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Although scratching is behavior more associated with our feline friends, many dogs pick up the unfortunate hobby. Destructive behaviors are as frustrating as they are confusing, especially if they came out of nowhere.
Why would your beloved pet want to destroy your house? Why do dogs scratch walls?
There are many reasons your dog may be scratching the wall, but chances are they are anxious or bored. They may also be reacting to something they hear in the wall or simply be trying to get your attention.
We’ll look at 5 major reasons your dog might be scratching your walls and how you can help them stop.
Reason 1: Your Dog Is Anxious
Anxiety in dogs is unfortunately very common. In fact, recent research shows that more than 70% of dogs display anxiety in one way or another.
According to the study, most acute anxiety was caused by loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms. Another commonly reported factor was fear due to new people or animals.
But if your dog’s scratching isn’t situational, it may be caused by separation anxiety or even an anxiety disorder. Other signs of anxiety include panting, drooling, urination and defecation in the house, aggression, or other destructive behaviors. We’ll go into more detail further in this article on how you help your dog’s anxiety as it relates to scratching walls.
It’s also worth noting that anxiety can be quite subtle in some dogs even though it can explain a lot of strange or weird behavior. Signs like panting, pacing, and vocalizing are obvious but scratching the wall and more subtle changes in behavior could be signs of anxiety as well so make sure you’re looking at the big picture of your dog’s behavior.
Reason 2: Your Dog Is Bored
Dogs have been historically bred for a variety of jobs, from herding to even running on wheels to turn spits. In other words, dogs aren’t used to simply sitting around all day.
Although some breeds are more prone to boredom than others, all dogs require a certain amount of exercise.
When they are lacking mental or physical stimulation, dogs often find ways to entertain themselves. Unfortunately, the resulting behavior is often destructive, such as chewing, digging, and of course, scratching. Further in the article are ways to help a dog fight off boredom and destructive behaviors.
Boredom could be especially likely if you’ve recently started taking on more hours or your pup’s usual playmate is no longer in the home.
Reason 3: Your Dog Hears Something In The Wall
A common cause of wall-scratching is that your dog has sensed a mouse or insect in the walls. Although you may not hear any sort of movement in your walls, that doesn’t mean your dog can’t. After all, dogs have hearing four times more sensitive than humans and can detect significantly higher frequencies!
Head tilting, barking, whining, staring at the wall, growling and sniffing the wall all support the possibility that your pooch detects something. If your dog shows these behaviors, it may be time for further examination. You can try listening on your own or contacting pest control services.
Reason 4: Your Dog Is Trying To Get Your Attention
Although dogs can’t speak, they typically do a good job of communicating with us through body language and sound. Unfortunately, some things aren’t easy for them to communicate.
If your dog is scratching the wall, they may be trying to get your attention to let you know they want something. They may want food or water, but chances are your dog is simply ready for a bathroom break! This is especially likely if they are scratching on or near the door.
In the future, you can provide your dog with a better way to get your attention, like ringing a bell. If that doesn’t work, you can simply take them out more often.
Reason 5: You May Be Encouraging Your Dog
Although you probably aren’t intending to, there’s a distinct possibility you’ve been encouraging your dog to engage in unwanted behaviors. If you give your dog attention (scolding counts too!) or even redirect them for treats whenever they scratch the wall, you may have just taught your dog an annoying trick.
Why wouldn’t a dog keep scratching the wall when scratching equals rewards?
The best way to prevent your dog from scratching in the future is to prevent the behavior before it happens by rewarding them for engaging in a preferred activity.
What To Do If Your Dog Is Scratching The Wall
Let’s break down a few steps to solve this frustrating canine problem.
Remember Your Dog Isn’t Trying To Make Your Mad
It’s easy to look at your scratched (maybe even ruined!) walls and think your dog has it out for you. After all, why else would they want to destroy your house?
That said, secondary emotions like spite and guilt are highly complex not known to exist in dogs currently. For as emotionally and intellectually complex as dogs can be, it’s very unlikely your dog is scratching your walls to upset you or get revenge.
Help An Anxious Dog With Home Remedies Or Veterinary Assistance
While the exact treatment for your dog’s anxiety depends on its cause, there are many ways you can help your pooch.
If the stress is caused by a specific thing, ideally you can remove it. More often though, you will find yourself having to help your dog deal with frightening environments or situations.
With careful training from yourself or a trainer, your dog may be desensitized or counter-conditioned to the stressful stimulus.
Although there are not many studies to prove or disprove their effectiveness, many veterinarians and owners report reduced stress with anxiety compression wraps. Similarly, research on the effects of CBD oil on dogs is still in the early stages, but many veterinarians and owners have anecdotal success with it.
If your dog’s anxiety is still unmanageable, a veterinarian can examine them and possibly prescribe anti-anxiety medication.
Give Your Dog A Physical (And Mental) Workout
There are thankfully many ways to reduce your dog’s boredom. Exercise is not only good for a dog’s health, but it’s a lot of fun!
Going on walks is particularly stimulating for our canine friends, as they get exposed to new sights, sounds, and smells. The desire for dogs to explore their surroundings is as healthy as it is instinctual, as their wild counterparts regularly walk 30 miles a day.
You could also train your dog to keep them busy. Outside of basic obedience, there are still plenty of things for your dog to do. With plenty of work, dogs can learn complex routines and have a lot of fun, as seen in the video below.
Active dogs benefit from sports like agility or flyball, but even lazy dogs can enjoy scent work or other finding games.
Get Some New Toys
Another easy way to entertain your dog is to spice up their toy repertoire. Dogs have been scientifically proven to have neophilia, meaning they have an innate attraction to newness.
You don’t necessarily have to buy new toys for your pup, but bringing out old favorites or even adding scents to present toys can rekindle interest in play.
Interactive puzzle toys are often excellent boredom-busters for dogs, as problem-solving taps into the reward center in your dog’s brain. Difficult sliding puzzles can keep a dog occupied for hours, but a simple treat dispenser or even a slow feeder can do the trick.
Even better, consider toys that mimic the scratching motion for pups that have a tendency to scratch the wall. While it’s not a perfect match, toys for dogs that like to dig could work well.
Ramp Up Your Pup’s Social Life
As man’s best friend, dogs are as socially oriented as an animal can get. Spending a few extra minutes playing fetch or giving belly rubs can really brighten up your pup’s day.
But as much as your dog would like it, you can’t be there for them constantly.
If your dog is showing signs of anxiety or boredom such as wall scratching, it might be a good idea to expand their social circle. Doggy daycare is a great way for your pup to get out their energy and meet new dogs while you are away.
If your pet isn’t too keen on four-legged company, a pet sitter or dog walker during the day might keep them less lonely as well.
Consider Wall Guards Last
You may run into a few folks that suggest covering your walls with a hard plastic cover or a similar device designed to prevent dogs from damaging the wall. These can work but the problem is that they don’t actually solve the root of the problem.
Canine anxiety and boredom are real problems that need to be solved not covered up with a wall guard. Just as important are your dog’s bathroom breaks and if your pup is scratching the wall in an attempt to get you to let them out, then that’s the problem that needs to be solved first. Dogs can’t hold their pee as long as many people think and the health of your dog’s bladder is more important than your wall!
On top of all that, wall covers and guards aren’t exactly the most aesthetically pleasing additions to your home! So focus on solving the root of the problem rather than covering it up with a wall guard.
What NOT To Do If Your Dog Is Scratching The Wall
One of the worst things you can do if your dog is scratching the wall is to yell at them. Not only does yelling not help whatever is causing the issue, but it may even worsen the behavior.
Even if they temporarily stop scratching, yelling may worsen your dog’s anxiety. If your dog is scratching out of boredom then you may have just encouraged the behavior by giving them attention.
Instead of just trying to prevent the behavior, your priority should be on solving the underlying issue.
Should I Worry If My Dog Is Scratching The Wall?
If your dog started scratching the wall out of nowhere, you should take note. Although it is unlikely to be an emergency, there are many reasons your dog could be scratching the wall, carpets and rugs, or anything else and most of them require your direct attention.
If your dog shows any signs of sickness or if they are eating drywall, it’s worth contacting your vet. Even if your dog’s issue isn’t medical, taking steps to identify and fix the cause is important.
It may be frustrating when your dog starts scratching the wall out of nowhere, but it can also be a very useful sign.
You may have just been given a warning that you have an infestation in the walls, or perhaps your pooch is trying to prevent a mess on your carpet.
As this article has shown, there’s a good chance your dog is scratching out of anxiety or boredom. Thankfully, with a little time and care, you can help your pup overcome these issues.
When it comes to helping your dog overcome any troubling behaviors, it’s always worthwhile to contact a professional. Above all, be patient with your pup, and do your best to find a solution that matches the cause.