No one enjoys having a dog that always greets you with a messy surprise every time you come home. Dogs that are destructive when left at home alone can make going out a stressful event and can be costly every time you have to replace those cushions. This type of destructive behaviour is often what leads to dogs having to be rehomed or ending up in shelters. However there is usually a reason behind your dog’s behaviour and things you can do to stop your dog chomping on all your belongings the minute you’re out the door.
Why Is My Dog Destructive When I’m Not Home?
There can be a number of contributing factors as to why your dog gets a bit rowdy when you close the front door each day. By understanding the root cause of your dog’s behaviour, you can understand what you need to do in order to put a stop to the problem.
If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, it’s not surprising they’re destroying anything they can find the minute you leave the house. This destructive behaviour can also be accompanied by barking or howling all day long.
While your dog may not suffer from separation anxiety, they could be dealing with a more generalised type of anxiety. This type of anxiety is most common among dogs who have previously been abandoned or have a traumatic past.
Your pooch may simply just be bored. When boredom sets in, it’s not uncommon for dogs to try and entertain themselves by chewing, tearing and generally destroying things. Dogs that regularly get bored are also prone to suffering from anxiety and depression.
If your dog is feeling a bit under the weather, this may be contributing to their destructive behaviour. When a dog doesn’t feel right, they can start acting out with the aim of trying to get your attention to tell you something is wrong. If you notice your dog doing any of these things, it might be worth taking them to your local vet for a checkup:
- Drinking excess amounts of water
- Not eating much or not eating at all
- Chewing at the fur on their paws
- Biting or nipping at their paws or side
- Excessive drooling
A hungry dog is not a happy dog, and an unhappy dog can have destructive behaviours. This can particularly become an issue if your dog has been overweight and you're currently reducing their meal portions or have them on a reduced calorie diet to help control their weight.
Probably not surprising but if your dog feels stressed, they can act out and become destructive. Stress may be triggered by their separation or general anxiety or other environmental factors.
If you have a puppy at home, teething may be the cause of their destruction. To try and combat the pain and uncomfortable feeling in their mouth, just like people, your dog may chew on things to get relief.
How Do I Stop My Dog From Being Destructive
Now that you think you’ve figured out why they’re acting like this, what can you do to put an end to this destructive behaviour?
Have a Morning Exercise Routine
If the root cause of your dog’s destructive behaviour is boredom, having a good exercise routine in the morning before you leave for the day may be the key. This can help relieve some of their pent up energy and stop them from taking it out on your lounge cushions. A simple 30 - 45 minute walk can go a long way and switching up the route throughout the week can help keep them engaged and mentally stimulated for each walk. Not only will it help calm them for the day, having a routine where they know what to expect each morning can also help reduce their stress levels. After the walk and when you leave, they can begin to associate that time as rest time and not play time.
Give Them Something Good to Chew On
If your dog is suffering from teething or they’re just a bit of a chewer, giving them something strong and entertaining to chew on can help curb their destructive ways. KONGs are a great option and paired with something like peanut butter or pure canned pumpkin can help to keep them occupied. If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, try freezing the toy to add an extra layer for them to chew through. All that chewing can wear your pup out and hopefully once they’re done with their toy, they’ll be content to just chill out. It’s also a good idea to rotate and change the toys and treats you give them to help keep up their mental stimulation and interest.
If you still feel like being home alone isn’t doing your dog any good, consider taking them to a daycare, even just once or twice a week. The chance to interact with a bunch of other four legged friends not only helps with their socialisation, they’ll also keep mentally and physically stimulated for the day. They can then use the other days to snooze and rest from their big days of play.
Practise Positive Behaviour
This technique works best if you notice your dog still tends to try and be a little destructive even when you are home. Take the opportunity to teach them what is ok and not ok to chew so that when you’re not around they don’t go for your new favourite shoes and stick to their own toy. If you catch your dog chewing on something they shouldn’t be, tell them ‘no’ in a firm tone and then redirect their attention to their toy. When they start chewing on that instead, give them plenty of praise. This will teach them the lounge cushion is off limits but they can chew to their hearts desire on their toy. Whatever toy you use for redirection, be sure to give this to them before you leave the house. If you get home and find they’ve stuck to their toy and not gotten their teeth into anything else, be sure to follow with some more praise and cuddles.
If your dog is suffering separation or general anxiety, there are a variety of things you can try to implement to help calm them down during the day while you're out.
- Crate training - If your dog is struggling with feeling safe when you’re not around, crate training is a great option. This helps them understand they have a safe space they can go to during the day if they begin to feel stressed. Being able to go to their safe space will help to calm them and stop your pooch from taking it out on your things.
- Toy, toys, toys - we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Make sure they have plenty of things to keep them occupied. As well as a sturdy chew toy, anything that is interactive or even puzzle solving, usually accompanied with food, will help keep them mentally stimulated during the day. Getting those treats can be tough work, so once they either get the treat or they’ve had enough, all the mental work can leave them just wanting to take a nap.
- Get them a companion - If you have the space and resources to do so, having another dog for them to play with and keep occupied can help keep their mind off your things.
- Consider a dog sitter/walker - This will ensure someone is there to keep an eye on them or will come by during the day and take them on another walk to help with their built up energy.
Consider medication - if your pooch is really struggling with their anxiety and nothing else seems to work, it might be worth taking them to your local vet. A quick consult can help determine if they might be suffering from anxiety and what medication might be best for them. Never administer medication to your pet without consulting with your vet first.
Give Them Their Own Space
One way to stop them from chewing on things you don’t want them to, especially while you’re still training them to stop, is to prevent them from getting hold of these things. Find a spot in your house, clear out anything you don’t want to end up in their mouth and put up some baby gates. Fill the space with toys, treats and anything that’s ok for them to chew on and this will also help to redirect their attention and signal to them what’s ok for them to play with. Just be sure the space you set up is an adequate size.