Doggy Boredom: How to Tell and What to Do.

 

Most of us have jobs that keep us away from the house for at least eight hours a day. Do you wonder if your dog gets bored or lonely while you’re gone? For some dogs, the answer is definitely yes. Bored dogs can be a problem for owners, too, as they’re more likely to get into trouble.

In other words, lack of mental stimulation and exercise during the day leaves our dogs looking for something to do, and often it’s not something we approve of.

So how can we prevent dog boredom? We’ve got the expert tips on how to help bored dogs—and keep the house in one piece.

Why Dogs Get Bored

Dogs are intelligent animals, and some breeds more than others. Border collies, German shepherds, golden retrievers, and poodles are among the most intelligent breeds, and these guys and gals need stimulation. In fact, most of these dogs were bred to complete a job. Nowadays, dogs are more likely to be companions than workhorses—and that’s messing with their mojo. Bored dogs might just be dogs that want a job! (Pro tip: agility classes are great for dogs like these.)

Stimulation not only prevents boredom, but also cultivates your dog’s personality and wards off stress. Psychologist Dr. Stanley Coren has authored many books on dog psychology and says the most important stimuli for dogs include:

  • Exposure to interesting places and things
  • New, exciting experiences
  • Frequent opportunities to learn things and solve problems
  • Investigating and interacting with objects and the environment around them

If your dog is sitting around the house all day without any of the above, he’s likely to get bored.

Is My Dog Bored?

If you’re seeing a big mess every time you come home, chances are your dog needs more stimulation. After all, bored dogs are looking for something to do—even if it’s not what you’d like them to do. Signs you’ve got a bored puppy include:

  • Antsy or restless behavior
  • Destructive behavior, like chewing shoes or carpets
  • Pawing for attention
  • Jumping
  • Barking
  • Digging in the trash
  • Digging up the backyard

If you’ve seen one or more of these signs, it’s likely you have a bored dog on your hands.

Bored Dogs: How to Help

1. Give your dog plenty of exercise. Bored dogs often have a lot of pent-up energy. Give them enough physical activity, though, and the same dogs will be pooped and more likely to spend the rest of the day napping.

2. Send him to doggy daycare. The socialization and mental stimulation will keep your dog engaged and busy.

3. Make mealtime fun. Turning mealtime into a game will help keep your dog entertained. Try a slow feeder dish, stuff some peanut butter or wet food into a classic Kong, or let your dog knock around a treat dispensing ball filled with part of his dinner or small low calorie treats.

4. New toys, Mom! The same old toys get boring after a while.

And they prefer the soft, squeaky kind. Bored dogs will look for inappropriate toys, so giving them a variety of approved playthings will help keep them out of the trash.

You can mix up your dog’s toy stash to keep him interested—don’t leave toys scattered about, but hide and rotate toys over time so when they come back into the rotation, they’re brand new again. You can also hide toys around the house or yard.

5. Let him watch some TV. DOGTV that is. If you’re a DIRECTV subscriber, you can add on this channel tailored to stimulate your dog. It’s also available on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. You can also leave Animal Planet or NatGeo Wild on to keep your dog engaged while you’re away.

6. Give him a playmate. Bored dogs are often solo dogs. Although it’s a lot of work, in the beginning, being a multi-dog household gives your dogs built-in socialization and stimulation. Make sure your dogs get along, though—don’t pair an alpha dog with an alpha dog and expect peace and harmony. Get help from a certified dog behaviorist or trainer before bringing home a second furry family member.

 

The Bottom Line

Yes, dogs get bored. Sit around the house all day with absolutely nothing to do and you’d get bored, too! Try some cool new toys or puzzles to keep your dog engaged and, of course, exercise always helps. Mixing up your dog’s routine will keep him stimulated and happy—and the house intact!

What Does it Mean When a Dog Is Tilting His Head?

When your dog cocks his head from side to side, it’s not because he knows you think it’s cute — not always, anyway. He does it for a combination of reasons, but they aren’t all adorable. It could indicate an illness, so watch out for other signs of health trouble.

Poor Balance

A dog who tilts his head often could be suffering from poor balance and is trying to compensate. Your dog’s vestibular system, deep down in his inner ear, controls his balance and his ability to gauge his posture. Vestibular disease, which can be caused by conditions such as injury, nutritional deficiency, parasites or more, affects the vestibular system. Your dog’s balance suffers, and he tilts his head to try to stay level. Other symptoms include frequent falling down, nausea and poor coordination — if your dog appears to be struggling, contact your vet.

Better Hearing

Your dog may tilt his head when you speak to him as a way of trying to hear you more clearly — think of it like adjusting your earbuds when you listen to music. While dogs generally have excellent hearing, their outer ears don’t automatically adjust and hone in on sounds like yours do. He has to tilt and turn his head as a way of funneling sound into his ear. You may notice that he does the head tilt more often when you’re directly in front of him than when you’re to the side — that’s because when you’re face-to-face, the sound isn’t going straight into his ears, and he has to point them at you.

Communicating Back

Dogs don’t communicate by listening alone — they are visual communicators that rely on body language. In fact, they communicate with body language so much that the same part of the brain that controls listening to sound also controls movements of the head and face. This means that while your dog is listening to something, like you asking him for the hundredth time who a good boy is, he’s working his face and head muscles to “talk” back, and show you his reaction and/or comprehension.

Learned Behavior

Dogs learn from consistency. When it comes to getting positive attention from their people, they can learn quickly. When your dog does something cute like tilting his fuzzy little head, you can’t resist fawning a little bit — it’s OK to admit it. Once your dog gets that positive reaction from you a few times, though, he realizes that tilting his head is the key to making you gush — and he’ll milk it for all it’s worth. Dogs aren’t always too proud to perform a little, especially when affection and treats are at stake, so sometimes they just tilt their heads because they know how much you love it.

 

OTHER DOGS TILT THEIR HEADS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS

Many dogs have learned to cock their heads to the side simply because they get a reward. What is the reward? Well, remember at the beginning of this article how I mentioned that this gesture is just too cute?

Your immediate response is to say something like, “Awwwww, like at Buddy with his head turned to the side, how cute!” followed by lots of petting and soothing tones. This is a reward, and some dogs may have turned their heads to the side a few times in the beginning, but soon enough learned that this will give them lots of that lovable attention.

So if you have ever given a dog this kind of attention after it has tilted its head in a really cute way then you have just positively reinforced that behavior. And you know what? The dog will remember this and might do this more often – not to hear better, but to feel better.

HUMAN SPEECH & YOUR DOG

Dogs can understand part of our human language, but most of it is just a fuzzy blur to them. Almost like when a human hears a foreign language. Dogs cannot take in everything we say. But canines are very good at observing and becoming familiar with human tone of voice, body language as well as eye movement.

Trying To Absorb Every Sound He Can

It is when a dog notices something of interest that its ears perk up to catch all the sounds. If the sound comes from the front your dog might cock its head in the direction of the sound, but if the sound is coming from a direction to the side of him then there is not likely going to be any head tilting. Why? The ears are in the perfect spot all ready to pick up the minutest of sounds.

A dog’s ear shape and position will have something to do with how the dog perceives sound and how often a head tilt might be noticed. Even the age and experience of the dog play a role in this. A German shepherd with pricked up ears might hear better from the front than a cocker spaniel who would hear better from the side. Certainly, a long floppy eared dog would be seen tilting its head more often than a dog with open ears.

So, trying to understand why a dog tilts his head we learn it’s probably down to the dog trying to understand us or the strange noises of our world. It’s been said that a dog who tilts their head to the side is showing intelligence. A very subjective position to take. Canine intelligence is still a largely disputed area of scientific study. A clever dog is not always a dog who happens to be what we like to call ‘obedient’. However, head tilting by dogs does tend to suggest an advanced propensity to want to understand and identify an audible stimulus.

 

How to Cat-Proof Your Christmas Tree

Thanksgiving has ended and everyone knows what that means! It’s time to put up a Christmas tree! However, the very thought of putting up a tree strikes fear in the minds of many cat parents. Cats love trees – and in a cat’s mind, your tree has colorful, shiny cat toys dangling from it – just for their enjoyment! If you’ve got a kitty that’s smitten with your Christmas tree, it’s important to cat-proof it, to protect both your tree and your cat! Here are some great tips on how to keep your cat from destroying the Christmas tree:

 

Consider Getting an Artificial Tree

As much as we love the look and scent of real Christmas trees, they are more tempting – and dangerous – for our furry friends. The needles on a real tree are sharp and could injure a curious cat. Additionally, pine needles are mildly toxic if your cat chews on them, and can irritate the stomach and mouth, causing drooling and even vomiting. So, consider getting an artificial tree and then following our additional tips to keep your cat out of it.

If You Put Up a Real Tree…

If you are dead-set on putting up a real tree, be sure to also use a covered tree stand so the water tank can’t be accessed by your kitty. Often times, live trees are sprayed with pesticides and fertilizers and those chemicals will leach out into the stagnant water in your Christmas tree. If your cat drinks the water, it could have deadly consequences.

 

Make Sure Your Tree is Stable

Make sure you put your tree up on a very solid tree stand. When the tree is up, it shouldn’t wobble on its base but should be firm and stable. In addition, anchor your tree to the wall or ceiling. These precautions will ensure your tree won’t topple over should your curious kitty decide to climb or pull it.

Pick a Safe Spot for Your Tree

Put your Christmas tree in an area that leaves it plenty of room on all sides. Make sure you don’t have any shelves or furniture too close to the tree that might act as a launching pad for adventurous kitties to use to jump or climb the tree. If it’s possible, put your tree in an area that can be closed off from your cat at night or while you’re away.

Try These Deterrents

If your cat is showing a lot of interest in the tree, try using deterrents to discourage him from going near it. Cats are repelled by citrus, so you could place orange peels under the tree. Or, use a spray like Bitter Apple or dilutedCitronella oil on the tree to make it unpleasant for your cat. For cats who like to climb the trunk, wrap aluminum foil around the base of the tree.

Decorate the Tree Wisely

  • Choose shatter-proof ornaments that won’t break and become a hazard if your cat does manage to knock one off the tree.
  • Never use tinsel on a tree if you have cats! Tinsel is extremely hazardous for cats and can cause an intestinal blockage if they ingest it.
  • Avoid artificial snow – it’s toxic to pets and children.
  • Many people decorate their trees with food, like popcorn garland, chocolate, and candy canes. If you share your home with a cat, avoid tempting him by hanging food from the tree you want him to avoid. And, be aware that many “people foods” are dangerous for cats.
  • Place delicate, dangly, and especially enticing ornaments higher up in your tree. Don’t hang any ornaments of interest at your cat’s eye level.

Protect The Wires

Dangling wires from your Christmas lights can prove to be as much of a temptation to your cat as a swinging ornament! Don’t leave your wires hanging around for cats to play with or, worse, to chew on. Instead, wrap wires around the base of your tree and then cover them with a tree skirt. If your cat likes to chew on wires, you can cover them with tape or run them through a piece of pipe to protect them. Decorate with lights that will automatically shut off if the wire becomes damaged. Lastly, always turn your lights off when you aren’t home!

Taking a few extra precautions will ensure both you and your cat are able to enjoy your Christmas tree – without destroying it! And, While you’re decorating this year, consider this collection of kitty Christmas ornaments to make your tree just purr-fect!

Five Ways Your Pet Helps Reduce Holiday Stress

It’s the most stressful time of the year. But it doesn’t have to be. Read on to see how your pet can reduce your holiday stress!

Once you’ve experienced enough Decembers, you know the drill. This holiday season, you’ll attend fabulous parties sporting your trademark ugly sweater, be reunited with that group of relatives you’re fine with only seeing annually, and endure enough stress to last all year long.

Yes, holiday stress is inevitable. Like overspending and overeating, it comes with the territory. As you proceed with coordinating gatherings, hanging decorations, and attempting to remain within your spending budget this holiday season, your stress level is bound to grow.

But thankfully, you have a secret (and non-alcoholic) weapon to combat stress. Enter your pet – your ever-loyal friend, confidant, and sanity-keeper. Since your dog or cat’s holiday stress level is comparatively minimal, you can balance each other out.

Here are five ways your pet can help you remain as happy and carefree as a gift-awaiting child this holiday season.

How Your Pet Can Reduce Your Holiday Stress

1. Constant Companionship

As you scramble around the house completing holiday preparations, your pet will be right there with you, operating as your secondary shadow. Your dog or cat will keep you company whether you’re wrapping gifts in the living room or baking up a holiday storm in the kitchen. Always aiming to please, your pet is by your side, adapting to your hectic schedule. You can confide in your pet regarding the true source of your stress, or simply talk to him in order to relieve loneliness.

2. Warm Bedmate

Achieving ample sleep is key to controlling holiday stress. When it comes to your dog or cat, you have a furry, snuggly sleeping aid. Those cold holiday nights will be much cozier when you have your pet’s warm body producing heat nearby. And your dog or cat’s mere presence – and gentle snoring – will help soothe you to sleep. Why let the stressful obligations of the upcoming day race through your head when you should be enjoying pet-aided rest?

3. Exercise Partner

When you worry about holiday weight gain, you get stressed. And when you cope with stress by eating, you gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle that your dog can help you avoid. Twice-daily walks in the morning and evening can bolster both your sanity level and your pooch’s well-being. The stress-relieving powers of adequate exercise are well-documented. Escape your holiday anxiety by stepping outside into the crisp air for 15 minutes. Your dog will be thrilled to partake, even if it’s snowy and cold.

4. Comic Relief

Sometimes you just need a good laugh to stave off holiday stress. When your fully-decorated Christmas tree topples over or you accidentally regift that malfunctioning blender to Aunt Jackie, there’s not much else you can do. As luck would have it, your pet is a king of unintentional comedy. Whether he’s creating mischief by carrying a stocking around the room or wearing a gift bow as a hat, your dog or cat’s antics are sure to induce a chuckle or two. Hearty laughter will vanquish your stress, whether it’s attributable to your pet’s natural hilariousness or to National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

5. Therapeutic Presence

The cost for an hour of private counseling to treat your anxiety can exceed $200. Save that money to find the perfect holiday gift for your spouse, and instead rely on your dog or cat to be your living stress ball. Your pet is blessed with a naturally therapeutic presence. Oodles of research indicate that simply petting your dog or communicating with your cat can relax you and lower your blood pressure. With your dog or cat serving as your loving therapist (and only charging mealtime + attention), your holiday stress doesn’t stand a chance.