It’s extremely upsetting for owners who have a destructive dog, coming home each day to see their belongings chewed or ripped up. Often expensive or difficult to replace items, including furniture or door frames, can be the targets. I’ve known owners to go to all different lengths to avoid further destruction, including putting their dogs in doggie day care, building runs and kennels in the garden, leaving their dogs in a crate every time they go out, and in some cases; re-homing their dogs.Many people believe that their destructive dog is that way inclined because it is bored, naughty, lonely or wanting to punish its owners for being gone a long time. The truth of the matter is that the dog is suffering from separation anxiety and is actually a very stressed dog – I have written a whole blog on this topic which can be viewed if you click on the link. To keep it specific to destructive behaviour, dogs that are destructive are worried sick about their owners. Imagine you had a small child and it went missing – how would you feel? And how important would it be that you got them back? And would you do anything to try to find them, or deal with the stress that you were experiencing so you could think straight? That’s what a destructive dog is doing. Some are destructive specifically around the doorways, because they are trying to get out, so they can come and find you. Others that are crated will tear up their beds trying to get out of the crate. Sometimes the chewing is just frantic behaviour, so anything could be targeted, and on other occasions they are trying to sooth themselves, so will specifically pick things that smell of you, e.g. shoes, clothes. And if you come in and shout at your dog because they’ve been destructive, all they know is that you were gone, and then you came back upset, so whatever you were doing wasn’t good, therefore they’ll worry more next time you go!
The good news is that this behaviour can be avoided in two ways. One is you never go out again. I joke of course; the best way to avoid this behaviour is to show your dog that you are not a small vulnerable child who needs protecting that they are responsible for (as they have assumed), you are actually the leader of your pack, and you are not only capable of taking care of yourself, but you are also taking care of them. Then your dog can take a big sigh of relief, and simply sleep when you go out. This may sound silly, but a dog’s understanding of what someone would do who can look after themselves, and the way we tend to treat dogs, are not very well matched.
It’s not an overnight fix of course, your dog will need to be thoroughly convinced that you can look after yourself before they stop worrying about you, so consistency in your behaviour towards them is really important. The real question is what do they need to see from you to know that you can be trusted to stay safe when you go out… That’s where I come in. As a dog behaviourist I would teach you the method, and support you as you go about putting it in place. Have a look at the pages of my website for more details, or give me a call and we can discuss your needs.