How many times have you come home to find your house in utter chaos? Pillows are thrown on the floor, toilet paper unrolled, “accidents” on the floor, papers shredded everywhere. In extreme cases you may have found curtains or blinds ripped and torn down, lamps knocked over and broken, scratch marks in doors or holes in walls.
Sometimes this is perfectly understandable behavior. You have a puppy who is still being trained and is behaving like a puppy, chewing everything in sight. If it’s due to boredom, there are plenty of things we can do to fix that. If a dog is suffering some degree of separation anxiety, it is a problem that a dog parent must start dealing with right away. If ignored, things will only get worse, and what about those extreme cases! Let’s see how we can help.
Why your dog may be destroying the house
Typical puppy behavior
Puppies chew, it’s what they do. It’s a way for them to explore their surroundings and relieve sort gums when new teeth are coming in. Training for your new puppy should start the day you bring him (or her) home, and that includes teaching him what he can and cannot chew. One way to do that is to get some chew toys, and when he is chewing something he shouldn’t, slip one of those in his mouth. A Kong filled with a favorite treat is a great distraction, and it can be frozen to last longer!
Be sure you buy quality toys made for dogs, and have no small pieces that can be chewed off and swallowed. Stuffed toys with squeakers inside are not a great choice, in case your puppy does shred it and swallow the device.
Many dogs lead incredibly boring lives. They lie around on their beds all day with an occasional walk, or are put in the yard and it’s considered exercise. Obviously there are lots of dogs who are well cared for and live pretty stimulating lives, sadly it’s not the case for a large number of them. I see it every day in my own neighborhood, and it makes us sad to see it.
Here is a list of indicators that will tell you your dog is bored out of his mind
- Tries to escape
- Chews the furniture/carpet/shoes
- Digs in the yard
- Sleeps a lot
- Develops obsessive/compulsive behaviors such as chasing their tail, chewing their paws…
- Barks incessantly
There are lots of reasons why your dog may be feeling stressed or anxious, and taking it out on your plants!! Some changes seem like no big deal to you, but your dog may be particularly sensitive to things another dog may not be.
- Moving/moved to a new home
- New member in the family – 2 legged or 4!
- Changes to his schedule
- Being bounced from shelter to shelter or home to home
- New furniture/rearranging the furniture
- Construction outside your home
- Lack of socialization causing anxiety when near other dogs
- Dementia in older dogs
- Vision and hearing loss
How do you punish a dog for destroying your house?
You don’t! Never punish a dog for destroying your house, or for any behavior you aren’t happy with. Humans at some point in that dog’s life were responsible for this behavior, and it’s up to humans to do what they can to help. .
How to stop a dog from tearing things up when left alone
How to get your puppy to stop chewing everything
A puppy will chew as a way of exploring his new environment. If you find him chewing on your chair leg he may be trying to relieve teething pain. Whatever the reason, training and regular exercise are the answers. Make sure to enroll him in puppy training classes, hire a trainer to come to your home or find resources online if you prefer to take on that job.
Part of that training needs to involve teaching him what is appropriate to chew on and what is not. When you catch him snacking on something he shouldn’t, give him a puppy safe toy instead. To ensure boredom is not the reason for his chewing, regular exercise and mental stimulation is critical. See the boredom section below for ideas.
What to do if your dog is bored
If your dog’s destructive tendencies are a result of boredom, here is a long list of ideas to get your dog out of that funk. Obviously the length, intensity, and frequency will depend on your dog’s age and physical condition.
Whether it’s short, slow and steady a few times a day, or a regular hike, your dog needs physical exercise every single day. Don’t be weekend warrior – 5 days a week your dog gets one walk around the block and the rest of the time he’s let out into the yard, but come Saturday and Sunday you’re running marathons with him. Those two days will not make up for the rest of the week. Not only that, going from virtual inactivity to that level is an injury waiting to happen. 20-30 minutes 3 times a day is the least he deserves.
Change up the route so your dog gets a change of scenery and new scents to enjoy.
As important as physical exercise and another way to burn off excess energy is mental stimulation.
- Give him a puzzle toy which provides a treat as a reward when it’s solved
- Teach him a new trick
- Buy or make a treat dispensing toy. Cut a hole in the side of a plastic bottle, add treats, then watch your pup roll it around the floor. Not only will the noise be fun, he’ll discover he’s left a trail of treats!
- Here’s a simple game to play – take 3 cups that are easy enough (but not too easy) to knock over. With your dog watching hide a treat under one of them, then ask him to find it and when he does reward him. Make it more challenging my moving them around.
Go for a drive
Some dogs love a car ride so strap him in and drive. Take him to the beach, a new park or have a drink at an outdoor cafe or a snack at a dog friendly restaurant.
Send him to daycare
I realize this is not in everyone’s budget, but even once a week can be a huge boredom reliever.
Change up his toys
Playing with the same toys will get boring so leave out 2 or 3 and put the rest away. Every few days, or longer it depends on his interest level, switch them around. Variety is the spice of life as they say.
Socialization is very important so arrange a play date with a doggy friend. If you go to their house your dog will have a new place to explore, and new toys to play with. A change of scenery will do wonders.
Build a sandbox
Make a sandbox in your backyard just for your dog, or fill an empty kiddie pool with sand. Bury some toys and let him dig for them. Sand too messy? How about some lightweight plastic balls he can dive into instead!
How to relieve your dog’s stress and anxiety
Figure out what’s causing him so much stress, then try and do something about it. For example – if your dog gets stressed when you have too many people over and things get loud and noisy, create a safe space for him away from the action. It could be a crate with the door open in a quiet section of the room, or near the room where he can still see you. If he gets too anxious, perhaps a cozy space in another room is what he needs. Be sure he has a comfy bed, a couple of toys and a bowl of water. Plug in an Adaptil diffuser and see if it relaxes him. Leave the door slightly ajar so he can get out should he want to check in with you.
If you have an old dog who seems to have become increasingly anxious, it’s important to take her to the vet to find out the cause. Is she having trouble settling because she’s in pain? Perhaps she’s anxious or confused due to losing her hearing, eyesight or experiencing signs of dementia? I recommend you join my Senior Dog Care Club FB group.
Helping a dog with separation anxiety
There are varying degrees of separation anxiety, so depending on the severity these training tips may take longer or not have the desired effect. If you need extra help or advice, consult a trainer experienced in this area.
Tire your dog out
The first thing you want to do is tire your dog out before you leave. That will make him more relaxed and possibly not so bothered about being left alone.
Shake up your routine
We may not realize this, but most of us have a routine we follow when we’re getting ready to go out. The interesting this is, your dog is well aware of it. Many dogs aren’t too bothered, while others go into full panic mode before their human even walks out the door.
For example. When you put your coat on you leave the house. How about randomly putting it on, not anywhere near the time of the day you normally would, walk around the house for a bit, take it off and carry on what you were doing. If you normally bring your shoes into the living room to put them on, do that in the bedroom instead. These little things can make a big difference in your dog’s anxiety level, and in a few weeks your dog may be more relaxed when you go out.
Never make a big deal out of coming or going
Hugging and kissing your dog before you go out, scooping him up into your arms and telling him how much you’re going to miss him is a bad idea. I know it makes you feel better because it’s hard leaving that adorable face, but it’s not helping your dog’s anxiety level. Making a huge deal shows him there’s a reason to be concerned.
Do him a favor by leaving the house without saying anything (or gazing lovingly into his eyes), and when you come home do the same for 5 minutes or so. He’ll learn your absence is temporary and nothing to be worried about.
Practice being away for longer periods of time
This exercise will help you increase the amount of time you can be out of the house, without your dog having anxiety. As with all training, it takes time, patience, commitment and consistency. It’s also important that all members of the household follow the same steps.
Plan to spend about 20 minutes a session, but you’ll be a better judge of length.
NOTE: At no time during this training should your dog ever reach a highly anxious state. If he does that means you’re progressing through the steps too quickly, so back up to the point where your dog was still comfortable and move at a slower pace from there.
- Step outside for a couple of minutes, then come right back in. Remember, we said no making a big deal, no talking, no eye contact.
- If your dog suffers from severe anxiety, you may only be able to step outside for 1 second before you have to come back in. That’s okay.
- Once you’re back in the house, give you dog a chance to relax.
Now you’re going to stay out for 3 or 4 minutes, or 2 seconds as the case may be.
Each time you go outside, slowly increase the amount of time you’re gone.
Vary the length of time you’re gone. For instance, if today you’ve managed to stay out 7 minutes, next time stay out for 3. All the way up to 10 minutes? Fantastic, next time stay for 6. This will stop your dog figuring out a pattern.
Within a few weeks of this, your dog should be showing less anxiety. No one can predict how much time this will take, or even if it will work well enough in your dog’s case but the first thing to do is try.
Helping your dog right now!
I just gave you an exercise that could take weeks, but your dog needs help now. Don’t worry there are lots of things you can do to help right now! Keep in mind these are band aids that can be used in conjunction with the training. Even when your dog is feeling better, you may find some of them are still good ideas, particularly on days when he’ll be left alone for a significant amount of time.
♦ Have a friend, family member or neighbor sit with your dog while you’re out.
♦ If you have the budget, a dog walker can come in when you’re out but that will only cover about an hour.
♦ Doggy daycare is another option, again budget permitting. You can send him half days or full days, one day a week or more.
♦ Put one of your worn shirts or sweaters in his bed. Many dogs find that scent comforting.
♦ Leave a radio on low, or play dog calming music. You can find hours of it on Youtube.
♦ Speak with your vet about the benefits of anti anxiety medication. A low dose may be just what he needs to take the edge off.
♦ Some of the natural options worth considering are: CBD oil, Rescue Remedy, Quiet Moments Calming Aid, Zesty Paws Calming Bites, Valerian or Valerian with Skullcap, Adaptil plug in. This plug in should be put in the room where your dog spends the most time.
♦ Help your dog learn some independence and be less clingy by giving him attention when you want, not when he comes looking for it.
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