Can Dogs Feel Boredom?

As a human being, chances are you have been bored a time or two. It’s common to experience boredom when you feel your mind isn’t being challenged or stimulated in some way. Or, it can be experienced when you are in the midst of a repetitive, monotonous task for several hours at a time. Perhaps you have been bored while waiting at an airport or train station when there is nothing to do but sit and wait for your transportation to arrive. Although human boredom is quite common, it has made people wonder if other animals like dogs are also capable of feeling bored from time to time.

There is a recent essay that was published in Animal Behavior that was written by Charlotte C. Burn, who is a biologist at The Royal Veterinary College of the University of London on the topic of animal boredom. She established that boredom is defined in the following way:

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“Boredom is an unpleasant emotion including suboptimal arousal levels and a thwarted motivation to experience almost anything different or more arousing than the behaviors and sensations currently possible. It arises when we perceive that there is ‘nothing to do’ or are ‘tired of doing the same thing’, and is accompanied by a sense of time dragging.”

She found that boredom is not unique to humans, as both pigs and companion dogs that are left alone for long periods of time have the same experience. While dogs can’t articulate this feeling, their behavior is the key to understanding their emotions. Dogs tend to seek out ways to “cure” their boredom by seeking stimulation through activity or can even act out in destructive ways to challenge their bodies and minds. This is all the more reason to seek out ways to prevent boredom in dogs by giving them attention, food puzzles, and other toys that keep them feeling challenged.

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