'My dog is bored' might be one of the most common phrases I hear on a weekly basis along with 'my dog is jealous' and it may be misleading dog lovers the world over into filling there homes and yards with highly stimulating squeakers, fluffy teddies, rope bones and any number of assorted consumer appealing items designed to keep the dog stimulated and ideally prevent boredom or more accurately, destruction, chewing/digging, whining, barking and escaping which has been attributed to boredom.
But what if I told you they've got it wrong. What if I told you that the very toys designed to prevent these behaviour problems may actually be a significant contributor to those same problems.
Lets look at this from a purely logical (like the dogs mind) perspective. If you have a child, or remember being one, and you spent a good portion of that time each day over a period of a few weeks at a playground where over stimulation is par for the course, would it have a calming effect on behaviour or a stimulating effect on behaviour. Before you answer consider this; Is the child calm when they go back to the playground after a period of being every day for weeks on end or are they stimulated. Obviously there are a significant number of variables that can contribute to the overall outcome but for the sake of consistency I'm willing to bet that in most cases there will be a marked increase over time due to the process of environmental conditioning.
If a dog goes to a dog park they are often stimulated as this is clearly an exciting environment due to the interactions/experience that go on. In contrast a daily walk can become a modest or somewhat humdrum affair when we compare the two.
So let's imagine that we introduce a number of highly stimulating toys to our home environment, a place in which most people would want calmness to prevail, the most likely outcome over a period of exposure is a connection to both the item itself as a product of over excitement in addition to the general environment representing thus.
This is not to say that toys are inherently bad or that they are causing behaviour problems. In fact appropriate low level stimulation, chewing a bone for example, can help stimulate the nerves around the mouth creating a calming effect, provided there is no competition around. The point is that if we are using toys as a distraction to the idea of boredom we are missing the point in terms of the root cause of the problematic outcome.
So next time you think about purchasing some shiny, squeaky, clearly marketed towards humans dog toy, perhaps instead think about how your daily routine/interactions may be contributing to the problem and focus on sharing calmness in the form of massage to create the outcome all dog lovers desire - contentment.