Home Wreckers- how to change destructive behavior with some dog savvy tips

Is your dog’s chewing or destructive behaviour not only wrecking your home, but stressing you out or putting more stress on your relationship at home?

Have they chewed your furniture, your best shoes, destroyed parts of your home or garden and there seems to be no sign of stopping?

This is a really Big problem in a lot of dog-owning homes and I’m going to help you to not only understand why but help you stop the demolition!

firstly lets Bust a few Myths on destructive behaviour;

Myth One- Your dog is destroying things ‘on purpose’ because you have left him alone.


There is some truth to this but probably not for the reasons you think. Dogs don’t do things out of spite or for revenge, nor do they think, ‘I’ll show you what happens when you leave me here on my own’.  Dog’s do not feel emotions like this, what is happening is that when your dog feels stressed, uncomfortable or anxious, it’s stress hormones in his body are heightened. What most dogs learn from an early age is that chewing releases endorphins, the ‘feel good’ effect of these then help them cope with the situation.

Myth Two- Your dog looks ‘guilty’ when you come home so you know he’s been doing something bad

If  ‘guilty’ means lowering their body or crawling, ears flattened, tail down or between their legs and eyes softened or almost squinting, this is very submissive behaviour from your dog.

If you come home every day to something that has been chewed or destroyed you will probably be in a pattern by now. On the way home you will be thinking about what has already been destroyed, this is going to annoy you, then you will be thinking ‘what am I going to find today when I walk in’ and this is going to stress you out further. Before you even walk in the door you probably have a big negative black cloud above your head. If you don’t live on your own it’s probably not just the dog who makes themselves scarce when you come home. Your dog has connected the dots and come up with You coming home = You in a bad mood

Even when we don’t find something chewed or the tell-tale puddle, we stomp around the house looking for evidence and growling at the dog ‘what did you do?’. Your dog is heading for the closest hiding place at speed because he knows you are in no mood for any kind of communication right now, better wait until the dust settles. Sound familiar?

OK, maybe your dog isn’t quite that bad, look out for these 7 signs below

7 signs that your dog is suffering from separation Anxiety

  • Howling
  • Barking
  • Pacing
  • excessive Panting
  • Urinating or toileting inside
  • excessive or obsessive chewing or licking themselves
  • chewing or destruction of property

What is behind SA?

To put it in a nutshell, your dog, in his head, is trying to be the head of the household and is not coping with the stress of the job. Let me put this another way. A dog is a social creature, we all know this but what we dont always know or remember is that a dog needs a leader,a head of the family lets say. Someone to keep order, keep everyone safe and make the big decisions for the family. This of course is the humans role as we best understand our world of hoovers, UPS delivery guys, school runs, business hours, window washers, lawnmowers, sleep overs, holidays and so on that our dog will never, ever understand.

So how does your dog end up having this job? Usually because he has seen us lose it, sometimes quite literally. He has spotted a chink in your armour of being leader, there are many things here which can be seen as chinks but the main one is your inconsistent behaviour around the dog. Being human we are naturally quite lazy and we like short cuts and doing things the ‘easy’ way rather than the ‘best’ way. This isn’t how our dogs think though and if you aren’t leadership material, a new one must be elected! Here is where he gets the job whether he wants it or not. Why? Because a family must have a leader. It’s that basic. It is about survival of the family in what ever shape it comes.

7 Tips to being Head of the Household

  1. Leaders are cool, calm and confident, even in a crisis. If you’ve had a bad day and need a scream or a cry or are just not in the mood for dealing with your dog at this moment. Quietly put him outside or in another room, have a cup of tea and wait til you have calmed down before you say hello or deal with your dog.
  2. Be consistent with your pooch at all times. Check out my post on Consistency is the key to success
  3. Give your dog attention on your terms not his, when you are ready.
  4. Build up to longer separations by practising shorter ones while you are at home. Start closing doors behind you and stop letting your dog follow you everywhere. Ad breaks are great practise times. Limiting access to some areas of the house can help too, have some ‘No Dog’ rooms just for the humans.
  5. Give him some specific Boredom Busting toys. This will focus his chewing and give him something to occupy his mind. Kongs and Nylabones are good starter toys which are hard to destroy fast.
  6. If you have a real demolition expert, crate training is a great way to minimise damage. It also gives your dog his own space where he can take himself off to when he wants a nap. Again you must build up spending time in a crate and connect it with good things, like food. Apart from sleeping overnight in a crate I don’t recommend you keep your dog crated for more than 4 hours at any one time.
  7. If you are having big separation Anxiety issues, seek professional advice and help from a Dog Behaviorist or Dog Listener. Dog Trainers usually deal with obedience issues, SA is a much deeper issue and needs to be dealt with at the root cause which is usually something going on at home. You can contact me via My Website for more info or coaching about this issue.

I hope this helps you on your way to having a happier and more care-free dog. Please feel free to comment below or Sign Up to follow my helpful hints and tips by email- on the right hand side.

Thank You

Bernie – The Dog Owners Coach

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7 responses to “Home Wreckers- how to change destructive behavior with some dog savvy tips”

  1. jmbills says :

    Thanks for the great tips.

  2. Christine says :

    Some great insights and tips! I did not think about our mood being connected to the dog’s behavior, but it makes sense!

    • 4dogday says :

      our dog’s senses go way beyond our own Christine, that’s why they make such good companions to us and help us in detecting cancer, bombs, drugs and alert us before seizures or natural disasters! We forget how amazing they are.

  3. Kathy Loftus says :

    This makes so much sense. Thank you for the tips Bernie

  4. Michelle says :

    Bernie, a great post. Having a family leader is very familiar for many animals and it’s amusing how dogs will take on the position of leader and even challenge us every now and again for it. They each have their own personalities and with some being more anxious than others, I agree it’s important for us to be consistent with them and seek help when we need it.

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