Self-Entertaining Dog? Dogs Need Interaction

Many people believe that dogs, particularly large breeds, need a big yard. Many rescues believe that too and will not let you adopt a dog if you don't have a good size yard.

Many people believe that letting the dog out in the yard is all they need to do.

They're outside now, they can entertain and exercise themselves, right? But does that really work?

A dog will not self-entertain. A dog needs somebody or something to interact with.

Watching Cookie mouse hunting, she is as close to self-entertaining dog as it gets. All she needs is a chunk of land and she can search and hunt for critters until she drops. You don't need to do anything, just supervise.

But she's not really entertaining herself, is she? She's interacting with the critters. Take those away, what would she do? Either she'd just lay down, pester somebody for attention or, given the chance, take off looking for something else to interact with.

Other things can become a source of entertainment for a dog stuck alone in the yard.

People or traffic going by can be interacted with by running the fence line and barking vigorously. To a dog, that indeed becomes an entertainment and they get their exercise that way. Should you really be surprised that things play out that way?

Digging holes or shredding something to smithereens can also become a source of entertainment. A bored or frustrated dog will likely find something.

Should we then complain or get mad when they do?

We are quite grateful for the plenitude of mice, moles and other little critters keeping Cookie occupied. And yet we still do other things with her; go for walks, play games ... She needs at least three hours of activity daily.

Don't expect your dog to self-entertain and don't expect them to always find something agreeable if they do.

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  1. When we were looking for a dog, we were turned down by a rescue because we lived in a pet friendly apartment complex without a fenced yard. I was really upset about it. We ended up finding our dogs at our local shelter and they did adopt to us. My dogs get more interaction, walks and play than most people who own house with yards. I really wish rescues would take people on a case by case basis. I was dog experienced and I've worked with my dogs my entire life, at home and professionally. It was so depressing to be turned down!

    1. I agree. In the complex where we used to live, every house had at least one dog. How many of them did we see being walked? Probably two. The rest just got tossed into the yard. Apartment dogs at least get to go around the block to potty if nothing else.

      A yard is not a prerequisite for having a dog. Though it is handy for training.


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