Is My Puppy Bored?

Keeping Your Puppy Entertained When at Work

Puppies are bundles of energy and excitement, and the younger they are, the more restless they can be. Their young minds are programmed to experience everything their world has to offer. This is how they learn. Thus, puppies will sniff, scratch and run around, and play whenever they get the chance.

If you already own a puppy, its likely you have found yourself asking the question “how can I keep my puppy entertained when I’m out of the house?”. If you have, then you’re in the right place. In this article we’re going to tackle the issue of entertaining your puppy when you’re at home and when you’re not.

Keeping your puppy happy when you’re out is as much about what you do when you’re home as it is when you’re out. By stimulating your puppy using enrichment, you can reduce their need to entertain themselves. This reduces negative habits such as digging and chewing. This article aims to discuss the issue of bored puppies and help your puppy live a happier, healthier life.

Enrichment: The Cure for a Bored Puppy

Keeping your puppy entertained is more than just making sure they don’t chew things while you’re out. Numerous studies show that enrichment is critical to the psychological wellbeing of any animal.

Although a daily walk is a great start, enrichment goes beyond walking and challenges your puppy to live an active, curious life. It calls on them to use their natural skills and instincts to interact with their environment and learn new things. 

The 6 types of Puppy Enrichment

The authors of Beyond Squeaky Toys discuss six distinct categories of puppy enrichment. We’ve broken these down below and have provided some practical tips for getting the most out of each. Remember that puppies are individual and like different things. While some of these tips may be perfect for some, other puppies may not enjoy them. Always introduce your puppy to new things at a calm and appropriate pace.

Social Enrichment

Social enrichment is all about allowing your puppy to spend time with other animals and people, in new environments. If you have a shy puppy, it might help to check out our article on Puppy socialisation here. Social Enrichment is important because it allows your puppy to experience life as part of a pack, as they would naturally. Some examples include:

  • Going to the dog park or beach.  The dog park and beach are great places for your puppy to stretch their legs, meet new canine friends, and experience a new environment.
  • Puppy Preschool. Puppy preschool is a great way for your puppy to play with other dogs and experience a different, challenging environment.
  • Going Shopping. Pet friendly shopping centres are a great place for you to work on leash reactivity with your puppy.

Cognitive Enrichment

Cognitive enrichment encourages your puppy to use their problem-solving prowess, this is important for raising a smart, socially aware puppy. Some examples include:

  • Hide and Seek. Play hide and seek with your puppy by asking them to stay, and the running and hiding. Call them and wait for them to find you. Have treats on hand for when your puppy does, so that they have more incentive to keep looking. This is also a great way to work on the sit, stay, and here commands.
  • Nose-work. Harness your puppy’s natural sniffing skills and have them look for treats around the room. Show them the treat at first so they know what they’re looking for and start easy so that your puppy can become accustomed to the game.
  • Puzzle toys. Puzzle toys are great for mental stimulation and can be used to keep your puppy entertained for hours while you’re out of the house. Talk to your local pet-store for more info.

Physical Enrichment

Physical enrichment is all about getting your dog moving and changing up their physical environment. It adds complexity to your puppy’s understanding of ‘their’ space. This includes:

  • Blanket Forts. Puppies love running in and out, especially with you inside. This can be simple and effective.  
  • Pop-Up Tunnels. Small dogs may love to run in and out of pop-up tunnels. For breeds such as daschunds this can simulate travelling down burrows to catch rabbits.  
  • Games. Tug-o-War and fetch have always been favourites. These games are a chance for you to bond with your puppy and also stimulate their instinctive drives.

Sensory Enrichment

Sensory enrichment activates any one of your puppy’s senses; taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. You can stimulate your puppy’s five senses by:

  • Blowing Bubbles. Some puppies love watching bubbles float through the air, snapping at them, and jumping up in the air for them. This stimulates their sight and touch.
  • Use Herbs and Spices: Mint and cinnamon are two examples of herbs and spices which are non-toxic and can be added to food to encourage sniffing.
  • Foreign Scents. Nothing will get your puppy sniffing like a foreign scent. Give old t-shirt to friends with other animals and let your puppy interact with them, you can tie them to tug toys for more fun. 

Feeding Enrichment

Feeding enrichment is great because if there’s one thing your puppy likes, its food. Make mealtime fun and challenging using these tricks:

  • Hand Feeding. Feeding your puppy by hand can be a great bonding experience.
  • Muffin Tin ball feeder – Place some treats in some of the trays of a muffin tin, cover all the tins with tennis balls and challenge your dog to find the treats.
  • Ice treats. Ice treats can be great on a hot day and slow your dog down when eating.
  • Puzzle feeders. Puzzle feeders slow down fast eaters and challenge them to get their food using their brains.  

Toy Enrichment

Toy enrichment includes any objects which can manipulated by your puppy in some way. Challenge your puppy to explore using their mouths and feet with:

  • Wind-up toys. Wind-up toys move on their own. Allow your dog to watch and chase but not to eat.
  • Remote Control Toys. Use remote control toys to lure your puppy around the house. As with wind-up toys, don’t let them put remote control toys in their mouths.
  • Fishing Pole Toy. Dangle something flashy or chewy on the end of a pole and string. Lure your dog around and make them jump for the toy. Let them tug on the pole when supervised.
  • Stuffed Clothing. Stuff old clothes with smelly things like grass clippings.

Why is Enrichment So Important?

Enrichment is a key part in raising a healthy and happy puppy. By keeping your puppy amused while you are home, you reduce the need for self-entertainment when you’re not. Many negative behaviours, such as chewing, digging, and biting can be linked to a lack of stimulation and enrichment. Therefore, enrichment is a relatively cheap and easy way to give your puppy a happy and healthy life and keep them entertained while you’re at work. 

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