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Boredom busters for your pets

Working from home but your pup just wants to play? Here’s some ideas to help bust their boredom and keep them entertained.

Dogs generally sleep more than humans, but let’s not let boredom be a reason to snooze the day away!

Aside from excessive sleeping, boredom can drive a dog to become distressed and destructive. Providing your pooch with constructive mental outlets helps develop their confidence, independence, problem solving skills, burns energy and saves losing another pair of shoes or part of the couch.

Nose to toes

Did you know sniffing offers your dog many mental and physical benefits? Sniffing can lower the heart rate, help regulate emotions and decompress from stressful situations, replace unwanted behaviours, is mentally enriching and tiring and best of all – feels good!

Similarly, licking can have great soothing and calming benefits. Providing doggy-appropriate items to lick redirects the behaviour away from licking humans.

Foraging for food

Dogs are natural foragers, so why not find creative ways to ditch the food bowl. Before attempting these ideas please consider their suitability for your pup based on their age, breed and face shape (flatter-faced dogs could be at risk of facial injuries such as eye scratches), and always supervise your dog initially to ensure the game is appropriate and safe. And remember – never disturb a dog while they are eating.

Scent and seek

There are a few variations of this game depending on the type of food your dog likes. The idea is to scatter or hide your pup’s food or healthy treats and encourage them to use their nose to find it. If your dog scoffs their meals, this game is great to slow them down.

Here’s how to play:

  1. Scatter or hide your pet’s kibble or food. Think around table and chair legs, under their dog blanket, near the base of pot plants (avoiding any plants that may be toxic for your pet of course) and corners of the room. You can even hide the food outside in your backyard if it’s secure and safe. Or, head outside and scatter over the grass. Ensure the yard is clean and safe to do so. Check out this Scent and Seek training game video  to get you started.
  2. Divide your pet’s meal into a few smaller bowls and place them around your home and outdoor space, avoiding areas that may be attractive for bugs.
  3. Freeze their food into balls or cubes. If you feed your pet wet food, freezing their dinner into balls is the perfect refreshment on a hot summer day. You can use an ice tray or hand roll them. Initially, carefully supervise and modify the size as needed to ensure your pup doesn’t choke.
  4. Snuffle mats. There’s lots of great options available for purchase or you can even make one yourself.  
  5. Spread kibble across an old towel and roll. Your pooch has to unroll the towel to find snacks.

Puzzle feeders

There are many puzzle feeder toys on the market these days which is great! Do some research to find ones most appropriate for your dog – consider durability, difficulty level, accessibility based on face shape. A common option are Kong’s or similar toys. These can be frozen to last longer.

Recycle and reuse

Before throwing away empty plastic bottles, toilet rolls or cardboard boxes, pass them down to your dog for some fun (keeping their safety in mind). Remove the ‘O ring’ and lids from bottles, and ensure all items are properly cleaned. Here’s some ideas on how to use:

  • Stand used toilet paper and paper towel rolls in a box and scatter dry food among the tubes. Your dog will have a lot of fun exploring and taking the rolls out to get to the food.
  • Tennis balls and an old muffin tray. Place small portions of food in some muffin tray sections, then hide with a tennis ball on top. Your pup must first remove the tennis ball to access the food underneath (not just flip the tray).
  • Pop food in an egg carton and close the lid. Your pet will have to open the lid to get to dinner.
  • A plastic bottle and a tug rope. There are a few options for this:
    • Cut holes in the body of the bottle for kibble to fall out. Remove the lid and push a rope toy or old shirt with a knot at the top through the opening so it can’t disappear inside the bottle. Your dog will need to tug, shake and roll the bottle to get the food.
    • Tie a tug toy around the handle of a 2L milk or juice bottle and remove the lid. Watch your pup tug, toss, push and pull for the food to fall out of the opening.
    • Place kibble in an old shirt and stuff into a bottle. The aim is to pull the shirt out to get to the food.

We love our pets and their entire wellbeing is important. Providing your pet with a variety of stimulation brings many benefits to both you and your pup. It can help prevent and treat separation distress, redirect unnatural unwanted destructive behaviours and develops emotional and mental intelligence within your dog.

These games aren’t strictly for dogs – any pet can try them! You may need to help your pet initially learn the game and encourage them not to get frustrated and give up. The key to avoiding frustration is to make sure they are successful early on. Remember, any treats or food given comes out of their daily total portion of food, as we do not want your pet to become overweight.

If you’re looking for ideas for bond-strengthening games to play with your pup, head over to our article Why Play Should Be a Priority here

Any advice is general only and has not considered your personal circumstances, so may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.

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