What do you mean, how to entertain a bored dog? Mine isn’t bored she’s old and prefers to spend her days sleeping.
Are you sure that’s what she prefers?
Do dogs get bored?
Research says they do, and there’s quite a bit to back that up. At the end of this post I’ve included a few links to some interesting articles you may want to have a look at.
What about senior dogs?
All dogs get bored if they do nothing all day.
The thing is there are an awful lot who live with people who just don’t believe they need to go out other than to pee and poop. They see their dog lying on their bed all day and believe it’s where they prefer to be. They don’t realise how much of the time it’s because they’re bored out of their minds!
Having said that, I also know in many cases mobility and other health issues (both for the dog and sometimes the parent) mean they aren’t able to get the exercise they need.
What to do about it
Whether your dog isn’t getting out because of arthritis, hearing and vision problems, illness or simply a matter of the weather not cooperating, there are tons of boredom busters for dogs of all abilities. Even if your dog is unable to move much, you will find plenty of ideas to perk him up!
Here they are!
Your dog needs to go for walks every day. They may only be around the block, a few steps around the garden or in front of your house but at least he’s out. It will give him the chance to get fresh air, sniff the grass, see other people and dogs and experience life again. Do this 2 or 3 times a day and you’ll notice a difference.
If your dog is in too much pain from arthritis for example, I am sure you’re doing your best to change that. Have a look at this article “How to Treat Arthritis Pain in Dogs Naturally” for some very helpful options.
Change up the route and give him new areas to explore. I do this for my dog Red thanks to our pet stroller. I can take her further, let her walk for a bit then put her back in when she’s had enough.
Is your old dog as energetic as ever? Take him out for longer walks and if you are not able to, for whatever reason, hire a dog walker, put him in doggy day care or find a helpful neighbour or family member to help out when they can. Perhaps someone has a responsible teenager who loves animals and could lend a helping hand?
Make meal time fun
I never recommend free feeding – leaving food out all day for an animal to eat whenever they want. I believe in schedules and routine, plus it turns meal time into an activity.
How about making it into a game and really keeping your dog entertained! There are plenty of ways to accomplish that including –
Cover the food bowl with plastic or paper bowls, and let him figure out how to move them off to reach his food. Don’t make them too heavy or he won’t be able to do it and he’ll get frustrated.
slow feeder bowl
Stuffing a Kong with part of his meal
Scattering some of his dry food (if he eats it) in a snuffle mat
Filling a treat dispensing toy with part or all of his dinner
Vary his toys
Dogs get bored with toys, something you’ve probably witnessed in your own home! You buy him something new, he plays with it for a couple of minutes then walks away. Don’t leave too many toys out at once, just a couple and rotate them to keep his interest.
I added a couple of links at the end of this post that explain why they get bored.
Name that toy
I remember the first time I baby sat my neighbour’s dog Major. His mom was going on vacation and asked me to look after him. She brought over a huge bag of his stuff, as you do, and she gave me a list of all the toys he could name – there were 12. Very impressive!
Why not teach your dog the name of some of his toys! You don’t have to go overboard, one or two will get him using his brain, and it’s easy to do. When he plays with his duck for example, say “duck” every time. Then say “where’s your duck” when he’s about to pick it up. Then say “where’s your duck” when he’s not showing any interest in it, but it is close by. Each time reward him with a treat and he will make the connection between the word and his toy.
Take the training slow, keep sessions short and make it fun!
Hide and seek
Hide a treat or a toy he can name and ask him to “find it.” Let him see you hide it at first, then make it more difficult. If your dog has mobility issues, hide it close by and it will still be fun for him.
Let him watch television
No I don’t mean another episode of Orange is the New Black! I mention that show because they just started showing it in England where I live and I’m enjoying it!! Check out the tv channel created specifically for dogs.
Doggy day care
While this option may not be right for every senior dog, it is definitely an option for many. When you do start looking, ask the owner if you can visit to see how active the dogs are, what the setup is, and if there is a quiet area where dogs can take a break if things get too playful. Unless of course your dog is a live wire and will be right in the middle of the melee!
Okay you’re thinking “what’s wrong with that girl, my dog is 15 and she knows how to sit and stay.” Of course she does, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be interested in learning something new. Does she know how to give you her paw when you ask? How about practicing “stay” or “leave it” while you’re holding a delicious treat in your hand. It’s great for mental stimulation.
Make your own treat dispensing toy
Cut a hole in the side of a plastic bottle and add some treats. As your pup rolls it across the floor it will make noise which is fun in itself, and leave a trail of treats for him as a bonus!
Here are a couple of easy things a dog of any ability can do.
The cup game
Take 3 cups that are easy enough to knock over, and put a smelly treat under one of them, move them around and ask him to “find it!”
The muffin tin game
Grab a muffin tin, put a smelly treat in a few of the cups, cover each cup with a tennis ball or other toy and let him figure out how to move the ball to get at the treat.
I found this post with some cool “make your own” games called “4 creative DIY brain games for dogs – 5 minutes to make.”
I’m sure you can come up with some simple game ideas too!
Hide a Squirrel
I’m mentioning this particular toy by name because of its popularity, and the almost 10,000 reviews it has gotten on Amazon.
Make some frozen treats
Whether you freeze dog treats, buy doggy ice cream or make your own, it will keep your dog entertained for quite some time. You can even freeze it in a Kong and see how much fun he has trying to lick every last drop!
Your dog may not be well enough to venture to the dog park, he gets bothered too much or you don’t have one near you. In any case why not invite someone over for a play date? If he’s not up to playing or running around, he may enjoy hanging out with a friend just for the company. Even if they just sit next to each other and enjoy a bone while the humans have a chat.
Swimming is great exercise for dogs of all abilities. How about a day out at the lake or a paddle in your pool? The exercise is gentle and will help rid him of some pent up energy. Even a splash in a kiddie pool in the backyard on a hot day will keep him entertained.
Build a dog sandbox
What a fun thing for your senior dog to have a go at! Hide toys in the sand and let him go dig for them. Does your dog have trouble standing up? He can lie down while looking!
They do come in varying degrees of difficulty and are a great way to provide mental stimulation. Start off easy and see how he gets on, some dogs take longer than others to figure out the puzzles. If it’s too complicated from the outset your pup may get frustrated and not bother.
Go for a drive
Whether your dog can’t walk far, isn’t feeling up to it or the weather isn’t cooperating, a drive is one way to break up the day and get your dog out and about. Looking out the window at some new scenery could cheer him up, and you might even pop in at your local dog friendly café for a drink and a treat!
For blind dogs
A lot of these suggestions are perfect for blind dogs, or can be tweaked slightly if necessary. Their nose will lead them to the treats in the puzzle toy, and being blind won’t stop them from enjoying a food or treat stuffed Kong.
Here are a few toys that talk, make sounds and have smells to help your blind or visually impaired dog find, and have fun with.
Ethical Pets Sensory Ball Dog Toy
MultiPet Deedle Dudes Mouse that Sings
What are your “boredom busters?” Share them in the comments section below, or please join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
“Lonely dogs’ brains shrink due to ‘bestial boredom’, scientist warns”
“Dogs And Pigs Get Bored, Too”
“Science Proves Animals Are Totally Bored”
“Why dogs find some toys boring”
“Fascinating Insight into Why Dogs Find Some Toys Boring”
Get your FREE report – Tell Tail Signs Your Dog May Have Dementia
*There are affiliate links in this post, which means if you purchase anything I make a few pennies…literally. That money helps me help homeless animals through donations and fostering, as well as keeping this blog running.
Adriana Lopez Martin
I agree with you dogs do get bored if they are not mentally stimulated, specially those breeds that are on the work/active group. I have a Sheltie and she loves to play with games that stimulate her mental alertness like to puzzle toys not to mention long walks and running =)
I’m always sad for those dogs who are stuck home alone all day, then barely get a walk when their owners come home. Yes I know quite a few like that and they don’t want to hear anything about it. Your pup is lucky she gets to play and run.
Dash Kitten Crew
There is so much good information here for any dog owner. I wish I could wrap it wound the doorknob of the foolish people who live behind us with the border to death dog, or those further down the street who leave their dog all day. Feel for the poor animals as they are – as you say – bored Bored BORED!
A senior dog can be as lively and fun loving as any puppy and given a chance to expand their doggy horizons, will have a wonderful time!
I have exactly the same kind of neighbours and trying to say anything is like talking to a wall, but even less effective. It breaks my heart because it’s nothing short of animal abuse as far as I’m concerned. Senior is just a number they should still have great lives!
Dogs can certainly get bored and all your suggestions are great to provide mental and physical stimulation. It really doesn’t take much to entertain our pets, it can be something as simple as a new toy, or puzzle feeder.
You’re so right Kelly. It doesn’t have to be anything super challenging or fancy, sometimes I just get Jack to sit and give me his paw!!
Seville at Nerissa's Life
What neat games for peeps to play with their doggies!
We cats can get bored, too, and need to have lots of toys for playin’. I love a good nip mouse, of course, but when it comes to playin’ games with the peeps, I have a couple favourite interactive toys. Nothin’ better than spendin’ some time enjoyin’ a wand toy with the peeps.
You are so right, cats get bored too! My cats used to love playing with those cat dancers, and chasing the laser across the walls. Their all time favourite? Rolling around in cat nip that I would sprinkle on the floor!
Such a wonderful post and thank you as I did get a couple new ideas here! We have a mobility challenged older dog and I know she gets so bored! I do all that I can – including a daily “spa treatment” which she loves but having a young pup in the house that plays all day makes me feel so sad for my elder dog. Thank you – this truly gave me some inspiration!
Thanks Joely and I’m happy you found some new ideas! The spa treatment sounds wonderful. Are you familiar with my FB group for people who share their lives with seniors? It’s called Senior Dog Care Club, I’d be happy for you to join if you needed some tips, advice or a community.
No I was not but I will go look you up now! 🙂 Thank you!
OMGosh! LOL I am already a member! BOL I have bookmarked it now and will be involved. So many groups but I am bookmarking the best!
I know what you mean!! There are lots of amazing groups out there, you want to join them all but who has time to even take advantage of them!! We’re happy to help if you ever need us!
Can I join ? I have a 15 year. Old dachshund who doesn’t want to any further than the house next door
Hi Sally. Click this link to request to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/seniordogcareclub/?ref=bookmarks
Tenacious Little Terrier
I take Mr. N with me to all the places he can go. Portland is pretty dog friendly so he’s been to a lot of non-typical dog places. He’s been to bookstores and wine stores and boutiques and festivals.
Mr N is lucky to live in such a dog friendly place. I tried to take Red into a clothing store awhile back, they wouldn’t let me in.I mean she weighs 8 lbs and was in a stroller, what kind of damage could she do! Unfortunately arguing with them didn’t get me anywhere.
Absolutely dogs get bored. It’s particularly challenging when they are under strict exercise restrictions after an injury or surgery. Particularly with Jasmine’s neck … how many things can you do when you’re not even allowed to move your neck? Otherwise, there are many fun trick games one can do with their dogs.
Oh my goodness, poor Jasmine. That must have been a challenging recovery, but at those times they often don’t even want to do anything do they? Was she okay? My dog Jack was paralysed suddenly about a year and a half ago, and he had a long recovery from surgery. Five minute walks and cage rest. I used Red’s stroller to take him around the neighbourhood so he could still see his pals and get some mental stimulation.
I really sucked for her. She recovered the first time around; the second time there were additional complications and we set her free.
these are great suggestions…. I’m obsessed with squirrels so I’m going to have to try that toy!
It’s extremely popular, so hopefully you’ll soon see why!
I found this post very helpful and timely since Buffy just had her second eye removed a few days ago. I ordered a few of the products.
Oh Sandy, I’m sorry to hear about Buffy. Was it because of glaucoma? When we adopted Red she was blind and her eyes were literally about to pop out of her head. One of the options was to remove her eyes, but we went with a procedure that involved an injection in each eye to relieve the pressure. I hope she’s doing okay.
These are such wonderful suggestions for any dog! My three dogs are middle-aged/early seniors, so it is a great time for me to be considering what their senior years will mean to all of us. I hadn’t thought about the importance of enrichment for old dogs.
As important as mental stimulation is for younger dogs, it’s at least as important for senior dogs. It keeps them active, helps release some pent up energy they may not otherwise have an outlet for, and it could help stave off, or reduce the severity of dementia. The last point is certainly an excellent reason to start challenging our dogs as early as possible.
These are all excellent suggestions. My Schatzi, an American Eskimo, went with me everywhere. She loved rolling her treat ball, even at the age of 13. She also enjoyed her snuffle mat and finding hidden treats. Yes, she slept a lot but when she was awake, she was ready for action…even if it was just sitting outside and watching the squirrels tease her.
Thank you Amelia. Sounds like Schatzi had a great fun filled life with you. I bet it was entertaining watching her watching the squirrels!!
I think I can be guilty of not doing enough with my senior dog Gracie. She does not seem to enjoy going to work with me, so I often leave her at home. I did do an obedience class with her last year and she got her Canine Good Citizen certificate from the AKC. Gracie loves going for car rides and walks. I am hoping to get her out more and go hiking now that the weather is nicer!
Obedience classes are not just for puppies, congratulations on Gracie’s award! Glad she loves to get out and about, and all our dogs can enjoy longer walks if the nice weather ever arrives!
These are great tips! All dogs, regardless of age and activity level, need stimulation. YOu just need to adjust it to their needs and limitations. I too feel so bad for dogs whose owners don’t understands that they need more than food and potty breaks. Great post
Thank you Debbie and you’re right, every dog needs mental stimulation and activities. It’s up to us to figure out how to adjust them to suit our dog’s activity level and limitations. Sadly I see too many people who have puppies and barely walk them, but talking to them is like talking to a wall, and you’ll get a better response from the wall!!
What to do when your dog is old and doesn’t play? Not with toys not with other dogs? He does love his walks and treats though. I know he is going out of his mind crazy with boredom.
My dog doesn’t play with toys either, but there are tons of things you can do to make sure your dog isn’t bored. Lots of ideas in this article. You can change the areas where he walks, take him in the car on a day trip, get him a snuffle mat…