Canine Cabin Fever: 5 Boredom Busters for Dogs
Wondering how to keep your dog entertained when you’re working from home and can’t sneak away from your computer to play with them? Or curious how to keep your dog entertained when you’re not home? Don’t worry—we’ve got you.
Doggy boredom is a real thing and boredom busters for dogs are the solution. If you’re coming home to big messes and constant restlessness, these are often signs of a dog with nothing to do. Left to their own devices, a bored dog might decide, “Hey, I’ll make my own fun!” and start gnawing on shoes, shredding pillows, or unrolling toilet paper. That’s not great news for your shoes or your sanity.
Dog enrichment can go a long way towards curing canine cabin fever and a bored dog. More time spent playing usually means less time spent destroying.
Do dogs get bored?
Simply put – yes. If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering, ‘my dog seems sad and bored,’ please know you are not alone. Like any good pet parents, the health and happiness of our dogs is always top of mind.
What are the signs of a bored dog?
- Inappropriate chewing. This can involve furniture, pillows, walls, baseboards, shoes, or whatever else they can get their paws on.
- Making messes and getting into things they usually ignore. Perhaps they have tipped over the garbage can or took to the art form of toiler paper streamers and confetti.
- Barking at everything. Some dogs are naturally more vocal, but if it is an excessive or newly formed behaviour – you pup may be bored.
- Acting restless. Maybe they won’t settle to watch their DOGTV like usual, or are incessantly bugging you for attention.
Boredom busters for dogs
Here are five of our favourite dog enrichment ideas to keep your bored dog from misbehaving out of boredom:
1. Go foraging for treats.
There are countless snuffle and activity mats on the market to cure doggy boredom and cabin fever. However, you can achieve the same effect on a budget using regular household items like the humble cardboard box.
First, gather your supplies. To start, you’ll need:
- A cardboard box
- Newspaper or tissue paper (the biodegradable tissue from your Waggle Mail subscription box is an excellent choice, if we do say so ourselves)
- Several small containers you’re okay with getting destroyed (like a take-out box, for example)
- Food or treats
Next, show your dog a treat and then hide it in the cardboard box under some bits of newspaper. Let them rummage around to find the hidden prize. Things might get a little messy, but think of it as controlled chaos—a bit like ripping open presents on Christmas morning.
Once your dog understands the game (and reaps the rewards), up the ante by adding in some balls of paper, wrapping treats in paper bags, or concealing them in pet-safe toys like Westpaw or Kong dog enrichment toys. The more, the merrier.
If you have a senior dog or a dog whose mobility issues prevent them from digging, try using a smaller box or cut one side out so they, too, can partake in the foraging fun.
2. Play seek and chase… with bubbles!
Bubbles are an underrated, low-risk, and inexpensive toy to keep dogs busy.
Did you know there are flavoured bubble solutions (peanut butter and bacon, for example) for dogs? Better yet—make your own. It’s the one game of fetch they’ll never win, but we can promise you they’ll have a ton of fun trying.
DIY dog-safe bubbles
What you’ll need:
- ½ cup natural, biodegradable dish detergent (Dawn is a suitable alternative)
- 1 cup water
- 1 tsp vegetable glycerin (substitute with corn syrup if needed)
- 1 tsp broth (optional) for flavour
What you’ll do:
- Mix ingredients in a resealable container and store in a safe place (out of any pets’ or children’s reach).
- For best results, let stand overnight.
NOTE: Please note that dish soap is an ingredient (just like kids bubbles). Soap is not meant to be eaten so keep the mixture in a safe place to prevent drinking. The minimal concentration per bubble is not a concern; so just be a responsible dog owner and monitor during bubble time!
You can use a simple handheld bubble blower or a bubble machine for a hands-free option. Although the minimal concentration of dish soap per bubble is not a concern, it’s best to monitor your dog during playtime.
3. Give your dog’s kennel a makeover.
Kennels don’t have to be boring. In fact, your dog’s kennel should be a space they look forward to and feel safe spending time in.
If your dog has to spend short periods of time in a kennel during the day, make it a sensory experience. Place visually stimulating objects nearby (a TV with their favourite cartoon playing, a running fan with streamers, or even a birdhouse for some midday bird watching).
If you can, try to place your dog’s kennel near a window or patio door so they can enjoy the natural light—but always ensure they’re not in direct sunlight, especially during hot days. For some dogs, having visual access to the outside of their kennel den gives them an all-important sense of security.
4. Create a toy box free-for-all.
Grab a cardboard box (an old Waggle Mail box will do the trick), crate, or a size-appropriate container from around the house and fill it with your dog’s favourite toys. Rubber bones, squeaky balls, plush toys, chews, treats… if they love it, include it!
Place the box where your dog can easily access it and let them play their own way. Their old favourites will feel new again, especially when you regularly change out the toys (daily, if possible). Best of all, this free-for-all does wonders for your dog’s senses.
If you love data as much as we do, create an enrichment schedule to help you track preferences as you experiment with new treats and toys to keep your dog busy.
5. Indulge in the sound of music.
Music affects dogs’ moods in the same way it affects ours. It can be uplifting, healing, soothing… the list goes on.
A bored dog full of pent-up, restless energy to burn may benefit from a calming, soothing soundtrack like our Spotify Waggle Mail Pawfect Playlist.
Before you press play, make sure you offer your dog a varied musical selection—and at different times of the day, too. If the music becomes too repetitive it will lose its auditory impact. Also, avoid music that might inspire your pup to sing along. It might seem funny at first, but the point is to help calm them down vs. keep them up (your neighbours might also not appreciate the canine solo).
How long can a dog be left alone?
It depends on your dog. In general, the maximum amount of time for a well trained adult dog to be left alone at home is 6 to 8 hours. Ideally, a break every 4 hours is best. They might need to go potty, take a stretch, or get some cuddles in. If they are feeling under the weather or happen to be an ageing senior, even more frequent breaks may be necessary.
Puppies can hold their bladder for 1 hour multiplied by their age in months. For example, a 2 month old puppy should be able to hold it for 2 hours so they need a potty area if you aren’t able to take them out every 2 hours. Once they turn 6 months old they reach the adult maximum of 6 hours but again, ideally a break every 4 hours is best to prevent accidents.
Most dogs will get used to a schedule that you set up for them with a little bit of love and patience. If you suspect something bigger is going on like dog separation anxiety, or if they have multiple accidents at home, schedule an appointment with your family veterinarian.
If you found these dog enrichment ideas to prevent doggy boredom helpful, subscribe to Waggle (e)Mail for more fun, easy, and effective ways to promote a healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy pet-parent bond.
Dr. C. Beck
Registered Veterinarian, Founder & CEO