By Sandeep Lad*
If your dog isn’t happy, then neither are you!
Destructive behaviour in dogs includes any action that is harmful to the dog or the household.
However, destructive habits in dogs are controllable. They can be changed when you change! One must focus on preventing the problem while encouraging better choices. You getting upset doesn’t help at all. Stress/confusion is one of the reasons for destructive behaviour. Since our pets cannot phone a friend or watch T.V they resort to destructive behaviour.
Dogs show their stress or anxiety in different ways like destructive chewing, barking,Chasing, undesirable elimination (urinating and defecating) etc. Some of the reasons for developing such habits are:
- Separation Anxiety– It is a condition when your pet exhibits distress and behavioural problems when separated from you. Some symptoms are chewing, barking, escaping, shivering, urinating etc.
- Stress, fear or confusion–Sometimes dogs may feel stress when they are teased by children, confined to a small area, crated near another animal.
- Lack of exercise – Dogs need exercise. They say a tired dog is a good dog! Dogs that stay cooped up inside all day get bored and look for ways to entertain themselves. If dogs get plenty of exercise with mental and physical stimulation, they have no desire to escape, chase or fall prey to any other destructive habits.
- Lack of obedience training – It often leads to aggressive behaviour in dogs because they respond to situations using their own instincts and not proper training since they have never been taught differently. Obedience training can help prevent annoying habits such as jumping, inappropriate barking, and chewing.
- Hunger – Hungry dogs are destructive dogs. A hungry dog might chew and destroy objects to find additional sources of nutrition. Have a consistent feeding routine for your dog.
To prevent such destructive habits, make sure you spend quality time with your dog as it can help your pet feel more secure in his environment as well as strengthen your bond with your pet. Please understand that the quality time should not include stroking, hugging, laying around with your pet, but spend time playing and exercising with your dog on a regular basis. Engaging your dog in play that involves chasing, catching, and retrieving like fetch with his favourite ball, can also provide a healthy outlet for his predatory instincts (prey drive)and is beneficial for the psychological well being of your dog.
Involving your pets in Agility training is another positive way for keeping your pet away from boredom. Learn to manage habits like chasing, biting, barking by getting your dog trained by a professional trainer for your pet’s happiness and safety.
Destructive Chewing – is undoubtedly one of the habits that frustrate pet parents the most! While chewing is completely normal, destructive chewing is not!! Understanding why your dog chews destructively is essential to getting them to stop.
Puppy chewing is completely normal because of teething which can be painful just like it is for babies. Your puppy cannot distinguish between approved dog toys and normal household objects. Puppy proof your house and refrain from giving your puppy old socks or shoes to play with, instead offer him acceptable chew toys and praise him lavishly when he takes the toy in his mouth.
Adult Dog chewing– For older dogs, chewing is nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and relieves mild anxiety or frustration. Provide your pet with plenty of his own toys and inedible chew bones.
Attention seeking behaviour is another habit that dogs develop. It is not as much destructive as it is annoying. This usually happens because without realizing pet parents pay the most attention to their pets when they are misbehaving, Dogs that don’t receive attention and reinforcement for appropriate behaviour may show destructive behaviour as a way to attract attention, even if the attention is negative. When you are dealing with an attention seeking/needy dog, it’s very important to be consistent. Don’t let your dog think that certain type of behaviour is ok. For e.g., if you don’t want your dog jumping on strangers, don’t let him jump on you. If you don’t want him barking in the night, don’t let him bark during the day. In short, keep it simple! Be consistent, ignore or don’t give in to bad behaviour, and reward good behaviour. Most of the time this kind of behaviour can be dealt with by owners; if not, one can always get professional help as you’ll be doing your dog and yourself a favour by guiding it in the right direction.
Pet owners should know that dogs do not participate in destructive behaviour out of spite or revenge. They often do so to relieve anxiety or as an outlet for excess energy.
Do not use inappropriate i.e. physical punishment to correct your dog’s destructive behaviour or else he may become fearful and that will lead to further stress and aggression.
Understanding the most common destructive habits/behaviour is the first step to solving and preventing them.
A solid foundation of obedience training will help you prevent, correct or better control many other destructive behavioural issues of dogs.
*Author is an experienced Dog Trainer and Founder of Sovereign Dog Training school. He has 20 years of extensive and diverse experience in training dogs.
For further queries and professional training, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.