Doggy boredom busters during self-isolation

Playing simple ball games in the garden can keep your dog happy

A period of isolation can feel stressful and your dog can provide a source of comfort and company.

A family member, friend or professional dog-walker may be able to help with daily walks if you are unwell, but you might also find the following advice helpful for keeping canine friends occupied if you have to adapt your daily routine.

Scent games are a great way of keeping your dog occupied and mentally stimulated. We have listed a few fun scent activities to try with your dog.

Find It – Take a medium to large sized treat, show it to your dog and throw it a short distance away. Praise your dog for finding the treat. Once your dog has got the hang of the game you can add the words ‘find it’ as you are about to throw the treat!

Tracking – Set up 5 large treats in a line (your track) and allow your dog to sniff out and eat the treats as they go along the track. Once your dog gets the hang of this, you can increase the difficulty by placing the treats in grass, using smaller treats or spacing the treats out more.

Treasure Hunt – A bit like the dog friendly version of an Easter egg hunt, you can hide your dogs favourite toys, snacks and enrichment items for them to sniff out. Utilizing bushes, trees and garden objects you can make the hunt as challenging as you like. This is a great gentle but fun activity to tire out golden oldies and entertain cooped up pooches.

Brain Games – Make mealtimes fun for your dog by utilizing enrichment toys such as Kong’s, Lick – E- Mats, activity balls and snuffle mats. You can freeze the Kong’s to make them more of a challenge for your dog, or hide the items in a cardboard box for your dog to rip apart and scavenge the goods within!

Here are some more enrichment activities and wellbeing suggestions from our animal behaviourist:

  • Frozen enrichment toys are great, long-lasting treats that can act as a boredom buster – Kongs or Lick E Mats topped up with tasty food and put in the freezer are ideal for this.
  • Snuffle mats provide a fantastic scatter feeding tool and can provide much needed mental stimulation, they are easy to make and can also be purchased online. Scattering some of your the dog’s daily food allowance into the garden can be another useful scenting activity and keep them occupied.
  • Mini training sessions using positive reinforcement are a brilliant way to keep your dog’s brain active and spread out throughout the day can help tackle afternoon restlessness!
  • Games can be played in the garden as opposed to on a walk to keep dogs tired and fulfilled. High adrenaline ball games may be best to avoid as they can cause a surge of energy that cannot be fully released which can cause unwanted behaviours to be displayed.
  • Using a stress relief aid such as Pet Remedy or Adaptil products can help relieve some anxiety associated with a sudden change of routine.

Top tip – it is important to continue leaving your dog for short periods of time if this is their usual routine to prevent separation anxiety occurring when you head back to work. This could be as simple as going upstairs for half an hour or popping out into the garden.

If you are concerned about your dog’s behaviour and would like some advice then Rosie our Behaviourist is offering a 30 minute telephone consultation with a written report in the post for £20. If you would like to book please email

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by Cheltenham Animal Shelter

Rescuing and rehoming dog, cats and small pets in Cheltenham and Gloucestershire.