Being a dog owner can be an extremely rewarding experience, but sometimes that experience can come with its own unique set of difficulties. One of the most frustrating problems that pet parents face is destructive behavior. When this happens, our loveable furry face-washers unexpectedly transform into destructive dogs that chew everything.
This happens for many reasons, including boredom, anxiety, lack of attention, or interaction. This damaging behavior can be extremely frustrating and in certain circumstances, dangerous.
There is nothing more soul-destroying than seeing the fluffiest member of the family, ransack, chew and trash your house. Especially, if some of those valuable objects are of sentimental value.
Why do Some Dogs have Destructive Behavior while others don’t?
Do you ever wonder why your neighbor’s dog is seemingly angelic while your dog chews, rips, and scratches their way through all your treasured things?
A dog’s negative behavior problems can often be the result of age, boredom, or anxiety. The breed of your dog can also play a key role in their destructive behavior, as well as their energy levels.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons your dog might want to rip your mattress apart:
Attention Seeking – One of the most common reasons for dogs chewing is that they’re looking for attention. This is common in dogs, and especially puppies, that feel like they’re being ignored, or your focus is on another member of the family. They may start destructive behavior as a way of saying “Hey! Look at me!”
Young puppies and Adolescent Dogs – Destructive behavior is often seen in very young puppies and adolescent dogs. At this stage, it’s often normal and appropriate behavior for young dogs as they explore their surroundings, chew, bite, and try to figure out what they can and can’t do.
However, if your puppy has destructive behavior problems, and they persist into adulthood, there’s likely another underlying cause.
Senior Dogs – As dogs get older, they can start to experience problems with their teeth and gums. This can cause a lot of pain, and your dog may start chewing stuff as a way to relieve that pain.
Your Dog is Bored – Imagine being locked in a room for up to 8 hours a day with nothing to do, and nobody to interact with.
Well, that’s exactly what many adult dogs are expected to do every day while we are at work. It’s no wonder they go stir crazy and chew your home to bits!
Ask yourself, when your dog is left alone, do they…
...have enough food and water?
…have anything to keep them occupied?
…have anyone to call in to walk them, or let them out into the yard?
Bored dogs that are left to their own devices will often find ways to entertain themselves, even if it means deconstructing your expensive sofa with their teeth or chewing your dirty laundry.
High Energy, Hyperactive Dogs – Pups that have too much energy and are not given an outlet for that energy can lead to negative behaviors and destructive chewing. This can be due to many things such as poor exercise, lack of mental stimulation, or even just genetics.
Separation Anxiety – A solitary lifestyle doesn’t come naturally to a family-orientated pack animal, and it can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress to a dog.
It’s worth noting that around 20-40% of dogs worldwide suffer from separation anxiety, so you’re not alone in dealing with this condition.
It’s important for dog owners to know why their dog has separation anxiety and if this principle cause is permanent or not, and how you can help to relieve anxiety in your dog yourself. Check out our highly informative article about Separation Anxiety for more in-depth information and help.
General fear and Anxiety
Like us, dogs are complex animals, they can have their own unique phobias and anxieties.
Anything from fear of loud noises such as fireworks or thunderstorms, or cars, uniforms, strangers, other dogs, or even spoons. Your dog could literally have anxiety over the craziest of things.
Unfortunately, these seemingly bizarre fears can result in a destructive animal that self-soothes by inappropriate chewing. Check out our articles on Dog Anxiety, how to Recognise Dog Anxiety, and Dog Panic Attacks for more useful information
Breeds of Dog prone to Destructive Behavior
Some breeds have a predisposition to destructive behavior due to their high energy levels, or because they were bred for a specific purpose.
Here’s a short list of some typically destructive dog breeds:
- Labrador Retrievers
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Staffordshire Bull Terriers
- American Pitbull Terriers
If you do have a destructive breed, it’s important to make sure they are getting enough exercise and mental stimulation, but we’ll talk more about that later in the article.
Types Of Destructive Behavior In Dogs
Destructive behavior in dogs can do a lot of expensive damage to your home and treasured possessions, here are some of the ways your dog will destroy your things:
Chewing – Dogs love to chew, it’s normal behavior and a great way for them to relieve stress, burn off excess energy and keep their teeth clean and healthy and their jaws strong.
However, this can lead to destructive chewing behavior if your dog is left to their own devices, or isn’t given enough things they are allowed to chew.
Destructive chewing usually starts with small items such as shoes, socks, and remote controls. But it can quickly escalate to bigger items such as furniture and even walls.
It’s also important to note that if you have a puppy that’s a chewer, it might be because they are teething. If your dog’s behavior continues beyond the teething stage, it may become an issue.
Digging – Many dogs enjoy digging, whether it’s in the sand at the beach or in your freshly planted flower bed.
Unfortunately, this can lead to destructive digging behavior if your dog is bored or has too much energy.
To stop your dog from destructive digging, you need to provide them with an outlet for their energy or a suitable distraction.
Clawing and Scratching – This is a problem that mostly involves the scratching of doors, walls, windows, window sills, and carpets, and it’s usually caused by boredom and separation anxiety.
However, if your dog is persistently peeing and pooing on your carpet and then scratching it, this could likely be your dog is marking their territory. This is a natural behavior for adult dogs and is usually done by unneutered males.
Digging scratching and chewing is a destructive behavior in dogs that can be incredibly harmful to your pet’s health and wellbeing.
Anxious dogs can be under a great deal of stress, and this can be mentally damaging for your dog if you don’t get to the route of the problem and find a way to help your dog.
Pets that claw at door frames, furniture, and carpets can do a lot of damage to their paws and nails. If your dog has long nails, this can cause them to split and crack, and in extreme cases, they can be torn off entirely.
Dogs that excessively chew things can damage their teeth, gums, and jaw muscles. They can also accidentally swallow large pieces of whatever they’re chewing which can cause choking or blockages in their digestive system.
Why Does My Dog Destroy Things When I Leave?
Dogs don’t like being separated from the pack for too long. It’s instinctual for them. This is why this damaging behavior often occurs when owners leave their dog home alone for many hours. The two major causes of negative behavior in dogs are boredom and anxiety. The latter being harder to deal with.
If you have a bright, clever dog that spends many hours alone in your home, there’s a good chance your house is being trashed since there’s nothing to keep their active little brains occupied.
However, if emotional distress is the culprit, things get a little more tricky.
These sorts of behavior problems are often caused by the separation of a dog from their human, to whom they’re most likely deeply attached.
Dogs with separation anxiety can demonstrate their stress in a multitude of ways, ranging from unusual destructive escape attempts that could leave your pup severely injured to chewing toilet paper or ripping up your drapes.
It is unclear why some dogs get anxiety from being separated, while others don’t.
In a two-dog household, it’s quite common to have one pet that is completely fine being left, while the other pet will trash toys, pull all of the stuffing out of their bed and chew the sofa.
What You Should NEVER Do to A Destructive Dog
It’s annoying, frustrating, and heartbreaking when you lose things to a destructive dog, especially if those things are sentimental and irreplaceable.
It would be easy in those intense circumstances to react and lash out.
However, punishing your dog is the worst thing you could possibly do, as it will only make the destructive behavior worse.
Also shouting and yelling, or getting physical with your dog will only confuse them and damage the trust between you and your dog.
Dogs work best with encouragement, positivity and lots and lots of praise.
Sharing is caring!
Does Destructive Behavior Get Better?
The great thing to remember about a dog’s destructive behavior is that it can be managed and treated.
It can take a lot of time and patience, but the results can be life-changing.
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Destroying Everything?
Mental and physical stimulation are key to keeping negative behaviors at bay. A dog that is left alone all day with nothing to do will be much more likely to find ways to entertain themselves, which may include the systematic destruction of your home and contents.
Managing the problem
This is important for all dog owners with this problem to keep their dogs contained in a section of the house. Dog proof the confinement area by looking for anything that could be easily chewed or swallowed. Store them safely away, this includes things like shoes, socks, trash, remote controls, cords, etc.
Here are a few ideas to keep your pup happy and occupied through appropriate outlets:
Chew toys are a great way to help your dog expend some energy and hopefully avoid inappropriate chewing. There are many different types of chew toys available, so finding a chew toy that your dog likes should be easy.
Puzzle toys are a great way to keep your dog’s brain challenged and busy. They work like food dispensers, when your dog gets it right they get a treat to chew.
A Kong toy that’s filled with peanut butter and treats and has been frozen solid will keep your hungry dog occupied with their own toys for hours.
Physical Exercise is also important for many dogs that are home alone. A tired dog is a good dog! Make sure to a daily routine of a walk or run before leaving, or make sure someone can exercise your dog while you are out.
Try attending Dog agility classes, play fetch and tug games or get involved in dog sports such as frizbie and soccer.
TV or Radio on low volume can help your dog feel less alone and provide some welcome background noise.
Crate training can be a great way to help your dog learn to feel confident and comfortable being alone. Start by leaving your dog for short periods, it will take some time and patience to crate train your pup properly, but it’s worth it in the end.
Take a look at our crate training article.
CBD in the form of oil or treats is a natural, effective way to help your dog with destructive behavior. It works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, which regulates mood, pain, and can relieve anxiety.
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Call an Expert
If your destructive dog’s behavior is beyond your ability to control, you may need the help of a qualified expert.
Your veterinarian or a certified applied animal behaviorist will help ) diagnose the main cause of the destructive behavior,
ii) create a behavior modification plan tailored to your dog’s needs, and
iii) provide guidance and support throughout the process.
Destructive behaviors can be frustrating, but with some patience and help from an expert, you can get your pet on the path to good behavior.
You know when your dog’s destructive chewing is getting dangerous when they also start swallowing the items as well. If this happens, they may have a condition called Pica.
Pica is when your pup is persistently eating non food items. It can be especially dangerous if they then ingest something that can’t be properly digested or passed like food.
For more information, here’s our revealing article on pica, and what you can do.
Dogs may become destructive for many reasons, but there are ways to stop these behavior problems.
Managing the problem is important, as well as providing mental and physical stimulation for your pet. If the ideas we’ve mentioned in this article are not working for your dog, you may need the help of a qualified expert such as a veterinarian or an animal behaviorist.
Destructive behaviors can be frustrating and difficult to deal with, but with patience, consistency, and a little bit of time, you can help your destructive dog become a well-behaved member of the family.
All information in the article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace your veterinarian’s advice.
Transforming anxious pups with her wealth of experience, holistic healing, and diplomas in canine anxiety & therapy.
Founder of Anxious Canine and proud CMA member.