The Destructive Dog: Combating Boredom

You just love your dog.  He’s smart, funny, and energetic.  But you work a 9 to 5, and every day he destroys the house.  Garbage everywhere.  Scratches at the windows.  Pillows de-stuffed.  You don’t want to know what he did to your daughter’s stuffed bunny.

Some destructive dogs suffer from separation anxiety, but before assuming your dog suffers from a medical condition, he may just be bored.

Think about it.  He sits at home, alone, for 9-10 hours straight.  He has a few toys, but they don’t really do anything without a friend.  He can’t play tug by himself, or keep-away, or fetch.  So, he entertains himself with what’s available.

Implement just a few of our boredom-busting tips, and soon he’ll be too tired to destroy the house.

When You Are Home

Before you attack her behavior while you work or run errands, think about what your dog does all day when you are with her.  Dogs only became pets in the last two centuries, and for years worked alongside their masters, running miles each day no matter what the breed.

Your dog needs this stimulation from you.  She needs both physical and mental stimulation every day to stay sane.

Physical Exercise

Most breeds handle a daily walk well, though take care in hot weather.  A walk provides physical exercise, but allow your dog to sniff the ground and greet others.  This provides essential mental stimulation on the walk.  Try to walk your dog for at least 45 minutes twice a day.  (This is good for you, too!)

If you run and your dog is fit, train her to run alongside you.  Most dogs learn very quickly to keep pace and not smell.  Spend the first few minutes warming up to let her do her business, and soon she’ll run marathons with you.

Dogs also easily learn to run alongside a bicycle.  Small breeds may not keep up, but sporting and herding breeds relish the exercise.  Special devices which attach to the bicycle keep your dog from tipping the bike.

If you can’t or don’t exercise, she still needs stimulation.  If your dog enjoys fetch, teach her to use the I-Fetch Tennis Ball Launcher.  A toy like this stimulates both her body and mind, as she needs to perform a specific series of actions to use it.  Don’t use this toy unsupervised, but it saves your arm.

Mental Stimulation

Dogs need more than physical exercise.  They must exercise their minds as well for optimal health and behavior.  Just like children, they need varied play and focused teaching to learn and grow.

Most dogs (and owners!) enjoy taking obedience or agility classes.  Your local obedience training club provides classes on many subjects, including tracking, agility, tricks, and rally obedience.  Training clubs also offer a great first step to taking pet ownership to the next level.

Training classes typically meet once a week, with daily homework assigned.  Don’t worry—these trainers compete at the top level and will place your dog in a class that fits his needs and your abilities.

Training with an obedience training club also connects your family with many breeders and experienced trainers to advise you on other issues you may experience, including medical issues.

When You Aren’t Home

When you leave, your dog loses the thing they think about the most.  You must provide your dog something new and exciting to do while you’re gone.

Boredom Busting Toys

The trick?  Boredom busting toys.  This list has my favorite toys for destructive dogs.

My absolute favorite boredom busting toy, the Kong, provides hours of mental stimulation with very little effort.  Fill the Kong with a mixture of dry treats and some sort of filler (like peanut butter or puree), freeze overnight, and give to the dog on your way out the door.  Buy two, and run them through the dishwasher to clean them.

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Training a Destructive Dog

In addition to the above measures, the destructive dog needs re-training, or she will just start destroying the house as soon as your life gets chaotic again.

When beginning your first steps to preventing destruction, begin crating your dog when you can’t supervise her.  In my Separation Anxiety article, I discuss the relationship between initial boredom and eventual anxiety.  Crating your dog helps prevent anxiety as well as destruction, though does little for boredom.

But by crating, you break the habit of destruction when bored.  Your dog is provided two options: toy, or sleep.  You create a habit that does not include destroying the house, and eventually your dog will always choose toy, then sleep.  By thoroughly exercising your pet before crating, you provide an additional push toward sleep.

Once your dog consistently chooses sleep, you can begin providing freedom in short bursts, until your dog has proven herself capable.

The Effect of Exercise on the Destructive Dog

The 45 minutes, twice daily, of exercise your dog receives?  Your dog should, hopefully, be exhausted upon entering his crate.  He may play with his toy for a few minutes, and then will fall asleep until you return.

The Result

In the end, your destructive dog should handle herself well.  She feels both mentally and physically stimulated every day, and uses your time away as “down time.”  She snoozes while you’re out, and waits patiently for your return.

Have you used any of these tricks, or do you have any suggestions for others combating a similar situation?



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