I came home and it looked like the sofa exploded!
Your dog is causing you grief with their destructive behaviour? Toys chewed up, socks and underwear destroyed, furniture wrecked the list goes on. My dog won’t stop destroying things, I need to get this fixed!
There are a few main causes why and how destructive behaviours start, we will look at a couple in this article which should be of interest.
It would be foolish to skip on puppies, since these are the formative months in which a dog first learns the fundamental life skills required for their particular lifestyle as chosen by us. Puppies are so cute that it is often hard to say no, I get it. Scouring the internet it is also very easy to be enamoured with the permissive worldview that many professionals seem to advertise. Unfortunately this permissive agenda is great for teaching, but has some dire repercussions if used incorrectly, much like anything else, we need to be able to provide balance to our pups’ life.
When we see our pups chewing on something inappropriate, it is fine to say no and remove the item. Teaching our pups that certain items are off limits is quite normal and can save you a fortune in furniture and house repair costs.
Bearing in mind the puppies physical development, particularly teething at about 7 months, will make your pup want to chew on things, much like a teething baby wants to chew on things. In that instance, certainly say no and remove the off limit article, but it would also be prudent to provide something acceptable like a frozen meal or cold stuffed food toy. Something that allows your dog to relieve their gums on. I had a dog that would place his gums on a metal table leg. In that instance, I allowed him the opportunity to seek relief and kept my eye on him, just in case. Never did he chew the table and he never again went back to it. That is why a relationship with your dog is important.
If your pup creates a habit of chewing in this stage and is not limited in the selection of chewable items, they will continue to find things to chew on since the behaviour is self-reinforcing. My mouth aches, I chew, I am relieved. By seeking relief the puppies tend to then apply that skill to other situations in order to satisfy other needs, such as investigation, hunger or boredom.
This ties in nicely with the more mature dog that starts to destroy through chewing. Inevitably a dog will become inquisitive or bored and will find an article of interest, like a well-used screwdriver, socks, embarrassing undies or even a favourite heirloom cushion. These articles are interesting, not just because, not by happenstance, but since they have a lingering smell and perhaps even warmth from their favourite people – even after washing.
These articles then become pacifiers, like a dummy to a baby. As your dog starts to mouth and delve into the sensations of arousal through the chewing of the cushion they are reinforcing their emotional mindset and they continue until at some point they are excited enough to cause the item to break. This can quickly dive into a killing motion as our dogs emotions are starting to lose control, the end result being the cushions contents strewn about the room as you come back home.
This sort of destruction is very often caused by inadequate attention during the pups’ development and/or a lack in our dog’s life.
A common place recommendation is to bring in another dog to “keep it company”. This will most often lead to two destructive dogs as the main component required is still missing. You!
If you present yourself to your dogs and simply seek that romantic ideal that we all have – our dogs and us happily ever after – you will find that destructive behaviours will not tend to start or are very easily curtailed. If we seek a relationship – spending time with our dogs – based on fulfilling both of our needs, then our dogs will be set up to succeed and rather than creating poor habits, they will be satisfied.
Prevention is always better than the cure. But sometimes life gets in the way and before you know it, your dog has chewed up your friday undies.
The cure for destructive behaviour? Satisfy your dogs’ emotional needs first, ensuring that they are receiving enough beneficial companionship, for life. If you can do that you will learn to read and understand what your dog is looking for in the first place. Fill that need, it’s what you brought a dog home for in the first place right?
Restricting access to precious items is certainly an option, crate and kennel training will help in this situation. Ensure that you are meeting the physiological needs of your dog, particularly if the crate of kennel stays will be long.
Ensure that your dog is being exercised, both mentally and physically in an appropriate manner. Simply sticking your dog to a treadmill and leaving them to it will create a fitter faster and stronger destroyer.
Be aware of the type of dog you have in your home and provide outlets for their innate desires.
There are situations whereby an immediate and intolerable consequence will stop your dog from engaging in destructive behaviours. Such situations are for example when your dog chews on live mains cables, better a scolded pup than a dead one. If you can’t catch your dog before they engage in the dangerous act, you are forced to interrupt quickly. This is where a command such as “Wrong” or “Out” act as a preventative measure.