My older dog is no longer able to do all of the fun things we used to do together—he just seems to sleep a lot. Is he bored? Is he unhappy?
Like humans, as dogs (and cats) age, their ability and desire to stay active diminish. Again, as with humans, diminished desire does not imply they don’t want outside stimulation, just that their
tolerance for being active or away from home decreases. Responsible pet owners know to gauge when it is time to pull back on extra activities. You may find that your older dog who wants nothing more than to sleep all summer will perk up when the weather is cooler, then slow back down again when the weather gets cold. Knowing and respecting your pet’s chronic (such as arthritis, and diminished hearing and vision) and temporary limitations will keep him happy and feeling safe.
As to the question of boredom, that is a question in and of itself! Boredom is not an emotion that youcan easily or accurately ascribe to animals. Let’s first look at destructive behavior often attributed to
boredom. Destructive actions almost always stem from anxiety of some kind, rather than boredom.
One type of anxiety comes from a lack of physical activity. Like human children, young animals can get anxious when they have pent up energy and will do what they need to do to relieve that anxiety. They don’t realize they are being destructive, dogs just know that chewing something feels really good (and expends a lot of energy)!
Another type of anxiety comes from a lack of interaction with other beings—humans or animals. Dogs—and yes, cats!—are social beings. Though their sociability varies from animal to animal, all thrive in a loving, nurturing environment and decline with emotional neglect. One reason that animals choose to incarnate with humans is to learn about emotion—in all forms. That is an article unto itself, but suffice it to say, that lack of emotional stimulation—especially love—creates anxiety and a lack of purpose.
Some animals come in with additional, more “advanced” purposes, such as working with the military or police, acting as service dogs, etc., and they can become anxious (appearing “bored”) when thwarted from doing their job for whatever reason. This is fodder for another Q & A!
Getting back to your older dog, trust that he is not sleeping because he is bored! Animals have VERY active dream lives! They easily go into dream states where their “spirits” can leave their bodies and have all kinds of adventures! They typically like to revisit places where they have had a great time with their human companion. They also often encounter other animals who are venturing out in their dreams as well as visit with former animal friends who are no longer physical. Like people, our pets also work out disturbing situations they have had through their dreams. Try to resist waking them from a bad dream as they are processing the information they need to heal at that time.)
Bottom line: When your older pet is loved and cared for, he is very capable of filling in “stimulation” gaps.
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This answer was received intuitively from my non-physical spiritual “Team.”