A Destructive Dog can be frustrating and many dogs are re-homed or end up in the shelter because their owners are no longer able to deal with the dog's constant destruction of household items, furnishings and damage to the walls or doorways. Many dog owners struggle with curbing destructive dog behavior in both puppies and adult dogs.
As with other types of behavior issue, it is important to first look at the root cause of the behavior, before we can address it, and find ways to recondition the dog to a new behavior.
In this article we look at the different reasons dogs turn to destructive behavior and then offer different ways to address them.
Young dogs can learn destructive behavior as a result of normal chewing behaviors, when they are not properly redirected to understand what items are ok to chew and what items are not. Chewing on everything is a way to explore their surroundings. It’s also a way to relieve persistent pain caused by incoming adult teeth.
Adult dogs chew as a way to keep their teeth clean and jaws strong. Chewing can become destructive for dogs looking to fend off boredom or relieve anxiety and frustration.
In severe cases, dogs who suffer from separation anxiety can destroy the home in panic.
Let's start by looking at the main reasons dogs show destructive behaviors.
Reasons for Destructive Dog Behavior
Boredom – Boredom is the number one cause of many problem behaviors, particularly chewing and destructive behavior. Dogs seek an outlet to relieve frustration and lack of attention. This can quickly lead to chewing up things from around the house, like the TV remote, or destroy furniture, like the couch. Left in a crate, the bored dog will show destructive behavior, such as shredding their own bedding, destroy bowls or the crate itself. Even dogs that are left unattended in a fenced back yard can become bored and chew on wooden decks, or start digging and destroy landscaping.
Attention-Seeking Behavior – Dogs can be destructive in an attempt to get the attention of their owner. Even negative attention is attention, so many owners don’t realize their reactions to the destructive behavior is giving the dog attention and therefore reinforcing the behavior.
Anxiety – Destructive behavior that happens when the dog is left alone can be caused by anxiety. The dog might become afraid when hearing loud noises, such as thunder or fireworks and begin to destroy doors, walls, or objects, in order to attempt to hide or escape. Strange noises, such as from construction or people walking by the house, may also induce a fearful response and cause anxious destructive behavior.
Stress or discord in the home, or a owner that is stressed or anxious, can be another cause for anxiety in the dog. Dogs respond to their emotional environment.
Separation Anxiety – Dogs that suffer from separation anxiety often panic when left alone and will bark, pace, eliminate in inappropriate places, and destroy walls or doors. These behaviors are an attempt to get back to their owner or escape their frightening surroundings. Separation anxiety is an issue that can be resolved, but severe cases will likely require the help and advice of a professional dog trainer.
Ways to Stop Destructive Behavior
1. Provide a comfortable and safe place
As discussed in the first part, anxiety plays a big part in causing destructive behavior. This usually happens when dogs are left unattended for the day without first being taught that the space they are left in is a safe place. From a human perspective, the area you leave your dog for the day may seem perfectly fine, however, if the dog is not comfortable and does not feel safe there, destructive behavior can become a habit.
If your dog is going to have free roam of the home, or parts of it, dog proofing the areas s/he has access to is the first step. Securely put away all items s/he could reach, that you wouldn't want to become chew toys. If the dog is already accustomed to a place or dog bed, be sure to put it in a spot where he likes to hangout (lay down) when you are at home. This familiarity is important.
It is also a good idea to have the radio on with soft music. This can help drown out those scary sounds that happen outside. There are specialized dog tunes you can find on YouTube.
Test the area during sort times, e.g. when you are gone for just a few minutes. It's important to gradually increase the time you are leaving the dog by him/herself.
2. Provide Entertainment
Provide plenty of items that the dog can entertain him/herself with, like chew toys. Remember, boredom is the most common cause for destructive behavior in dogs. We aren’t just saying a few, we mean a lot of different types of chew options. Real bones, rope toys and rubber chew toys are a few examples. Change it up often, by adding new types of chew toys weekly. You can stuff rubber chew toys with a mix of 50/50 peanut butter and plain yogurt and freeze them. Frozen chews can offer entertainment for several hours.
Provide other toys that can offer outlets for destructive behavior. Give items that the dog is allowed to and that are safe for the dog to destroy, such as stuffed animals.
Don’t make a big fuss over items that your dog is destroying, just clean them up. Remember, you don’t want your dog to associate getting attention for destroying things.
3. Provide Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Make sure you offer both physical and mental stimulation on a regular basis. Your dog should get a walk and mental challenge (like obedience training or learning tricks) every day. Most destructive behavior isn’t because the dog gets bored from being left unattended for a while, but rather is the result of a life with too little exercise and mental stimulation.
When you are away, a fun way to add mental stimulus is to get a specialized dog feeder, that dispenses food when rolled or pushed around by the dog. Instead of feeding the dog a bowl of food, have him/her work for getting the food in this way.
If your schedule does not allow for you to exercise your dog at least 1 hour every day, it would be a good idea to look into getting help with the task by having a dog walker come by or by putting the dog into a daycare facility at least a few times a week.
4. Supervise and Train Your Dog
Be sure to supervise your dog while you are at home to ensure that any inappropriate chewing or destructive behaviors do not go unnoticed. Show your dog what is appropriate to chew and what is not. Proper training while you are at home can ward of destructive behavior.
If you simply don’t have the time or patience for training your dog or puppy, look into employing the help of a professional dog trainer. Professional dog training does cost money, but can be far less expensive than the damage to your home and belongings.
You may also like to read : What is Your Dog Chewing On?
and here are some Crate Training Tips
We at Modern Canine Services specialize in rehabilitating behavior problems and helping dog owners resolve problems with their dogs. If you need help or advice in treating dog behavior problems such as destructive dog behavior, please feel free to call us at 602.688.4060 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
We offer individualized in-home training and affordable and effective solutions to all dog behavior problems.
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