your dog with their favorite toy, only to have them stare blankly at you and trot away towards something more interesting, you may have found yourself wondering: Am I boring? Is my dog bored with me? Wait—can dogs get bored?

The short answer is: absolutely.

It’s unlikely you are the source of the problem, but you may need to take a different approach to engage your pet. While boredom is an innocuous, even common, state for humans and dogs to experience intermittently, monotony can have taxing psychological, emotional, and physical effects if it becomes the norm. A dog might even develop a mental disorder if this persists.

There are also many fun things to do with your dog at home if going outside or for a walk is not an option. This guide will break down how to know if your dog is bored, along with the best ways to address their doldrums, lift their spirits, and restore their zest for life long-term.

First Things First: What Is Boredom?

Boredom is an emotional-psychological state characterized by tedium, restlessness, and a generalized feeling of dissatisfaction. In humans, boredom may be linked to:1

  • Inadequate mental, intellectual, or cognitive stimulation
  • Insufficient rest or nutrition
  • Lack of variety in routine activities
  • Perception of time as slower than normal

Boredom is a normal shade in the palette of emotions, though like most mental states it exists on a spectrum of severity. If spells of boredom become frequent and more intense, it can be a harbinger of sadness and listlessness to come.

An important misconception about boredom is that it is confined to people (and pets!) experiencing fatigue, lethargy, or low energy. Boredom can also exhibit alongside elevated physiological states, such as:

  • Stress
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness or jitteriness
  • Inability to focus

Understanding that boredom can manifest in a host of mental-physical states is vital for expanding our repertoire of tools for its treatment.

Why Do Dogs Get Bored?

While every dog has their own distinct personality, dogs, on the whole, are notoriously social creatures.

Long before their domestication, dogs descended from gray wolves—pack animals—which means that they lived, thrived, and evolved in group settings.2 This group-oriented temperament is engraved in dogs’ DNA: just like humans, dogs are healthiest and happiest when they can regularly fraternize with other creatures, be they their owners, other dogs, or other household pets.

If you’re like most modern humans, it’s unlikely you’re not able to spend as much time with your dog as they might prefer. Work, kids, errands, and other responsibilities that attend “adulting” probably claim a large portion of your attention—even if you and your pet are in the same space together. Given these conditions, it’s no surprise that many dogs tend to get bored.

Signs Your Dog Is Bored

When puppies or dogs get bored, they will take matters into their own paws. There are some tell-tale signs of doggy boredom:

  • You come home to a mess – If you return home to find your bathroom TP’d, your couch dismembered, or your trash bin capsized, chances are your dog is bored. Your pet isn’t trying to cause trouble—they’re just trying to entertain themself. It’s up to you to give them a less destructive diversion to occupy the unchaperoned time with.
  • They’re running amok even when you’re home – Just as young children will often hover around their parents when they’re bored, you may find your dog trying to do the same —no matter how important your WFH assignment is. Your dog may tear around the house, bark at you for seemingly no reason, or grab things away from you to make you engage.
  • They don’t listen – Even if your dog is characteristically obedient and well-behaved, a bored pup may disregard your commands. This is neither a sign of a lack of discipline nor malice. It just means that they’re overly limited in their activities, and they want to find something a little more stimulating to do than “sit.”

Some of the time, stress, sadness, or other blue moods may be responsible for your dog’s misbehavior. Keep in mind that some dogs have difficulty with separation, which can require a more targeted intervention.

If other symptoms of stress with separation arise—such as bathroom accidents, pacing, or excessive whining—consider consulting with your vet, trainer, or dog behaviorist on ways to assuage their nerves.3

How to Combat Boredom in Dogs

Just like humans, dogs crave physical, mental, and social stimulation. Deflecting boredom is chiefly a matter of ensuring your pet is getting all of these needs met—and there are plenty of ways to do so, whether or not you’re around to supervise.

#1: Get Moving

There’s no better way to fight canine boredom than making sure physical activity is a part of your dog’s daily routine beyond the daily bathroom trips around the block.

Every breed of dog has different physical needs, so some dogs may crave more exercise than others. While a Yorkshire Terrier may be able to exhaust themself with some high-energy friskiness in the backyard, larger dogs like retrievers tend to crave wide open spaces with the latitude for more physical activity.

If you’re not able to keep up with your dog’s desired level of physical activity, consider bringing a toy along. Playing fetch with a frisbee, a ball, or even a stick you rustled up in the park can be a great way of meeting your pet’s physical needs while you stay put.



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