Combating Destructive Behavior in Dogs
Is your dog driving you crazy with its constant barking every time a car passes by outside, does he rip toys apart within a second or are you unable to plant anything in your yard because your dog digs it up?
These are common destructive behaviors exhibited by many dogs, and it can become a real issue for dog owners. Some destructive behaviors may develop over time, and others might be discovered shortly after buying or adopting a new dog.
What they all have in common is that they need to be dealt with, for both your own sake and for the sake of your dog, but before you can do that – you need to understand what a destructive behavior is, and what you can do to try and stop it.
What Are Destructive Behaviors?
Destructive behavior is conduct considered undesirable by the dog’s owner, and something that needs to be worked with or overcome. Common destructive behaviors are digging up the yard, howling through the night, barking relentlessly, play biting, chewing up furniture and marking territory indoors – all which can be incredibly frustrating for the dog’s human family members. You may end up having to invest in a decent anti-chewing spray.
Recognizing a destructive behavior is step one in the process of helping your dog overcome them, and the second step is understanding where the behavior comes from and what it is routed in. We are going to work our way through all; the cause and possible solutions for destructive behaviors, and how to deal with it without losing patience in the process.
Boredom – A Probable Cause
While destructive behaviors can have many causes, and while it could be a question of poor training and bad habits, the most common cause of destructiveness is something as simple as boredom. When a dog is bored, they will start looking for ways to release their excess energy, and that will usually result in undesired behaviors such as digging, barking, biting and howling.
Us humans have millions of things we can do to combat being bored; we can log onto the internet, use our phones, watch a movie, read a book, cook ourselves a meal or go out with our friends, but dogs are entirely dependent on their owners.
If the owner does not provide proper activation, the dog will eventually get bored, which isn’t too hard to understand when you think about it. The connection between boredom and bad behavior is strong, and it has been confirmed by numerous canine behavioral specialists from all over the world.
This means that the key to eliminating destructive behaviors is to keep your fur friend entertained. It doesn’t mean you have to entertain them constantly throughout the day, but you might want to consider exercising your dog more. This article brings up a few ways to activate your four-legged buddy, and they could be effective when trying to control bad habits and destructive behaviors.
Destructive dogs often turn out to be under-exercised, so perhaps the solution could be as simple as providing an extra walk or two per day? Running around the yard is not enough exercise and stimulation for any dog, and dogs need to get out and sniff different trees.
Get your pup a quality harness, as these are safer than dog collars, and start spending more time outdoors. A 20-30-minute walk per day could make a massive difference, and you are likely to see a drastic reduction in these destructive behaviors you are trying to combat.
Remember that walking will also benefit you, as it can help reduce stress and anxiety, while also keeping you in shape with very little effort. If you are already walking your dog regularly, then perhaps you have a dog that requires more!
Active dog breeds like the Siberian Husky and the Belgian Shepherd needs more than just slow walks around the neighborhood, and you could try running or biking with them, to see if that could drain them of energy. Another trick is to change it up and to take different routes every day to avoid boring your pooch.
It isn’t just hours of running around and physically exercising that can wear a dog out and snap them out of their destructive behaviors, but dogs also need to be exercised mentally.
They need to use their brains to solve problems and to think, and for some dogs, a good brain exercise can be even more exhausting than a long walk.
This may sound hard to believe if you haven’t tried it yet, but you will quickly notice results if the reason for your pup’s destructiveness is boredom.
A great mental exercise is to use a food puzzle instead of feeding your dog in a bowl, and you can find good dog food puzzles in pet stores and online. Dogs have an instinct to want to work for their food, just like they did hundreds of years ago before they were domesticated.
By skipping the bowl and replacing it with a food puzzle (a slow-eating bowl, a food dispensing ball or an actual puzzle), your dog will have to think and work to get the food out. It could take some time before your dog gets the idea but be patient and let him or her figure it out.
Teaching tricks is another fun way to tire out your dog, and if you use positive reinforcement methods – your dog will love the challenge, and it will help you form a stronger bond with your fur friend. Use online tutorials or dog training books to get started and note how proud of himself your pup will be once he learns something new.
Stimulating Dog Toys
Keeping toys and dog chews at home is a great way to entertain a bored fur friend, but you need to know which toys to get and which to stay away from. If you usually buy your dog’s toys at the local supermarket, and if your dog likes to play rough, then you have probably noticed how those toys only seem to last for a few hours (or even minutes). This is due to quality, and what you need to get instead are virtually indestructible dog toys.
A virtually indestructible dog toy is not actually indestructible, as all toys and dog supplies can be destroyed or ripped apart with the right amount of force. They are, however, extremely durable, and a better alternative for those four-legged family members that almost seem to find more joy in destroying a toy than in playing properly with it.
Dogs should always be supervised when using toys and dog chews, as accidents can happen, and you should make it a habit to inspect your destructive pup’s toys regularly to make sure no sharp- or large pieces have come off.
Walking and running with your dog is not all you can do, and if you want to change it up to tire your dog out – while also having fun – why not try a canine sport? Which sport is right for you depends on your dog; on the breed, physical condition, personality, and age, and there are many to choose from! Agility, Lure Coursing, and Flyball are perfect for dogs that love to run, and they both require concentration, training, precision, and patience.
Your dog is unlikely to have the energy for being destructive after participating in one of these sports, and it will take you a big step closer to resolving the issue.
If your dog is older or in another way unfit for a physically challenging dog sport, there are other options available for you! Nose work requires very little physical effort, but it will activate their sense of smell which can (and will) require extreme concentration, meaning you will come home with an exhausted dog by the end of the session.
Puppy Proofing Your Home
Puppies are curious and adventurous, and it is normal for them to demonstrate destructive behaviors like chewing and biting. This is something they will usually grow out of eventually, as they become adults, but there are a few things you can do in the meantime to make both your own- and your puppy’s life easier. This can be useful also for destructive adult dogs while you work on reversing the behaviors.’
If your puppy or adult dog tends to bite into anything they find, and if they somehow always manage to rip open their dog beds and pull all the stuffing out – consider getting an indestructible dog bed.
These can, of course, be destroyed by an overly determined puppy, but they are a lot more durable than a regular dog bed thanks to durable materials, double seams and other clever tricks.
Another thing to consider is that puppies bite and chew because they are getting their mouths hurt due to teething! Puppies and young babies are very similar that way, and they almost always bite and chew because it lessens the pain and discomfort.
Imagine having so many new teeth come in – wouldn’t you want some pain relief? Provide your puppy with quality chew toys for teething puppies, as these are made to be gentle on their sensitive gums and teeth while providing much-needed relief from the discomfort and agony.
An adult dog showing destructive behaviors is not the same as a puppy being destructive, so go easy on your young dog and teach and correct using only positive reinforcement methods.
Separation Anxiety – Could It Be?
Many of the destructive behaviors known to be expressed by dogs can be a result of separation anxiety if your dog has not been properly trained to be home alone. Many of the tips provided in this article could help treat separation anxiety too, but it might not be enough.
Your dog, for some reason, believes that being left alone is bad, and you need to find a way to reverse this and for your dog to see it positively. You can try providing them with a fun toy, chew or treat whenever you leave the house, or you might want to consider talking to a professional dog trainer for help.
Contacting a Professional Trainer
All the activities suggested in this article are potential solutions for destructive behavior and separation anxiety, but if nothing seems to be working with your particular issue – it is time to contact a professional trainer or join an obedience class.
A dog trainer can help you dig deeper and identify the issue, and they can provide you with a plan for how to work with it. Destructive behaviors can sometimes be rooted in trauma or failed training, and for those cases, it might not be enough to exercise and activate your dog more.
Contact your local kennel club to see if they can recommend a reliable dog trainer or look it up online.
Dealing with destructive behaviors can be incredibly frustrating, and it can feel impossible to overcome them at times. Dogs are intelligent beings, and the higher the intelligence, the harder it can be to reprogram their behaviors.
The important thing is to try and avoid losing your temper, and to acknowledge the progress – no matter how small – rather than to focus on the work still ahead of you.