You come back home, only to find a mess… Your dog did it again. They destroyed something while you were away.
I know… it’s frustrating. It’s the last thing you want to see after a long day.
But one thing puzzles you. Your dog didn’t act this way until now.
So you start wondering:
“Why is my dog suddenly destroying things?”
You’re not alone. Read on and discover how to stop this behavior once and for all.
- 7 surprising reasons why your dog is being destructive all of a sudden.
- 7 easy and effective tips to help your dog get rid of this behavior – for good!
- What makes punishment ineffective, and why it is never an option when your dog misbehaves.
- The E.A.M.S. method that you can use today to tire your dog out (what this means for you: no more broken shoes, internet cables, yada yada yada.)
- And so much more…
Table of contents
Why is my dog suddenly being destructive?
Your dog is suddenly being destructive due to separation anxiety, and lack of physical and mental activities. Dogs with separation anxiety cannot cope when their person is away. Thus, they channel their anxiety in destructive ways. Similarly, they become destructive to release pent up energy.
People also ask:
9 surprising reasons why your dog is suddenly being destructive
#1: Your dog is bored to death
Your dog’s sudden destructive chewing could be due to boredom.
When bored, dogs find entertaining activities to keep themselves occupied. And more often, this results in destructive behaviors. Such as tearing up the couch. Or your shoes. You know the drill.
Boredom is defined as a lack of stimulation, exercise, and play.
According to this study, there is little research regarding boredom in dogs. This shows the majority of people do not consider boredom in dogs as a serious issue.
One reason could be that boredom is a human trait. And many are skeptical if this trait can be seen in dogs as well.
Also, the study says that when bored, animals engage in sensation-seeking behavior.
And most of the time, this behavior is destructive.
But as dog parents, how do you know if your dog is bored?
It’s boredom when dogs exhibit the following:
- Abnormal behavior (excessive licking etc.)
- Destructive behavior (digging, chewing furniture.)
#2: Your dog has separation anxiety
Is your dog destructive when left alone? Chances are, it’s due to separation anxiety. But it is more likely in dogs adopted from shelters or who were strays.
When dogs have separation anxiety, they’re unable to cope when their person is away. It’s like you’re your dog’s sunshine. It becomes a gloomy day when you’re gone.
Without their person, dogs express their anxiety in destructive ways. The following are just some common symptoms:
- Excessive drooling.
- Attempting escape if crated.
- Peeing or pooping in the house.
- destroying furniture and other things.
- Showing agitation when you’re about to leave.
- Excessive vocalizations (howling, barking, etc).
#3: Your dog is under the weather
When a dog is sick, they could start acting destructive. They do this to get your attention.
It’s their way of telling you something is wrong.
In some cases, your older dog is destructive chewing due to several issues. It could be an upper gastrointestinal irritation.
Or perhaps they have dental problems. They turn to destructive chewing to reduce the pain or discomfort in their mouth.
Also, some diseases cause your dog to eat non-food items. This behavior is called pica.
Here are some other symptoms that might indicate something is off:
- Refusing to eat.
- Eating too much.
- Excessive drooling.
- Excessive drinking.
- Biting or nipping at their paws.
#4: Your dog is stressed
A dog’s destructive behavior could be the result of stress. Unfortunately, stress is very common in dogs.
It could be a one-off situation. For example, your friend has a dog with her when she visits you. And your dog happens to dislike your friend’s dog.
Or, stress could be gradual. For example, your dog is left home alone most of the time. And at some point, it gets too much for them to handle.
Another reason could be a recent change in routine. Dogs thrive on routine. So if your dog’s schedule changed, they could be bothered by it.
Or there is a new member in the family. Be it a new spouse, or a newborn baby. Your dog will need some time to adjust. And one way to cope is chewing items.
Remember: Humans have stress balls. Dogs have destructive behavior, like chewing and digging. This is how dogs relieve stress.
#5: Teething troubles (puppies only)
Your puppy is a ball of energy. Everything is cute about them.
Until they start destroying your stuff.
This happens due to teething.
When a puppy goes through teething, they experience mild to severe discomfort. Or pain.
They engage in destructive chewing for relief. This is why some puppies become aggressive chewers while teething.
But if their chew toys are not available, they’ll target other interesting stuff. Your couch, the door, or the table leg.
Interesting fact: Did you know that dogs go through teething until 2 years of age? It takes that long for all the adult teeth to emerge.
#6: Inadequate exercise and enrichment
Another reason why your dog destroys your shoe, internet cable, or something else is due to a lack of exercise and stimulation.
You’ll know this is the case when your dog has soaring energy. This is more likely if your dog is a puppy or a juvenile. But also adult dogs can have their ‘ Redbull moments’.
The bad thing about it?
It leads to many destructive behaviors.
This study wanted to find out whether physical activity affects behavior. The authors conducted a survey and collected 234 questionnaires from dog parents.
Based on the questionnaires, the authors created two groups:
- Active dogs (AD).
- Sedentary dogs (SD).
The AD group had 94 dogs that performed the following activities:
- Agility (22.6%).
- Obedience (10.1%).
- Mobility (5.6%).
- Search and rescue (5.1%).
- Dog dance (2.1%).
Out of 43 unwanted behaviors, 4 stood out. These are:
- Turning on itself.
- Staring an object.
- Attempting to bite other dogs.
The findings showed that the AD group practicing agility exhibited “Staring an object.” But the group exhibited less of the other three (unwanted) behaviors.
This shows that a lack of exercise can lead to destructive behavior. The same is true for a lack of mental stimulation.
So next time you think about tiring your dog out, use the E.A.M.S. method. Exercise And Mental Stimulation (check out tip #6 below for more info).
#7: Their toys are the wrong ones or presented the wrong way
It’s not at all uncommon for dogs to destroy things. Especially if your pooch is bursting with energy. And has nothing exciting and appropriate to spend it on.
You might have given your dog some toys with the hope they’ll chew on them. But the truth is that dogs get bored of their toys.
Regardless of how many they have. Or how different they may be from one another.
So if you leave all of the toys scattered around, your dog might lose interest in most of them. And what do you think will happen next?
They will look for a new “chew toy” to get their teeth on. This can enable them to have a blast while they’re tearing up your couch.
Besides that, you should consider giving your dog chew toys with different shapes and textures. Because trust me, these things matter.
#8: Your dog craves your attention (now)
Dogs are far more smart than we give them credit for.
If you’re at home, but not interacting enough with your dog, they’ll find a way to get attention from you. And if the usual tricks like pawing and whining don’t work, your dog could try a new strategy.
Such as chewing on something of yours, they wouldn’t have even looked at before. It could be your yoga block or your slippers.
You might think your dog would get it if you’re angry. And you’d be right.
But with dogs, even negative attention is better than no attention. That means that even if you scold your dog, they’d still feel rewarded for what they’ve done.
And what if you decide to chase them?
Even better (for them!) They’d feel as if you’re both playing.
#9: Bad habits make ‘em do it
Bad habits can make your dog destructive when alone.
It usually starts when you unintentionally encourage the habit.
Maybe you allow your puppy to chew on your fingers while playing. Or you play tug of war using the rug or the kitchen towel. It can also happen if you allow them to chew on your old slippers.
Instead of telling them a firm “NO’, you find them adorable. You make a video, take some photos. But you don’t think that the puppy’s adorable behavior can turn into an issue in adulthood.
And before you know it, you find your new slippers or stilettos all chewed up. Because when you allow them to chew non-dog-toy stuff…
This sends the wrong message to your dog. That destructive chewing is okay.
And when this becomes a habit, they’ll find it difficult to stop when you’re not around.
Also, note that the first two years of a dog’s life are very important. What happens during this period has a lot to do with their behavior in adulthood.
So if they have formed bad habits, they might continue these throughout their life.
And now it brings you to a big question:
How do you stop your dog from destroying things when you’re gone?
Fortunately, your dog’s destructiveness isn’t hopeless. In fact, you and your dog can tackle their destructive behavior.
Without further ado, I bring you the…
7 easy tips on what to do if your dog is destructive all of a sudden
#1: Keep your dog’s mouth busy
Chewing is a normal dog behavior. But what if they chew what they shouldn’t?
To stop destructive chewing, provide them with non-destructive dog chew toys.
Many dog parents find Kong the stuff of their dog’s dreams. It’s a chew toy that can be stuffed with food.
Your dog will have to figure out how to get the food out. Thus, the toy gives their brain a workout.
Kong is good for all dogs. But if your puppy is teething, I suggest you get them this chew toy.
This is also great if you want your dog to lose weight. Give them a frozen Kong. It will take your dog a while to get all the food.
Here’s a video of a dog parent of 3 Huskies making a DIY dinner in a Kong:
You can also choose a suitable chew toy other than the Kong.
The idea is to get something that your dog can’t break easily. This is so that your dog can enjoy it for a long time.
There are also chew toys that have ridges on the sides. The ridges help prevent plaque and tartar buildup. So you’re killing two birds with one stone.
If your dog is crazy about tug of war, get a tough rope toy. It will provide your dog something to chew on.
#2: Call the experts
For a new dog parent or a seasoned one, a vet, a trainer, and an animal behaviorist are your allies.
But how are they different? Who will you call regarding problems with your dog?
Don’t worry, as I have here the roles of these experts.
Call a vet when there is a sudden change of behavior in your dog. This is to rule out medical problems.
A vet not only checks up your dog to ensure their health. They can also help you formulate the right exercises. Or recommend a specialized diet according to your dog’s condition.
Remember, your vet can provide you advice and refer you to a trainer or behaviorist.
A dog trainer is also a behavior counselor or therapist. Many are self-taught. Some attend professional classes.
It’s also their choice to apprentice with more experienced trainers.
If you need a trainer’s help, look for one with certification from Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).
Certified trainers have passed a standardized test from these organizations. The trainers have also worked a minimum number of training hours.
Now, about what trainers teach dogs:
- Search and rescue.
If your dog has behavior problems, a trainer resolves the symptom and not the underlying cause.
Applied animal behaviorists
These professionals have an advanced college education. Some vets complete a residency in animal behavior and become Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs).
They are the experts in animal behavior and behavior modification. They will teach dog parents techniques to change the undesirable behaviors.
If trainers resolve the symptoms, behaviorists find out why the behavior is happening. And they make recommendations on how to change it.
Also, behaviorists can prescribe drugs for issues such as separation anxiety and phobias. But they do not address physical problems like vets do.
#3: Use medicated gel
There is no shortcut around teething. Your dog will have to go through it.
Make it easy on them by applying medicated gel to the gums. This works like magic to reduce pain and discomfort.
Note: Ask your vet about the best medicated gel for your dog.
#4: No to punishment
It’s understandable to feel frustrated and angry when your dog creates chaos at home.
However, punishment shouldn’t be an option when your dog is destructive.
By using punishment, you instill or increase your dog’s fear.
Let’s say your dog suffers from territorial aggression. They hate it when other people or animals come close to the house.
Your dog channels their aggression by chewing through the door.
And this had you punishing your dog by scolding them. Or telling them “Bad dog!”
As a result, your dog becomes fearful of visitors or passersby.
In addition, punishment creates a gap between you and your dog.
Here’s a scenario:
You came home tired from work. The moment you opened the door, you noticed the horrible smell of pee. You found it weird because your dog is house-trained…
Then you ignored your happy dog and went straight in search of the pee. And when you found it, you became angry at your dog. Then you scolded them.
The following days, you observed some changes. Instead of a happy pooch greeting you, what you got was one who shrank away from you.
These forms of punishment only make your dog stressed.
In fact, research found out that punishment leads to higher stress levels in dogs.
The researchers studied 92 dogs, of which 42 came from reward-based schools.
Twenty-two dogs came from schools that used low proportions of aversive methods. And 28 came from schools using high proportions of aversive methods.
The findings showed that aversive methods lead to more stress-related behaviors in dogs.
Are you aware that dogs don’t feel guilt?
They might “look” the part:
Ears pinned back, not looking at you in the eye, and so on.
But the truth is…
Those are their responses to your facial expression or body language.
Let’s say you come home to find your living room a war zone. And that’s because your dog chewed everything their mouth could reach.
You raise your voice and scold your dog. Or maybe you put them in the crate for misbehaving.
Do you think this gets the response you want? That your dog will realize their mistake?
What this does is scare your dog. Besides, they don’t know what they’re being punished for.
Because dogs live in the moment. They can’t associate the punishment to their mistake. That’s because the mistake happened earlier.
Unfortunately, many dog parents do not realize this.
#5: Confine only when necessary
It feels like a bad thing to leave your dog with separation anxiety at home. But it’s your best choice if there are no other alternatives.
Since your dog is destructive when you’re not around, confine them in a room. The kitchen or laundry room, perhaps.
Before you do that, dog-proof the room. Make sure there is nothing valuable of yours they can destroy. Or anything that poses a choking hazard. And that they can be safe while being unsupervised.
Before you leave the house, give your dog chew toys to keep them entertained while you’re gone.
Also, use a baby gate to keep them in the designated room.
#6: Give your dog a busy day
There’s one thing that will greatly minimize destructive behaviors…
Keeping your dog busy.
If your dog is tired, physically and mentally, they have no energy to misbehave.
Thus, it’s vital to set physical and mental exercises for your beloved pooch.
For physical activities, there’s a lot you can do. But think about what your dog loves. Fetch? Running? Walking?
Here’s a suggestion:
Take a long walk with your dog in the morning before you leave for work. It’s going to tire them out, and they’ll sleep most of the day.
Of course, this depends on several factors. Such as the breed, health, and age of your dog.
Exercising your dog’s mind is equally important. Provide them interactive toys to achieve this goal. And to fight boredom as well.
Here’s another suggestion for you:
Make your dog work for their food. Do this through interactive feeders.
Place treats inside the feeder. Your dog will have to move lids or remove some parts to get to the treats. Some toys have to be moved around to make the treats fall out.
To give you an idea, here’s a video showing several interactive feeders:
Another enriching activity is “Go find” or “Find it.” Basically, you hide treats around the house. Then let your dog on a treasure hunt.
Do this before leaving the house. It will keep your dog busy while you’re away.
Note: Do not hide treats under cushions or in areas difficult to reach. Or anywhere that will make your dog chew or dig.
Another mentally tiring activity for your dog is training, which I’ll be discussing next.
#7: Training is everything
You’ve probably heard of this a million times. And for a good reason:
Training plays a critical role in your dog’s welfare and development.
You have two options: train your dog yourself. Or go to a training class.
My fingers in both hands are not enough to tick off all the good things training provides. But here are some benefits your dog gets out of training:
- Diminishes stress.
- Teaches them how to behave well.
- Helps them become more sociable.
- Teaches them to interact well with others.
- Teaches them new tricks and commands.
- Creates opportunities for dog parent-dog bonding.
- Provides a serious brain workout. Training will make them think hard.
- Teaches your dog to listen and obey. Thus, it helps to keep them safe.
- Decreases chances of your dog chewing into furniture and other stuff at home.
- Helps your dog how to behave in certain situations. Thus, it’s easier to take your dog out in public.
- Minimizes or stops destructive behaviors. Your dog learns what is acceptable and not acceptable behavior.
And you’ll notice that after training, your pooch is dog-tired (pun intended). They’ll probably sleep like a baby at home.
Remember, practice, practice, practice! Help your dog keep their brains razor sharp!
Dog parent #1
One dog parent shares what he does to keep his dog from being destructive. They set strict laws for the dog that must be followed.
For instance, the dog is forbidden on the furniture. This is to keep him from shredding the covers. Or running away with a pillow.
The dog is also given lots of exercise and obedience lessons.
When no one is available to supervise him, he is crated. The dog parent also set up a strong outdoor kennel for the dog. He said it is more spacious than a crate.
Dog parent #2
This dog parent shares her frustrations on a forum. She is nearly at the end of her wits.
That’s because of her destructive 10-month old dogs.
The dogs’ destructiveness has cost the dog parent money. Though she did everything to doggy proof the house, the dogs still destroyed stuff.
Including her furniture, shoes, electrical cords, and clothes.
She couldn’t even give them toys because the dogs easily destroyed those. She said “No” when the dogs misbehaved. Or she redirected the attention.
So far, everything has failed.
The dog parent thought that her dogs are destructive because they enjoy it. That they have the time of their lives when destroying things.
Dog parent #3
There was this dog that became destructive out of anxiety.
According to the dog parent, the dog was a good boy. It was easy to house train him. Plus he never chewed furniture.
Besides, the dog didn’t go for the trash or the food on the counter.
But the dog suddenly became destructive. He was home alone as the dog parent has a full-time job.
What triggered the destructiveness was thunder. He was scared of it, and no one was around to comfort him.
When the dog parent came home, she found that the dog tore a hole in the wall. The dog took a section of the drywall and insulation.
Two days later, the same thing happened. There was another storm.
This time, the dog took out the light switch box. The hole exposed wires.
What science has to say about it
Fear of thunder – also known as noise sensitivity – is common in dogs.
That’s what this study found out. Out of 13,715 dogs, 32% had noise sensitivity. Approximately 17% feared thunder.
The authors also found out that the fear of thunder increased with age.
For cases like this, it’s best to consult with a behaviorist. They can help your dog deal with anxiety from noise sensitivity.