Every time I come home my dog has destroyed something!
Destructive behaviour can be one of the most difficult behaviours to navigate with your dog. This is because it can occur for many different reasons including:
If your dog is destructive within the home it is really important to look at the underlying causes to why the behaviour is occurring in the first place.
It is important to rule out any underlying medical causes especially if it is a change in behaviour. As dogs are really good at hiding pain and can be a way that they express themselves if they are feeling sore.
Once medical causes are ruled out it is important to look at what is happening whilst you are out. The best way to do this is to set up cameras so you can see what your dog is getting up to whilst you are not there. Then you can look at body language, when the behaviour occurs and if your dog is able to relax after being destructive or not.
Then it is looking at your daily routine with your dog and what mental and physical stimulation they are getting throughout the day, how long they are been left for and if there needs to be any changes made to help being on their own easier.
Chewing is a natural dog behaviour to perform and does help to calm dogs down if they are feeling stressed. It is also a very self-rewarding behaviour to perform as when dogs chew it releases oxytocin into the dog’s brain making them feel good. Unfortunately, dogs cannot always distinguish between what is and what is not OK to chew on. However, there are now lots of different enrichment toys that they can chew on whilst you are not at home and some may take a little preparation before you go.
If your dog is worried about you leaving try not to make leaving too predictable as your dog will pick up on your cues when you leave such as putting on shoes, picking up car or house keys. Make your routine as random as possible so that your dog is not anticipating when you go. Set up your house to be as relaxing as possible for your dog by having calming scents or leaving a radio on. Varying the times that you leave them for. When you go don’t make a big fuss of leaving the house or when you come back as those are the moments that the dog will enjoy making it more difficult when you are not there.
It is so tempting to tell your dog off after they have destroyed something, but they will not understand what they are getting told off for as dogs very much live in the moment and will associate it with what they are doing at that time. I often hear that a dog ‘knew’ that they had done something wrong but more often than not the dog will pick up on your emotions and try to diffuse the situation.
The important thing whilst implementing a behaviour plan is to help manage the behaviour too as it is important whilst you are working towards your goals. It is also important that your dog doesn’t get a chance to practice the destructive behaviour and to create new habits whilst you are out. It can take time for dogs to change habits so this will take practice.
If you are worried about your dog’s destructive behaviour please do not hesitate to ask for help to put together a training plan to help them overcome the destructive habit.