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Is your dog bored?

From the desk of Mogens Eliasen - first published: Date

Mogens Eliasen - the author of this article
on 'Is your dog bored?'

The vast majority of problems dog owners experience with their dogs originate in the dogs not being giving enough mental stimulation - they are bored with too little to do that makes sense for them! This boredom can result in all kinds of hyperactivity, and often in destructive and even aggressive behavior.

Your domesticated wolf in a civilized society

You might think that you already do everything you can to satisfy your dog's most fundamental needs. You feed it, you give it water, you give it shelter - you take it to the vet when it is sick - all the TLC! So, your dog does not suffer!

I hope you are right - but the argument above does not suffice for the conclusion! There are many other needs that matter a lot for the dog - needs that are impossible for it to satisfy on its own! Here are some examples:

Meaningful social interaction with its pack? Is your dog getting enough of that? Most dogs need at least 6-8 hours of daily interaction with others...

Hunting excitement? What about all the behaviors connected to hunting: tracking, chasing, fighting, killing! Does your dog experience any of those?

Brain work? Are you challenging your dog to solve problems that are worthy problems for a dog to solve? Do you stimulate it to do nosework?

OK - OK - OK - I see all the objections...!

Using training and play

First: Dogs can learn to be alone. It is not a natural thing for them. But learning that does take that the dog's social needs are generally satisfied - if not, you are in for a lot of trouble when you leave that dog alone!

6-8 hours of daily interaction is about the same you need to have with your family. It is not all about "partying" - but just the overall experience of "being together". Part of this time should be directly interactive. Half of it, probably. The rest can be "watching TV together" - which for the dog means "being in the same room".

Second: Hunting is a problem for most people. You cannot just let your dog run around in the forest chasing deer. But you could teach it to use its nose for tracking, following your foots print to a piece of food at the end of the track. That would do the same thing, as far as instinct behavior goes. And it would be far more manageable.

Chasing - ball play is a super substitute. Dogs don't care what they chase - their instincts are open for learning to chase whatever is rewarded. Make it a ball or a Frisbee, and your dog is happy.

Fighting and Killing - don't be scared, you are not teaching your dog to be aggressive. Dogs do these things all the time when they play with each other. You just need to learn how to play with your dog - on the dog's terms, but with your rules! For the killing, you can use and old sock - they are good for tug-of-war games and for being "destroyed". And you can teach your dog to play-fight with you without its teeth ever touching your skin or your clothes!

Brain stimulation

Dogs have a brain that needs to be used. A hunter, the dog has the capability of solving fairly complex problems - it is very open to constant learning. You need to make sure you always have some project going on that aims at teaching it something new. Retirement for a dog is mental death. Teaching your dog to use it nose, for instance for tracking or search, is a great way of satisfying many needs at the same time: nosework, hunting excitement, problem solving, learning new skills, interacting with you!

Also: do teach your dog to work on a problem on its own when you do not have enough time right now to attend to its needs. There are many ways of giving the dog meaningful tasks to do that both stimulates the brain and taps into several of the hunting instincts. Instead of letting your dog destroy thing you value, you can wrap a treat into a cardboard box. Make some holes so the smell gets out - and let the dog "destroy" the box in order to get to the treat! Nobody gets killed, except the box - and the dog will have a great time. Once the dog "gets the hang of it", you can easily make it more difficult by use a Chinese box system with several boxes inside each other, and you can hide the box and let the dog search for it first. The possibilities are endless if you are willing to use a little imagination and keep an eye on the dog's fundamental instincts.

The key is that, instead of "natural triggers" for the instincts you cannot really manage directly, you can use imitations. As long as they can trigger the behavior, they will serve the purpose of keeping the need behind those behaviors down at level that does not cause frustration - which means a mentally balanced dog in harmony with its family and environment.


Mogens Eliasen


Mogens Eliasen holds a mag. scient. degree (comparable to a US Ph. D.) in Chemistry from Århus University, Denmark, has a extensive education also as military officer and in business management. He has been working with dogs, dog owners, dog trainers, and veterinarians since 1970. A large part of his dog work has been in the area of education and education planning, and as consultant for dog owners and dog training associations. He is a strong advocate of treating the dog with respect for its nature as domesticated wolf, and has published several books and videos on topics related to dogs, dog training, dog behavior, and responsible care of dogs. He publishes a newsletter "The Peeing Post" containing lots of tips and advice on all matters pertaining to dogs.

For more information about Mogens Eliasen, including links to other articles he has published, please send this e-mail to or visit or

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Titles available from K9joy®:

Anders Hallgren:
"The ABC's of Dog Language" (140 page book - 1996)
Understand what your dog is telling you - and communicate with it on its own terms. A must have for all dog lovers. Easy to read. Easy to use as reference.

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Dog's Social Behavior" (2.5 hr. video - 1998, updated on DVD 2006, with support materials on a CD)
How the dog's behavior is linked to its instincts and needs. What you can change and what is "for life". How you use this information to dramatically improve your relationship with your dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"BrainWork for Smart Dogs" (380 page e-book - 2003)
How you get a happy and well-behaved dog, stimulating its brain with 15 minutes of fun per day. Dogs need to work and use their instinct in order to be in mental balance. Everyone can do it with these instructions. More than 40 exercises to choose from!

Mogens Eliasen:
"Don't Pull on the Leash!" (40 page e-book - 2005)
The 5 simple steps in this complete training manual will effectively stop any dog from pulling on the leash, with no pain or abuse and no special equipment - and make the start of a much better relationship with the dog.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Is Your Dog's Drinking Water Safe?" (30 page e-book - 2005, updated 2006)
A layman's overview of how and why drinking water gets contaminated - and what you can do about it.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Feeding Your Dog - the Natural Way" (1 hr. video - 1998)
The fastest introduction to get you started on feeding your dog a natural diet. It explains the dog's physiology in simple terms, so you also understand why you should do this.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Canine Choice - by Nature" (80 page e-book - 1999, updated 2005)
The simple "how-to" about feeding a natural diet for optimal health.

Mogens Eliasen:
"Raw Food for Dogs - the Ultimate Reference for Dog Owners"
(340 page e-book - revised/expanded 2006)
Everything you need for making your own informed decisions about what to feed your dog, and why and how. Includes numerous examples of feeding plans plus two chapters on how to work with your vet, also if he/she does not approve of your feeding...

Mogens Eliasen:
"The Wolf's Natural Diet - a Feeding Guide for Your Dog?"
(125 page e-book - 2004 updated/revised 2006)
What we know and don't know about the wolf and its natural feeding, and about the dog and its domestication, and what we can and cannot conclude from wolf to dog... this is the big "why?" behind any responsible approach to feeding your dog.

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