Bored to distraction

485461_337209469739213_1377754160_nToday I have been thinking about boredom.

It is a bank holiday and everywhere is packed- it is just not possible to go to many places that I would normally be able to park and walk.

The added problem is that I feel I have to make bank holidays fun for my mother, as she complains that everyone she knows is “going out”. So- I feel like I have to take her out.

Hence the boredom-under pressure to find somewhere to go and  entertain her makes me feel unhappy. I like the company of my dogs and don’t spend loads of time with my family for a reason-I actually have very little in common with them.

I could pick any one of my human friends and have a wonderful time, but family not so much.  I get bored…. very bored. I can think of a million things I would rather be doing than my time than sitting in a traffic jam and making slightly inane comments that are really not very important or interesting. I really really hate being bored and in fact I resent it.

I have a great job that is always interesting. I love working with horses and love watching dogs and love the interaction between people and their animals, especially when they are enjoying being together. I love my Bowen work too which is fascinating and never dull and I love being outside……I am sure you get the picture.

So why am I ranting on? The reason being was that I was thinking about this in regard to dogs. My last post only yesterday (I am on a bit of a roll over the last few days) was about box rest for horses-so this is in a similar vein. Box rest is physically problematical for horses but it is also hard mentally for them too. So today I was thinking about dogs.

Dogs are often confined too-how do we know they aren’t bored when we take ourselves off to work? How can we insure they are stimulated but not over stimulated?  Stress and over stimulation are bad but so too is under stimulation. Just like me in my car in a traffic jam on bank holiday Monday, it is frustrating, and can lead to a loss of confidence and self esteem and boredom can be stressful too.

Imagine a room, it is “nice”, it is clean and hygenic but there are no pictures, no access to television, and no access to food (which can and is used as a distraction to many of us). There are no books either and no Facebook for those of us that are addicted…how long could or would you remain sane for? I wonder and how long it would it be before you were climbing the walls? I would bet that would bet that would not be too long.You can liken this to a prison rather than a place you would enjoy being in.

So why do we get cross when we provide no mental stimulation for our dogs, and they decide to entertain themselves? Dogs may also not have access to toileting facilities…..think on that concept too-bored, hungry and you need to pee.

How frustrating would that be? I often wonder how many dogs that are labelled as having problems with separation anxiety but are just plain bored and have never been allowed to use their brains? This type of problem is not resolved by fast running it does not tax the mind, it only raises stress levels the more. In fact enriched environments are essential for all animals

So how to entertain dogs and to stimulate their minds?

Dogs are very clever at inventing stuff, they can often climb and will often find ways of entertaining themselves, this is not always acceptable to us, but if your dog pulls saucepans out of the sink and pulls plates down off of the worktop this is unlikely to be because he has a behaviour problem but this is far more likely to be him crying out to have some brain work. The brain is an energy guzzler and  when we solve puzzles, and work on problems, it fills a very important function and in these times of escalating problems with dementia, the one thing that crops up time and time again is that the brain needs to work in order to prevent this happening. This is not conclusive yet but it seems so logical.

So what is the next step? Start with simple things

Take your dog to a new place-it may be very mundane looking to you but let your dog be the judge, a car park to a dog is still a place to explore and to use his nose, he can scent who has been there and he is able to detect scents from days ago, and if you add a few challenges like hiding some favourite treats along the route he will adore this kind of stimulation.

Go to a new park-let him explore the area do not hurry him along, ask him to jump quietly onto some fallen logs or take some squidgy cheese or sausage with you and put it onto the bark of some trees or hide his favourite toy among some fallen leaves.

Keep it calm, methodical but above all interesting, he does not need to tear about like a headless chicken.  If you are sitting reading a new book you are not dashing about as you are doing, but instead your brsin is working and your imaginaton is being stimulated and you are likely to be totally absorbed. When you have to put the book down you mind almost always stays on the book for a while as you contemplate how the characters will develop or the story will change from that point-this is the same for our dogs when they are exploring.

At home leave your dog with puzzles too-if these include favourite foods all the better. Hide some food in different places if your dog has access to the garden hide treats under plant pots, or in the grass, or among shrubs.

Take a look around your garden and provide things like novel places to sleep and other stimulation such as different surfaces to walk on.

Dogs like different areas to sit in when they are outside too

Dogs like different areas to sit in when they are outside too

Inside activities include the following suggestions: wrap food inside of loo roll holders or pieces of left over wrapping paper collected after Christmas or birthdays-your dog won’t care but he will love tracking it all down, and then when he has found all of it he will be satisfied and is more likely to rest. Never underestimate the power of brain work.

Dogs have evolved over millions of years, and they have not survived this long without amazingly efficient senses and brains.

Your dog has an excellent brain which needs to be stimulated please do not neglect this very important area of your dogs needs. If you do he will fulfill these needs in other ways.

Dogs love to find food. So it is up to us to provide them with challenges

Dogs love to find food. So it is up to us to provide them with challenges

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