Easy (and Free!) Ways to Entertain a Bored Pup

By WagWell Team
January 29, 2024

Does your dog have destructive behaviors? Do they seem to be frustrated or bored with their environment? Chances are they’re actually craving mental enrichment. This integral aspect of your dog’s everyday routine provides an escape from the monotony of the day. Think of it as solving math problems or playing word games to enhance mental acuity. 


To ease stress about properly enriching your dog, we put together a list of the best ways to stimulate your dog’s mind on a budget!

Muffin Tray + Tennis Balls

If your dog is more treat-driven than ball-driven (I see you, lab owners), this is the perfect activity for them. You only need a muffin tin, enough tennis balls to cover each hole, and treats. Place 2-3 small treats in each hole and cover with tennis balls. Your dog will use their paws or noses to uncover the delicious treats. 


If your dog struggles to uncover their treats, you can replace the tennis balls with a bath mat or towel and lift a corner to expose some treats. 


Increasing the difficulty extends the life of the activity and challenges your pup to think more about what is in front of them. There are two ways to level up this activity when your dog masters uncovering the treats. Place the muffin tin inside a large cardboard box and close the lid. Once your dog figures this out, put crumpled newspaper on the tray for added difficulty. 

For the Super Chewers

A doberman puppy chews on a fallen tree branch.

For merciless toy killers, shredding is a way for your dog to release excess energy. If your dog makes every new stuffed animal their victim, these activities are for them!


Give them cabbage: Cabbage is safe for dogs and is a fun shredding activity! You can cut it in half or give it to them whole and watch them tear it to pieces. Cardboard is another safe alternative.


DIY stuffed animals: If you have a serial stuffy killer on your hands, you might be tired of the constant toy purchases. While your dog looks triumphantly upon their ever-growing pile of victims, you only see torn money. Websites like Amazon sell squeakers and poly-fil in bulk; pair these with cheap socks, and you’ve got DIY stuffed toys!


Ice blocks: Try freezing your dog’s favorite treats in a large block of ice. Perfect for those hot summer days, but also a year-round excuse to chew, no matter the weather outside.

Mealtime Alternatives

Who doesn’t love a little game with dinner? Elevate your pup’s dining experience with a twist! 


  • Take an old towel and lay it flat on the floor. If you feed your dog kibble, sprinkle the food in an even layer over the towel. After this, roll the towel up for your dog to unfurl. If your dog struggles with this task, place the food on the floor and lay the towel on top. If you need to make this more challenging, tuck the end of the towel into a box you can close to make it harder to open. 

  • Another option is to buy something called a snuffle mat. This mat will have “appendages” that make the product look like a patch of grass. Distribute your dog’s food throughout the mat and let your dog search for the pieces. 

  • Lick mats are another little product with thousands of uses and will keep your dog entertained! Using liquid/purées and solid foods, spread pet-safe foods onto a lick mat and put it in the freezer! After everything has frozen, you can give it to your dog. 

Here are some of the best, pup-safe foods for lick mats:


  • Bases (essential for sticking add-ins): Peanut butter, plain Greek yogurt, canned pumpkin, and cottage cheese
  • Sweet add-ins: Fruit, applesauce, honey (in moderation!)
  • Savory add-ins: Veggies, sardines, and ground meat

For the Hounds + Sniffers Alike

You know dogs have a keen sense of smell, but did you know they have fifty scent receptors for every one that humans have? They also possess a unique organ dedicated to detecting the pheromones of other animals. Having your dog sniff to their heart’s content is an excellent way to give them mental enrichment. 


  • When you walk your dog, you might notice their noses fixated on the ground. It is tempting to tug them along, but you should let them smell. Scent walks provide mental enrichment and can elevate your dog’s life. (Check out our blog on scent walks!)

  • Scavenger hunts are for the expert sniffers! Place food or treats around your house or yard, and let your dog loose! Make sure they know what they’re looking for. To make it easier, limit your hiding places to within one room or small area of your yard. 

Enrichment Fit For All Dogs

Training is more than obedience–it’s a tool for enrichment! Many pet parents might be unaware that training can provide the mental stimulation their dog needs. If you teach your dog tricks or train them to wait before rushing to gobble their food, you give them the tools for patience and coping with their environment. Patience can be a lifesaver in many situations and will create a well-rounded dog. 

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