This is a tricky subject but one that many dog owners may face at some point. The key here to first establish the difference between normal playful behaviour for dogs and actual destructive behaviour that has causes and consequences.
If your dog is clearly playing, chewing a little and exploring his surroundings without causing great damage, then you can relax. This is normal dog behaviour. However, if your dog is destroying your property, digging where he shouldn’t, chewing carpet, table legs and generally causing damage and trouble, then you have destructive behaviour on your hands, which needs correction.
Establishing the cause
There are many different reasons your dog may be exhibiting this destructive behaviour. Working out the cause is a positive step towards stopping the behaviour and helping your dog overcome the issue.
Common causes for destructive behaviour include:
Boredom and loneliness – if your dog is left for long periods of time alone in the house without many toys, company or stimulation, they are bound to become socially isolated and bored and turn to destruction in a bid to find ways of entertaining themselves.
Fear – a frightened dog can be a danger to themselves and to your property, without a doubt. Common culprits are thunderstorms and fireworks, which can scare noise phobic dogs into being destructive.
Separation anxiety – this one is often the most common causes in dogs. If your dog has a strong bond with you and there is a change (this can be a change in working hours, moving home, a death in the family or any other change resulting in your dog being away from you for longer than before) this can result in your dog exhibiting destructive behaviour (as well as messing inside and excessive barking or howling)
Health problems or teething – in puppies, excessive chewing and biting can often be down to teething pain, so simply getting your puppy plenty of chew toys can eliminate the possibility of your property being chewed. Health problems in adult dogs such as tooth pain and upper gastrointestinal pain can result in chewing. Consult your vet if persistent chewing occurs in your adult dog.
Playing and investigating – digging, exploring, shredding, picking up and chewing are all normal play/investigative behaviours and are normal in young dogs. If these behaviours are causing actual destruction, it indicates that your dog is not getting enough stimulation, supervision or opportunities to play freely outdoors.
Attention-seeking – sadly this one can be common too. A dog will recognise that they get lots of attention (often bad) when they are destroying the place, so will continue to provoke a reaction and the attention they want.
Frustration with space restriction – if your dog is contained in a small space (a small room or flat, or a kennel) then they can become anxious and frustrated.
If you are concerned that your dog’s destructive behaviour does not stem from one of these causes, it may be worth getting them seen by a veterinary behaviourist.
Correcting destructive behaviours
Once you determine the cause of it, you can help your dog stop the destructive behaviours and save your home and sanity all at once.
Try the following things in a bid to eliminate this behaviour in your dog:
- Ensure that your dog is well fed and well exercised at all times.
- Be sure to give your dog a lot of attention, interaction and play time. Provide them with toys to play with, engage in some play time with them each and every day in your home, garden or on your walks.
- Give them opportunities every day to go outside, explore their surroundings and burn off some of their excess energy. Go on long walks in areas that are hilly and interesting to them. Beach walks are great too as the sand is harder to run on, making it a great workout.
- Train your dog to not chew your things, followed by rewarding them with a healthy treat when they stop chewing on command. Also, provide them with chew toys and reward them when they pick these toys to chew.
- When you’re out, leave your dog with plenty to do. Give them a good range of toys, a puzzle feeder and leave the television or radio on.
- Update and rotate their toys in other to keep their attention and ensure their brains stay active and engaged. It also avoids them getting bored.
- Create a peaceful home for them without loud noises, too many people or other dogs and plenty of room for them to breathe and sleep peacefully.