Why Is My Dog Destructive When I Leave the House?

Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 30, 2018

Maybe it has happened to you. You’re just arriving home from an enchanted evening out with friends. The wine and orecchiette with spicy veggies were paired perfectly. The conversation both thrilled and disburdened. On your way up to your front door you notice that the asiatics have just come into full bloom. You open the door and call out to your best friend in the whole world, and then you see it. Strewn across the floor are the stuffing and remains of that throw pillow on which you had transferred the picture of you meeting Bryan Adams… And there is your dog. Using all of the strength within them to look you in the eyes. You meet their penitential gaze and ask the two questions burning their way up from the pit of your stomach.


“And why my Bryan Adams meet and greet pillow?”

What makes a dog destructive?

Dogs are usually destructive for 3 major reasons:

    Separation Anxiety

Destructive behavior, while sometimes infuriating to us, is in many cases a natural coping mechanism for our pups. While you may bite at your nonexistent fingernails, or sit in the bathroom sink and pluck your eyebrows, your pup relieves anxiety by digging at the floor or scratching at the door. You may find it calming to reorganize your record collection alphabetically by the title of your favorite songs, but your pup needs to rip some fluff out of a toy, carpet (gasp) couch. While we may view these destructive behaviors as “bad behaviors,” the anxiety or boredom causing them is not wrong. It is an emotion your pup is feeling that needs to be addressed one way or another.

Dogs with Separation Anxiety Can Be Destructive

Your dog loves you. Like, they’re your biggest fan. We are all Biebers in our pups’ eyes. So sometimes they just can’t stand to see you go. Certain triggers let them know you’re about to leave, causing anxiety to build. You may always say in a high pitched baby-talk voice “OK, MR. Edward Cullen Baker Buns! Daddy will be home soon!” Or you may grab your keys and twirl them around your finger like a gunfighter. Dogs are rain man-level geniuses when it comes to routines and variations within those routines. Even just changing out of your sweats can signal to them, “Hey, my stinky mom is trying to be less stinky. She’s going out! Noooooooooooooo!”

Tip #1 to Cure Your Dog’s Destructive Separation Anxiety: Change your routine.

So the trick is to never leave your pup. OR you can try to trick your pup. After all, you leaving is not what’s causing the behavior. The anxiety associated with you leaving is what needs to be relieved. If we don’t trigger that anxiety to build, destruction may not be necessary. So switch up your routines you boring human! Put your shoes on outside. Put your keys in your pocket at some random moment, rather than grabbing them on your way out the door. And, as hard as it may be, maybe don’t say goodbye to your doggo. I know. I said MAYBE.

Tip #2 to Cure Your Dog’s Destructive Separation Anxiety: Distract your pup.

Another method is to change your pup’s brain chemistry to view you leaving as positive (think Pavlov & the bell, or fast food and the sodium). Treat dispensing toys are a great way to do this. But again, routines… If you’re going to try and distract your dog with a yummy treat or tantalizing puzzle, you can’t just only offer this anytime you are leaving. Offer the same treat or puzzle randomly when you are not going anywhere at all so your pup won’t recognize it as a goodbye kiss.

Your dog might be destructive because they’re bored.

Your pup is smart, and they need an outlet for all of that brain energy. One outlet is chewing. The key is to monitor and control what they chew. This, of course, will depend on your particular doggo and their chompers. And no, size really doesn’t matter. A great Dane may carry and protect its stuffed squeaky toy like a newborn pup while a 4 pound Yorkie may chew chunks off of a nylon bone in the minute you took your eye off of them to throw your sweats in the wash (finally!). You know your dog best, and supervision is always of the utmost importance. So find the right toy for their tooths and let them do some aggressive arithmetic to keep the boredom at bay. PS– If you’re looking for an easy way to get a new delivery of toys and treats each month, check out BarkBox! This link will give you a free extra toy each month. <– This deal is worth up to $108 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription!

Your dog might be destructive because they’re a puppy.

You wanted a puppy? You got a puppy! And with that puppy comes an overactive mind and a little set of chompers that need to be put to work in order to ease those growing pains. Again, supervision is key! Find what works for your little one, but also mix it up a bit. A tough chew toy here, a plush toy to de-fluff there. Tug toys. Fetch toys. Keep them busy and you’ll hopefully keep your house intact. Plus, let’s face it. These puppy months go by so fast. You may feel exhausted keeping up with that little scamp right now, but you’re gonna miss this. So play away and keep destruction at bay!

In Conclusion:

If your pup is prone to destructive behaviors, you want your pup in a place they can not get hurt, or eat something that may become a hazardous or emergency situation. Trying to introduce crate training will take an additional step, but if done correctly, can keep your pup safe as well as provide an extra level of comfort for you.

Want some toys your pup can destroy under your supervision so they don’t eat the couch instead? Get them a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Our treats are made in the USA and Canada, and our recipes never contain any wheat, soy, or corn. Because we want #BarkBoxDay to be incredible for pups AND their parents, every box is wrapped in a fun surprise theme that changes monthly. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $108 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

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Written by: Dr. Katy Nelson

October 30, 2018

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