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Ask A Dog Trainer: Why Does My Dog Destroy Things When I’m Gone?

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There is nothing like coming home to your sweet dog… until you walk all the way in and see the destruction. Chewed couches, shoes, garbage…even molding can be a victim. Dogs that destroy things when their owners are away often end up at shelters. After all, no one wants and few can afford to keep replacing items their dogs have damaged. But why does your dog destroy things? It could be for a number of reasons.

Reasons Dogs Destroy Things When You’re Away

Remember dogs can’t speak our language. They can’t tell you what’s going on through words, but you can be assured that a dog that is destroying things is leaving a clear message. You just have to figure out what the message is and then you can respond appropriately. Here are some of the main reasons a dog causes destruction when you are not around:

Puppyhood. Puppies are notorious for chewing. Their teeth are coming in, getting lost, and coming in again. All of this causes a puppy to need to chew, just like a human baby. Some owners think, fine, when he is not a puppy he will stop. However, if you allow the habit to form, your puppy will keep chewing on inappropriate items for the rest of his life.

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Boredom. Dogs get bored! Regardless of breed, all dogs need exercise and mental stimulation. If you are not providing enough of either you can be sure your dog will find something to do and you won’t be happy with the results.

Separation Anxiety. This is the most extreme type of destructive behavior. Dogs with true separation anxiety will do some pretty intense things. I’ve heard of dogs jumping out windows and literally eating drywall when their owners leave.

A photo posted by Zeek (@zeekthepup) on

Tips for Coping with a Destructive Dog

How you handle your dog’s destructive behavior is going to depend on why he is doing it in the first place. If you suspect your dog suffers from separation anxiety, you will need the help of a certified professional positive reinforcement dog trainer to help them overcome their fears and stop the destruction. For puppies and dogs suffering from boredom, you have some easy options:

More exercise and more mental stimulation! These will help both types of dogs be too tired to chew. Mental stimulation includes things like puzzle toys and training that make your dog think.

Appropriate choices. Make sure your dog has access to appropriate toys that she can safely chew on. Praise her if you notice her making the decision to chew on a toy rather than your couch. Then, when you are gone, she will be more likely to make the right decision.

Remove Access. Putting your dog in a crate if he is crate trained prevents him from making the wrong choice, saving you the heartache of a mess when you get home and possibly saving him from a trip to the vet for ingesting something he shouldn’t. Crates are great while you are working on problem behaviors with your dog.

Proofing. Finally, if you are going to leave your dog loose, proof your home. Put baby locks on cabinets you don’t want your dog to get into. Shut doors to rooms with things your dog may want to get into, such as kid’s toys or your shoe closet. Put that TV remote out of reach or in a drawer. Taking a few minutes to check the room (or yard!) before you leave is definitely worth the time. Just don’t forget to leave some dog toys out!

Written by Kristina Lotz

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