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5 Ways to Relieve Your Dog’s Boredom (and Stop Destructive Behavior)

dog playing with treat ball; cover of dog training book; dog sniffing in rug
Pet Zone/Workman Publishing Company/RUNDA

If you have a high-energy dog, you know the struggle of keeping your pup busy during the day. This is especially true when you live in a small home or apartment and have little to no yard space to let it run off its energy. Here’s how to keep your furry friend occupied.

Why focus on keeping them occupied? Dog boredom can lead them to get in all sorts of trouble like digging through the trash, chewing up shoes, or otherwise engaging in destructive behavior. Keeping your pets mentally stimulated won’t just cut down on destructive behavior though, it’s also healthy for their brains and leads to overall happier and better behavior. Here are a few ideas to keep your dog entertained and out of trouble.

Go on a Walk

A person taking their dog for a walk.


No one has time to walk their dog for 5 hours each day. But even a quick 10-minute walk when your pet is antsy can do wonders. (Think about how much better you feel after walking around for a few minutes when you get into a slump.) The next time your dog is begging for attention, take a stroll around the block and see if it calms them down.

While you might push them to walk in a focused way so you can get your heart rate up and your daily steps in, do take the time to let them meander and sniff around. Sniffing all the scents left behind by other dogs and neighborhood animals is enormously rewarding and stimulating for dogs.

You can also better utilize your regular walks to help with dog boredom. Change up your route so your furry friend uses more mental energy strolling through their new surroundings. If you’re really pressed on time or walk to give your pup more exercise, hire a dog walker a few times a week.

Teach New Tricks

Page from dog training book about teaching shake
Workman Publishing Company

Dogs get more tired after using mental energy than you might think. Try to work on new tricks in 10- to 15-minute increments two or three times a day. Start by cementing basic obedience commands like sit, stay, lay down, heel, and come. The more you practice these commands, the better behaved your dog will be in all areas of its life.

In addition to basic obedience, throw in some new tricks to challenge your pup and make training more fun for you. Tricks like “rollover,” “shake,” and “wave” are relatively easy to teach. They also make great crowd-pleasers at parties. As they get more advanced, you can teach them to do chores around the house like picking up their toys or even sorting laundry. These will use a ton of mental energy and keep them busy.

You can find step-by-step instructions on how to teach your dog over 100 tricks in this book. And if you’re more interested in seeing tricks laid out in a live-action format, check out this excellent training playlist from popular dog trainer Zak George.

Try Out Puzzles

Dog sniffing ball filled with treats
Pet Zone

There is an entire industry of puzzles designed for dogs. They work on the basic premise of hiding treats in various compartments that dogs have to figure out how to open. You can buy different difficulty levels as your dog picks them up. These tend to work better for highly intelligent breeds and not so well for others. (If you affectionately refer to your dog as a brick head, they probably won’t enjoy puzzles.) Try out the easiest version you can find and if your dog doesn’t pick it up in a few days, it’s probably not going to work out.

This treat ball is a great intro to puzzles and interactive toys. Fill it with treats that your dog can release by pushing the ball around correctly.

Play Nose Games

Dog sniffing in thick rug

You can keep your pup busy for an hour by hiding treats around your house for them to find. You might need to guide them through the process the first few times so they know what to do later on. Practice a command like “find your treats” and eventually they’ll know to start searching for goodies right away.

You can also hide treats in DIY toys or even under a towel that they have to sniff under to find. Anything that makes them work a little for their food will keep them busy for a while and tire them out. Pull double duty by hiding treats in this treat mat and then hide the whole thing somewhere in your house.

Use a Long-Term Treat

Two bags of bully sticks
Jack & Pup

Giving your dog a long-term treat one or two times per day is an easy way to keep them busy for 30 minutes or more. Frozen peanut butter inside of a Kong toy is always a winner, and freezing anything edible in a toy will hold them over for a while. You can also grab some rawhide-alternative treats like bully sticks or turkey tendons.

You’ll probably need to test out a few treat options until you find one that’s worth the money for your dog. Aggressive chewers will easily burn through a rawhide alternative in just a few minutes, so bully sticks are probably the best option for them. Some treats can cause gas and diarrhea in pets, so don’t test out any new treats before a road trip or public outing. You should also avoid giving your dog more than one or two large chews per day. Treats should only take up about 10% of their entire diet.

Bully sticks are a pretty great place to start though, so grab some well-rated bully sticks here.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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