Most pet owners will agree that a playful dog is one of the signs that indicate they are on the healthy side.
When a dog appears to be bored, it usually just takes a little invitation to play and they will be up on all fours, ready and eager to take you up on your invitation.
But sometimes, there’s always the possibility that your dog is bored but won’t play with toys.
No matter how many times you signal with your hands, saying ‘hey boy!’ and tossing them their favorite toy, they might not respond in the way you expect them to.
What’s a pet owner to do? As a responsible dog owner, you will surely want to be prepared for this possibility – no matter how remote it is.
This article is a deep dive into the topic so you know the reasons why this might happen and what you can do in case it does. Read on ahead to find out more!
Why Does My Dog Refuse to Play When He Appears to Be Bored?
Make sure you spend some time playing interactive games with your dog before you leave for work in the morning.
There are fun activities like hide and seek or even tug of war that allow you and your dog to further develop your bond in the spirit of play.
Scent games are also a great option – your dog will surely be thrilled to find hidden treats or toys in and around your house while beating boredom at the same time.
A dog that appears bored and yet doesn’t play with toys may definitely be an unusual incident and something that you as a dog owner should look into and address.
While all dog breeds will differ in how playful and energetic they are, a dog that doesn’t respond to invitations to play – or even interact at the minimum – is worth a second glance.
Before hereby declaring your dog to be officially bored, you first need to confirm if they are indeed bored and not experiencing something else, like depression or going through a debilitating medical or health condition.
It will be worth checking his body language to determine if they are more bored than anything else.
Doing things that they usually don’t do or are forbidden from doing. A bored dog might not respond to your usual call to play, but may likely demonstrate new or unusual behavior or even do things that they know they aren’t supposed to.
If you notice this in your dog, chances are they might be bored at home alone.
Appears to be antsy. An antsy and restless dog may be a boring dog, as they are feeling pent up energy to do something and yet have no clue how to do it right or in the novel way.
They might dig in your backyard, for instance – even if it is something you expressly taught not to do.
8 Ideas to Try with Your Bored Dog
Are you running out of ideas on how to entertain a dog who doesn’t like toys that you know he usually enjoys playing with?
Here are eight ideas that you probably haven’t tried yet – and just might be the thing that your bored dog might need to bring the fun back to his days at home.
1. Play a couple of rounds of hide and seek
Hide and seek isn’t just a game that you play with children. Dogs also love to play this – especially a dog that has been feeling bored for quite some time.
The twist, however, is you will hide his treats and perhaps some new toys around the house and encourage your dog to go around, sniffing them out as a nice reward to be had.
2. Set up an obstacle course in the house
A few pieces of sturdy furniture and some everyday objects around the house is all that you’ll need to build a simple obstacle course that can promise hours of fun for a dog that is looking for something new to do.
You can set this up in the living room if you have the space for it, or go all-out and make it in your backyard so your dog has all the space he needs to explore his new obstacle course.
A good combination of things like chairs, soft throw pillows, recyclable boxes and the like will be great to put together to make an obstacle course that has an interesting mix of color, texture, and materials.
If your dog is unsure of how to go about it, guide him through the start and end of the course so he can become familiar with how it works. A few treats and words of praise will surely help amp up the motivation to have another go, too!
3. Teach your dog new tricks
A bored dog is one that is in dire need of new and mentally stimulating challenges – and learning a new trick may just be, well, the trick!
What tricks have you put off teaching your dog – rolling over, giving you a high-five, or maybe playing dead? It’s probably time to introduce these to your dog if you notice that he’s no longer interested in playing with his toys in the house.
4. Bring out the bubbles
If you don’t already know it, many dogs just love to chase bubbles as much as the next four-year-old. There are dog-safe bubbles available in the market or you can easily make one at home using water and two squirts of good old dish soap.
5. Go on a field trip
Your dog is probably overdue for a field trip to a new place that can jumpstart his excitement, so plan one as soon as you can.
It can be a quick trip to a new park or hiking trail, or even the beach – any new place with novel sights, smells and sounds should be a good option for your bored dog.
6. Arrange for a playdate
Perhaps what your dog needs is a fellow dog to have fun with. Ask a fellow dog owner if the two of you can have a park playdate or visit each other’s homes so the two furry friends can play together.
Socialization does a lot for a dog that has been bored and antsy for quite some time.
7. Craft up some DIY toys
It also might be that your dog is finally completely over his new toys – and that means you have the perfect opportunity to gather up your old items around the house and fashion some new, homemade toys for him.
You can use your old shirts, some tennis balls you have lying around – basically anything you own that does not present as choking hazard will work. Get on YouTube to learn some new toys and how to make them.
8. Try some obedience training
Maybe your dog being bored is a good opportunity to get some obedience training time in.
Learning new commands is always a mentally stimulating challenge for many dogs and will also help to reinforce their good behavior – a two in one solution to fighting boredom!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why doesn’t my dog play with toys when I am not around?
If your dog doesn’t play with his toys without you, there might be a social connection tied to the plaything more than anything else. Your dog might find that the toy itself lacks the stimulation the dog needs when it is not played with its owner.
Some mild separation anxiety might also be present, as your dog probably needs you more than the toy itself, hence its lack of interest in the toys.
2. What are some ways to entertain a dog that does not appear to like toys?
If your dog appears to be bored with its toys, you might want to look into other aspects of its daily living and see how you can tweak it to add a much-needed dose of fun to your dog’s life.
Go for a hike or a quick run around new streets in your neighborhood instead of the usual walk.
Invest in a puzzle feeder that will require your dog to figure out how his food can be dispensed to make meal/feeding time an opportunity to try out a mental challenge.
If your dog likes to sniff around, set up some scent stations in your yard with new, interesting and safe smells that your dog will explore and become fascinated with.
3. Is it good for my dog to have all-day access to its toys?
A bored dog will benefit more from a controlled number of toys that are rotated on a regular basis to keep things interesting and fun.
Having everything out all at the same time – and every time, for that matter – might at first seem like the logical and easy thing to do, but a big mound of toys does not always translate into hours of fun.
Introducing a few toys at a time, with some demonstration on the different ways to play with it, is a smarter option.
Your dog will be able to focus on a smaller number of things and exercise his creativity to see what else he can do with it.
After a few days the novelty might wear off, upon which you can pack up those toys and introduce a new set that he can have fun with.
4. Is there a negative side to not playing with your dog?
Yes, definitely. Dogs are social creatures who require interaction to be considered healthy. Not playing with your dog at all is tantamount to some form of neglect, because you are not seeing to their need to socialize.
Apart from developing a sense of boredom, the following can become a consequence:
- Your dog can become obese. Lack of playtime also translates to a lack of movement on the part of your dog. Dogs who do not get playtime with their owners have a higher chance of becoming sedentary, which means unexpended energy will turn into excess poundage.
- Your dog can develop a certain level of anxiety. Lack of social interaction may lead a dog to develop anxiety, which can lead to other behavioral problems like separation anxiety or aggression.
- Your dog’s lifespan may become reduced. Lack of exercise in the form of playtime and a decrease in social interaction means your dog will be at a higher risk of developing health problems later on in life, which can become shortened as a result.
5. At what age do dogs start to become less active and playful?
Puppies are known for being very active and playful, and a lot of dog owners – while enjoying the cuteness that goes with puppyhood – often find themselves wondering when their furry friends will begin to settle down and prefer calm over chaos.
This often happens when pups start to approach their age of maturity. This is usually when the dog is 12 months old.
Larger breeds will usually have to wait a little longer, as their maturity age will begin at 18 months or even after two whole years.
At this time, they have adjusted and mostly internalized the rules of behavior, so there are fewer instances of them being overly hyper and excitable compared to their younger years.
6. Is having a lot of toys considered overly stimulating for dogs?
If you sometimes find yourself wondering why your dog is unusually hyperactive or somewhat prone to destroying things, take a look at your surroundings.
If you discover that you happen to have too many toys within your dog’s access, there’s a chance that it’s the reason for the untoward behavior your dog is showing.
Toys for dogs exist because they serve a purpose – to provide mental and physical stimulation in support of a dog’s overall health and well-being.
But like many things in life, too much of one thing cannot be good. Just like people, seeing and experiencing too many toys can lead a dog to develop sensory overload.
When this happens, your dog might become hyperactive, agitated, or even aggressive. They might even develop a sense of possessiveness and guarding behavior as an attempt to “protect” their possessions.
So, the best thing to do is to keep toys to a minimum, keep them interesting, and always look for new and creative ways to play with old toys so your dog has something positive to look forward to.
After reading this piece, you now have a better idea of why your dog is bored but won’t play with toys.
You will understand the importance of spending time with your dog, whether it is with the few toys that you’ve brought out or just the two of you exploring a new environment or doing a novel physical activity.
You’ll be in a better position to tell if your dog is bored, and – more importantly apply the right techniques to dispel the boredom and give your dog the motivation to enjoy his days as a playful, curious, sociable, and physically active pet!
What toys does your dog find very stimulating, and which ones do they often overlook or pass up on? Share your best finds – as well as your duds – in the comments section below!