Do you come home from a long day at work or from running errands only to find your beloved pup has chewed your shoes, shredded the furniture or gnawed on the window sills? If you come home to a house that has been destroyed by your dog and it appears mayhem has occurred while you were out you may be wondering, “Is my dog suffering separation anxiety or is he just bored?”

It is not always easy for the layperson to determine the cause of a dog gone wild. Some dogs will destroy the home because they’re bored and they don’t have any other outlet to keep them entertained. Other dogs may destroy the home or bark constantly because she’s anxious.

If you can’t determine whether your dog is anxious or bored, talk with your veterinarian or with a positive reinforcement trainer who can help determine the cause of the destructive behaviors. Boredom and separation anxiety may look the same to the untrained eye.

Is My Dog Bored Or Anxious?

One way to determine if your dog has separation anxiety or is simply bored, is to video your dog when she is home alone. Watch whether she barks, whines and/or destroys the house in the first thirty to sixty minutes of your having left her home alone. If your dog seems overly anxious and stressed immediately after your departure, you may be able to chalk her behavior up to separation anxiety.

Other signs of separation anxiety include:

  1. Being a “velcro” dog when you’re leaving the house and clinging when you return
  2. Barking for prolonged periods
  3. Pacing and panting
  4. Urinating in the house even though he’s been house trained for years
  5. Some dogs with severe separation anxiety may vomit or have diarrhea

If you notice your dog goes to sleep when you’ve left the house, but when she wakes up she chews and barks or otherwise destroys the house, she is probably bored. Separation anxiety manifests itself immediately, boredom sets in later.

After watching the video you may be able to pinpoint when your dog is acting out. If you determine he is bored, you need to find ways to keep him entertained while you’re away.

Talk with your veterinarian if you believe your dog is suffering separation anxiety. She may benefit from a trip to the vet and your vet may have solutions to help calm your dog down while you’re away. Those solutions may include, calming collars, medications or other options.

Many dog breeds like to have “jobs.” High energy dogs like terriers, or herding dogs may become destructive if they’re bored, but they are certainly not the only breeds who suffer boredom.

Here are seven ways to keep your dog entertained and prevent boredom:

  1. In addition to tiring your dog out before he will be home alone, take him to different areas for a walk or run. Letting him experience new environments will stimulate him mentally. He may love the walk you take him on every day, but will benefit from being exposed to different sights, smells and sounds.
  2. Find toys he loves. Swap out toys regularly to keep him from getting bored with a specific one. Get some puzzle toys or a snuffle mat to keep him entertained with solving the puzzle and getting rewarded with the treats hidden inside.  
  3. Leave him in an area of the house he can’t destroy your belongings. Even if you don’t crate your dog, you could put him in a “safe” area where he has access to his toys, food and water, but not your shoes, couch or curtains.
  4. Take her to a doggie daycare. Maybe your dog is so high energy that staying home alone will always lead to boredom and destructive behaviors. Time at a doggie day care will let her socialize and burn off energy and she won’t be alone.
  5. Turn on DOGTV (sign up here for a free 3-day trial subscription). Even though dogs don’t watch television the way humans do, they benefit from the sights and sounds on the screen and the scientifically-developed programming DOGTV provides keeps your dog company while you’re away from home.

What have you done to alleviate your dog’s boredom when you’re away from home? We’d love to know. Your information and insight just might help another pet parent and his or her dog be happier when home alone!