Why is your dog displaying destructive tendencies? Many people erroneously believe that destructive dog behavior means their dog is punishing them for being left alone. This is quite untrue, as most dog trainers and dog behaviorists will confirm. Let me show you with examples from with my two young rescued dogs, along with a couple of basic dog training pointers.
All dogs have a lot of energy. The more high energy the breed, the more exercise your canine requires. If you have a problem with dog hyperactivity or over-excitation, insufficient exercise may be a root cause. The same holds true for destructive behavior in dogs.
What to do?
Walks and ball-chasing are great ways for your dog to exercise. That is a daily requirement. Also, you can put the dog on a treadmill for 30 minutes or so. Yes, it is good for dogs just as for people, for cardio-vascular health, weight control, muscle toning, and stress release.
Psychological challenges are very critical, too, in reducing destructive or aggressive behaviors. Common challenges experienced on walks include such “attractive nuisances” as passing cyclists, squirrels taunting the would-be chaser, and the inevitable encounters with other humans and dogs. These can make a dog very excited, forgetting his leash training, and sometimes incite his protective, territorial, or dominance instincts or aggressive tendencies.
I never allow my dogs to say hello to humans or other dogs when they are over-excited. Greeting an unfamiliar dog this way is rude in the dog world.
The younger of my two dogs, Joy, does tend to become over-excited when she sees another dog. Sometimes I remove her from the situation. Other times I have her sit or lie down as the other dog walks by. Sometimes I intentionally expose her as a training exercise.
Joy is catching on as any dog will, and is rewarded with permission to say hello if she is calm. As she learns to control this excitement during her exercise walks, her self-control and obedience in other areas increases as well . . . including right behavior if alone, and avoidance of destructive or aggressive tendencies.
The coming together of two over-excited dogs for a first-time meeting (quite different from the understandably excited greeting of old friends) can result in a fight. Not always, but frequently. The overly-excited dogs must be separated.
In a first-time meeting of two dogs, if aggression seems evident, WALK the dogs together with the people in between to separate and control them. (This can also be done with one excited and one calm dog, but not with two over-excited ones.) Have two people take them on walks together regularly until they acclimate. That’s what we do.
With my dogs, there was no aggression but clear excitement on Joy’s part when they were introduced, but obviously time was needed for the two to explore each other and to establish a pecking order. With only one excited pup, a friend and I frequently walk the two dogs together.
As the dogs get worn out from the joint walk, they are more calm and relaxed with each other. Aggression toward each other or general “snits” are far less likely then, and they are too tired to tear up a yard or house!
I have no destructive dog behavior problems with my dogs because they are walked about two miles every day. They also have at least an hour of playtime with each other or with me daily. Note: There is nothing wrong with more than one hour of play — Just be sure you control it!
I also gave Joy plenty of toys as a young pup, so she always had something of her own on which to chew and did not suffer from boredom. She loved her toys, and so she had no interest in my things. She even recognized the names I gave to her individual toys, and by six-seven months old, she would retrieve the specific toy from her toy box on command and bring it to me for play!
With Labrador blood and a great mouthing need, Joy also destroyed her toys faster and more completely than I have ever seen anywhere. Even things labeled indestructible! She viewed that as her hunt and kill duty and displayed her handiwork with great pride. She felt she had a purpose as she accepted and destroyed her own things — never mine. We had NO destructive chewing problem with this puppy, even during the teething periods, which is almost unheard of for a Lab!
Destructive behavior in mature dogs is caused by energy bursts. If the energy is drained through exercise, however, there is no need to tear something up to get rid of the energy. Obsessive behavior of any kind in a dog — from jumping, running, fixation on balls, whatever — a result of an energy burst.
The solution? Exercise!
Aggressive dogs need more exercise than any other. Aggression usually comes out in a dog who is anxious, fearful, undisciplined, or dominant. Aggression dog dominance, people aggression, and other dog aggression issues will be addressed in other articles and are not within the purview of this one. However, it is important to note that while taking away the dog’s energy through exercise does not solve the underlying problem, nevertheless, it sure helps to lessen its impact!
Owners must be cognizant of their dogs’ exercise requirements. It is not an option nor a matter of what is convenient. It is a necessity! Do not have a dog if you cannot provide for this most basic need.
Remember, too, that any sort of dog behavior you don’t like must be handled immediately. Dogs live in the moment and stay in it until it is addressed.