Help! My Dog Is Destroying My House (and Yard)

Get a handle on your dog's destructive behavior inside and outside your house with positive training methods and enrichment.

Published May 27, 2023
border collie after tearing the stuffing of a cushion

Destructive dog behavior can be very frustrating to deal with.The good news is, there's a lot you can do to resolve your dog's behavior. To get a handle on the situation, it's important to understand why your dog is acting out. Most of the time, there is something wrong that needs to be fixed. Or there's miscommunication with your dog. No matter what the reason is, you can address it to get your dog back to normal.

Why Dogs Turn Destructive

Before addressing your dog's destructive behavior, it's important to understand why they're being destructive. Some common reasons for bad habits in dogs include:

  • Boredom: Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy and happy. If your dog is bored, they may resort to destructive behaviors to entertain themselves.
  • Separation anxiety: Some dogs become anxious when left alone, which may result in destroying the house to help manage their stress.
  • Inadequate training: Dogs that haven't been taught proper boundaries may not understand that certain behaviors are unacceptable.
  • Teething: Puppies go through a teething phase, during which they may chew on anything in sight to relieve their discomfort.

We'll talk about each of these along with how you can handle difficulties along the way. Be aware that if you're dealing with puppy teething, you'll need to provide teething toys. Most of call, keep in mind that, as your puppy's teeth come in, the behavior tends to stop. So just make sure they have the teething support they need and help them deal with the discomfort, and the behavior should resolve.

How to Address Destructive Behavior

You can address most destructive dog behaviors with some training. Your dog needs to learn that they can't behave destructively and still get what they want. Each behavior needs to be addressed on its own and be redirected to a desired behavior.

My Dog is Tearing Up Our Furniture

It's a nightmare to come home to. You were away for a few hours, and your dog decided to go exploring ... with their teeth, inside your family room furniture. Your couch now looks like the scene of a stuffed animal homicide, and you're understandably upset with your dog.

How to address the behavior: First thing, don't try to punish your dog. The event is long over, and they won't understand. Instead, try to redirect their behavior. Your dog is likely having issues with separation anxiety, and they are acting out because they're frustrated, bored, and feeling stressed because they're alone.

Make sure they have a ton of chew toys they enjoy before you leave. You can keep a few toys separate that you only give your dog when you leave. It's also a good idea to spray down corners of your furniture with chew deterrent. These are spicy or bitter sprays that encourage your dog not to chew. Combine these two ideas to give your dog something positive to chew, and a strong indicator that they shouldn't gnaw on the furniture.

Quick Tip

If you plan to be gone for a while, seriously consider a pet sitter. If your dog is stuck at home for long periods (even with someone coming to check on them), there's a higher chance they might turn destructive.

My Dog Is Tearing Up Their Bed

You can't continuously buy new beds for your dog. But every time you walk in, it looks like the bed exploded. Your dog might just be stressing out, or they might be bored. Also, some dogs might dig at bedding for comfort reasons.

How to address the behavior: Keep your dog busy with toys and treats so they have mental stimulation when they're indoors. You should also try giving them more attention during the day and providing plenty of exercise. A tired dog is a happy dog.

My Dog Won't Stop Digging

Puppy destroying flower

Your dog might dig excessively for a variety of reasons, including boredom, anxiety, comfort, or instinct. To stop excessive digging, it is important to address the root cause of the behavior. Providing appropriate outlets for your dog's digging, such as a designated digging area or toys to play with, can redirect their energy away from destructive digging.

How to address the behavior: Spending more time exercising and playing with your dog can help alleviate boredom and stress, which may also contribute to excessive digging behavior. It's also helpful to supervise your dog when they are outside to discourage digging in inappropriate areas and to use positive reinforcement to encourage appropriate digging behavior, especially if you have a specified digging area.

They Keep Getting Into the Garbage

Cute shih tzu dog playing with toilet paper on the floor

Dogs are naturally curious creatures with a keen sense of smell, which often leads them to explore the interesting aromas coming from the garbage. Smells of leftover food, packaging, and other items can trigger a dog's instinctual drive to scavenge and forage. This behavior may also be a result of boredom, hunger, or simply seeking attention from their owner.

How to address the behavior: To prevent your dog from getting into the garbage, it is essential to address the underlying cause. Ensure your pet receives adequate physical and mental stimulation through regular exercise and plenty of play. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule and consider using a slow feeder or food puzzle to keep them occupied during mealtime.

Secure your garbage cans with a tight-fitting lid or locking garbage can. You can also place garbage cans in a locked cabinet to deter your dog's curiosity. Positive reinforcement training can also be an effective way to teach your dog to avoid the garbage and focus on more appropriate activities.

My Dog Keeps Ruining Their Toys

Some toys just don't hold up to your dog's teeth. But this can be dangerous. The most common toy-related emergency calls to veterinarians are for gastrointestinal obstruction caused by dog toys. These toys can cause obstructions by getting caught in the throat or digestive tract or by causing a tear in the intestines.

How to address the behavior: Make sure you purchase toys that are going to hold up during your dog's playtime. Kongs, for example, are a commonly chosen toy for aggressive chewers. You may also want to consider single-ingredient air-dried bones for your dog to chew on.

Mt Dog Won't Stop Chewing Shoes

Training your dog to chew on appropriate objects, such as chew toys, and providing plenty of options can help prevent destructive chewing. It is important to avoid punishing your dog for destructive chewing.

How to address the behavior: Punishment or scolding can worsen anxiety and other underlying issues. Instead, redirect your dog's chewing behavior to appropriate objects and provide positive reinforcement for good behavior.

Mouthing in Puppies

Playful dog biting human's hand

Mouthing is one of the most common dog behaviors, and it's also one of the most misunderstood. Many people think that mouthing is bad and should be discouraged entirely, but this isn't necessarily true. It's just part of being a puppy. Puppies have to learn how to chew through teething, which means they might mouth on your clothes or toys while they're working through their teeth.

How to address the behavior: If you punish your pup for this behavior or try to stop them from doing it at all costs, then they may learn that mouthing is something they shouldn't do in general. Instead of punishing your pup when they start chewing on inappropriate objects, encourage them by offering something appropriate for them to chew on instead. This way, your pup can still satisfy their urge without destroying your belongings.

Help Your Dog Overcome Their Anxiety

Most of the time, your dog is stressed or lonely. With some effort, a few chew toys, training, and attention to their needs, you should be able to get your dog to refocus and stop being destructive. If your dog is exhibiting destructive behaviors, address them as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it will be for both of you to get back to normal. Take care of the issue now for a more well-rounded pooch.

Help! My Dog Is Destroying My House (and Yard)