I was having a hard time with my pup Enzo recently and I wanted to know if it’s just me or are all dogs this way. He loves playing fetch and sometimes will play for hours. But when it comes to certain toys he doesn’t seem interested in them anymore.
He plays with them at first but then after only a few minutes of being excited about the toy, he becomes bored again. I was curious to know if all dogs get bored of their toys? It seems like Enzo gets bored with some of his toys fairly easily; but I wasn’t sure if it was the toy or something else.
So I went to my vet to bring up a few of my questions with some professionals/dog behaviorists to hopefully get some answers.
What I found out was that dogs get bored with their stuff just like humans do. There have been countless studies that examine novel-object preference in dogs. These studies validate the notion that dogs become “bored” with toys on average after five play periods.
In addition, studies showed that dogs picked new toys over old toys 76% of the time. This tendency to prefer new things is called neophilia and is well established in dogs which is part of why dogs get bored of toys.
The Science Behind Dog Boredom With Toys
In 2008, a study was conducted by the University of Giessen and University of Lincoln. They took 17 dogs and familiarized them with two toys by playing with each dog and the toys. The goal was to make sure each dog was interested in the two toys and enjoyed playing with them.
The dogs were then put in a situation where they were given a choice between the three toys. Two in which they were familiar with and one brand new toy they had never seen before. They were free to sniff, play, or pick up whichever toy they wanted.
This test was run 50 times and in 38 out of 50 tests the dogs selected the unfamiliar toy. This suggests that 76% of the time the new toy was more favorable. This study was published in the Journal of Animal Cognition.
Now in addition to this, I also looked at another study that took a similar experiment but was looking at the duration in which a toy stayed exciting and relevant. The University of Bristol Anthrozoology Institute and the Waltham Center for Pet Nutrition looked at 16 dogs and presented each one with a toy for 30 seconds.
The toy was taken away and then returned after a short duration. This was done until the dogs became bored with the toys. Once bored, the researchers would give the dogs a new toy that had either a different color or odor and the experiment was repeated.
A variety of toys were used in the experiment but the conclusion was the same regardless. On average, dogs lost interest after five 30-second intervals of exposure equaling a total of 2 ½ minutes of play time.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Bored With Their Toys
Now you are probably thinking the exact same thing I did. “If that’s the case there is no way I can afford to buy my dog a new toy every time they get bored of them”…
However, there are some things we can do in order to keep old toys exciting for them. Surprisingly the research found that all you have to do to create “newness” in toys is by changing a toy’s color, odor, or nearly any physical part of the toy. I’ll share a list of what I’ve done to help with Enzo’s boredom with toys.
Here is a list of what to do if your dog is bored with their toys:
Rotate Toys Every Couple Days
The classical saying “out of sight, out of mind” works wonders on dogs. Keep an old toy out of sight for long enough and your dog will be excited to see it again. This is why I will constantly rotate Enzo’s toys to keep them feeling fresh for him.
You’ll notice that after about 1-2 weeks without seeing a toy when you re-introduce the toy it will bring back the “newness”. Enzo does have one toy in particular that never seems to bore him, so I just keep that one in the rotation every week.
For us rotating toys once a week has become optimal for Enzo. Every sunday when I go to swap toys from his toy box he gets really excited and it has now become something he looks forward to.
Introduce New Smells To The Toy
If you have toys that can hold treats it’s as easy as changing up the treats. For example, Enzo has a classic KONG toy and by simply adding a new treat or flavor (like peanut butter) it brings the toy back to life.
When it comes to plush toys, balls, and other toys without treat compartments you can simply rub the toys in grass or sprinkle some salt on the toy. You can get creative with this so long as you are using safe ingredients to change the smell.
Make The Toys More Interactive
Dogs crave your time and attention. If you can associate toys to playtime with you they are never going to get bored of the toys! Find ways to make toys more interactive for them and boredom will not be an issue.
You can play fetch, tug of war, or put some yummy treats inside the toys. All of these things will create interaction for them and make toys more exciting. Remember, you are the best toy so include yourself in playtime and you’ll both be healthier for it.
Give Them A New Toy To Play With
If nothing seems to work in getting them excited with some older toys then your best bet is to get them some new toys! Make sure you know your dog’s preference when it comes to toys so you can find the best ones specific to them.
Is My Dog Bored Or Tired? How Can I Tell?
Dogs are not just pets, they are our family. We want the best for them which is why we need to determine if they are bored or tired and how to distinguish between the two. It’s important to get a dog out of their environment every day because dogs can become bored or overstimulated when left in one place too long.
As a result, this could lead to destructive behaviors such as chewing on furniture, digging holes in lawns, barking excessively etc. However, sometimes it may be hard to tell if your dog is bored or tired…
Here are some signs and symptoms that you can look for when trying to figure it out:
- If your dog moves slower then he usually does; this could be a sign that they’re tired and need to take a nap.
- Dogs who are bored will also have lower energy levels because their minds aren’t stimulated enough. You’ll notice that they just sit around or lay down all the time without doing anything. Dogs who are tired, on the other hand, might snooze for short periods of time during naps but still maintain an active lifestyle in between these breaks.
- Big messes when you get home from work such as dug up plants, chewed furniture etc. could also be a sign that your dog is bored and needs more stimulation.
- When you are at home with your dog and they are always itching for your affection and acting relentless, this could be a sign that they are looking for your attention and want to spend time with you.
- Excessive barking when they would typically have quiet periods during the day. Or, pacing around looking for nothing in particular.
It can be hard to distinguish between being bored and being tired when these feelings exhibit similar responses.
Be sure not to rule out separation anxiety if you’re noticing clingily or destructive behavior. Most of the time it will just be your dog relieving their boredom and lack of supervision… But, it could indicate a greater problem with them being left alone.
Here are a couple of key things you can do to help your dog if you have determined they are bored:
- Give them plenty of physical activity
- Give you dog brain workouts (interactive games, puzzle toys etc.)
- Socialize them with other people and animals
- Give your dog a job to do or a way to earn rewards
Do Dogs Get Bored Of The Same Walk?
It turns out that dogs can get bored of the same walks over and over again. Dogs love routine, but they also love exploring and trying new things. Without anything new to explore on their regular walk, dogs can get very bored!
The same goes for us humans. The same thing over and over can get very dull so changing things up every once in a while is a great way to keep things fresh.
Here are a few tell-tale signs your dog is getting bored of your usual walk:
- Slouching head
- Stopping during the walk
- Lack of enthusiasm for walks
Try taking a different route every once in a while or taking them to a completely new location. Enzo and I go on new hikes every couple weeks and its great for both of us.
Some other things you can do would be to stop somewhere on your walk for some playtime. Also for those of you more athletic folks you can always try changing up the pace of your walk. You could try jogging to help keep things fresh.