One of the most common behaviour problems reported among the UK dog population is “destructive behaviour”. It’s a very natural behaviour but can often leave you frustrated and infuriated. So, if you’re used to ripped up furniture, chewed doorways, holes in the garden, and destroyed dog toys, this one is for you.
Don’t tell them off
The temptation when you come across Fido gum-deep in your favourite armchair is to yell at him, of course it is. But take a second. Remember that he’s doing it for a legitimate reason, not just to spite you. Telling him off in this instance won’t serve a purpose, it won’t teach him anything: all it will do is damage your relationship and teach him not to chew when you’re in the room. Yes, that means he’ll just wait for you to leave and then crack on with whatever he wants to do.
So, you may be thinking, what do I do?
Firstly, take a breath. Walk into another room and call your dog to you. Ask him for another behaviour, like a sit, or a down, and reward him. Then follow the steps below.
Think about why it may be happening
There is a myriad of reasons why a dog might be being destructive, and the only way you’ll properly nip it in the bud is by removing their reason. The most common factors are: boredom, stress, anxiety, health issues, and teething. If you need a hand in working out why your dog is destructive, you can check out our blog on the subject here , or reach out to an accredited canine behaviourist.
Give them an appropriate outlet
Chewing and digging are natural behaviours, which means that your dog wants to perform them instinctively. Sometimes it helps to think of it as a quota that your dog has to fill: just like eating and sleeping, they have to spend a certain amount of time each day engaging in these activities. The actual amount will differ between every dog, but it’s essential that you give them the option to express these behaviours in an appropriate manner. Without this, the behaviour will only come out in the ways you don’t want, and that’s how ripped up sofas and chewed skirting boards happen!
A great way to do this is to use near-indestructible dog toys that can stand up to more extensive chewing. Some good examples come from the range of Kong dog toys, including the Shieldz and the Knots ranges. The Bounzers and Duramax toys are also great options. Other Kong dog toys are also available, and the company has a reputation of producing more hard-wearing toys: in fact, many zoos and safari parks use their products for this exact reason! So, if these suggestions aren’t cutting it, you can explore the full range here and find something just right for your pup.
Other near-indestructible dog toys are available: one of our favourites is the Chuckit range. We’ve trialled these extensively with our own extremely chompy dogs, and they’re still surviving a couple of years on: and still a firm favourite in the household.
Sometimes, however, a particular dog just doesn’t engage with toys. We recommend for all dogs, but especially these ones, that you offer them bones and chews for them to get their teeth into. Our favourites include this shank bone, these rabbit ears, and this reusable dental chew.
If your dog’s MO is less chewing and more shredding, however, you can still provide opportunities for them! Give them their breakfast scrunched up with some brown paper in a cardboard box (our own packaging is great for this!) and let them destroy it before you pop it in the recycling. Alternatively, a reusable option is to get some strips of fleece, wrap some small treats up in them, and pop them into a holey object (the JW holee roller is brilliant). Your pup can then have a great time ripping the bits of fleece out of the ball, and eating the treats inside – and you can pop it all back together again for the next time!
If your dog is more of a digger, don’t forget to give them digging opportunities. Make them a sandpit or a specific digging area in the garden or, if that’s a bit too much, get them a dog-proof paddling pool and fill it with a diggable substance. Sand or soil are best, but you can also use old brown paper or wrapping paper: anything your dog can dig in!
Please remember that, with all of these suggestions, accidents can happen – so make sure you supervise your dog at all times so you can intervene if things do go wrong.
Dog-proof your home
Finally, prevent your dog from doing the wrong thing in the first place!
At the end of the day, dogs have evolved from wild animals that did not ask to live in our homes – so help them to get it right. Prevent them getting access to things you don’t want destroyed, for example, close the door to the living room, or use a play pen to prevent them getting to the sofa. Store anything valuable somewhere locked or high up, where they can’t reach them. Treat them like a toddler (although, hopefully, child locks aren’t necessary!) and, remember, baby gates are your friend.