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Understanding why dogs are destructive; Tips for harmonious living

Dogs are beloved members of countless families around the world, bringing joy, companionship, and boundless energy into our lives. However, alongside their loyalty and affection, many dogs exhibit behaviors that can be frustrating and even destructive. From chewing up personal items to digging in the yard, these behaviors can put a strain on the relationship between humans and their furry friends. In this article, we delve into the reasons behind why dogs engage in destructive behaviors and explore strategies for fostering a more cohesive and harmonious life together.

Understanding Destructive Behavior

Dogs engage in destructive behaviors for various reasons, and it's essential to understand these underlying causes before addressing the issue. Here are some common reasons why dogs exhibit destructive tendencies:

  1. Boredom and Lack of Mental Stimulation: Dogs are intelligent creatures that require mental stimulation to thrive. When left alone for extended periods or without adequate mental enrichment, dogs may resort to destructive behaviors as a way to alleviate boredom and excess energy.

  2. Anxiety and Stress: Like humans, dogs can experience anxiety and stress in response to changes in their environment, separation from their owners, or other triggers. Destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging may be a manifestation of this anxiety.

  3. Teething and Exploration: Puppies, in particular, may exhibit destructive behaviors as they go through the teething phase or when they are exploring their surroundings. Chewing on objects and digging are natural behaviors for dogs to explore and learn about their environment.

  4. Lack of Training or Boundaries: Without proper training and boundaries, dogs may not understand which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. Inconsistent or inadequate training can contribute to destructive tendencies in dogs.

  5. Genetics: No matter the breed, no matter the age, it is natural for dogs to enjoy behaviors we find destructive. Dogs can find pleasure in chewing, tearing, digging etc. and if this is the case we need to find a common ground where our dog can happily partake in these activities on our terms.

Common Destructive Behaviors

  1. Chewing: Dogs have a natural instinct to chew, which can be exacerbated by factors such as teething, boredom, or anxiety. Unfortunately, this often leads to them chewing on items such as furniture, shoes, and household objects.

  2. Digging: Digging is a common behavior in many dog breeds, driven by instincts such as hunting, exploring, or seeking shelter. However, excessive digging can result in torn-up yards and gardens.

  3. Tearing: Naturally (do you see a theme here?) dogs want to tear things up, as they are scavengers and usually have to tear what they are eating. We see this a lot with our dogs and stuffed toys.

Strategies for Mitigating Destructive Behavior

  1. Provide Mental and Physical Exercise: Engage your dog in regular physical exercise such as walks, runs, or play sessions to help expend excess energy and prevent boredom. Additionally, provide mental stimulation through interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and training sessions to keep your dog's mind engaged.

  2. Create a Safe Environment: Remove temptation by puppy-proofing your home and yard. Keep valuable or dangerous items out of reach, provide appropriate chew toys, and supervise your dog when necessary.

  3. Establish Consistent Training: Implement consistent training routines to teach your dog appropriate behaviors and set clear boundaries. Use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, treats, and rewards to reinforce desirable behaviors and discourage destructive ones.

  4. Address Underlying Anxiety: If your dog's destructive behaviors are driven by anxiety or stress, address the underlying cause with the help of a veterinarian or professional dog trainer. They can provide guidance on techniques such as desensitization, counterconditioning, and medication if necessary.

  5. Provide Alternative Outlets: Redirect your dog's natural instincts by providing alternative outlets for chewing and digging. Offer a variety of chew toys, bones, and interactive puzzles to satisfy their chewing needs, and designate a specific area in the yard where digging is allowed to dig (dig pit).


While destructive behaviors can pose challenges for dog owners, understanding the underlying reasons behind these behaviors is crucial for addressing them effectively. By providing adequate exercise, mental stimulation, training, and environmental enrichment, you can help mitigate destructive tendencies in your dog and foster a more harmonious relationship. Remember that patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement are key to building a strong bond with your furry companion and creating a happy and fulfilling life together.

Need a go-to activity? I have a DIY agility training course focusing on creating your own agility obstacles out of house-hold items to accommodate your dog's abilities.


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