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Have you ever come home after a long day of work only to open the door and discover that your dog has destroyed your door frame and maybe even other items, like their bed?
It’s never a good feeling when you come home and see that your dog has had a big day destroying your house. Some dogs destroy their bedding or toys or even their owner’s shoes, but it can be a serious issue if your dog is chewing your door frame.
Not only can this be an expensive cosmetic fix, but it can also pose a risk to your dog. Door frames are made of wood; if your dog ingests the wood, he can be at risk of the wood splintering and causing intestinal issues.
So the question is, why is your dog chewing the door frame?
Dogs can be destructive and end up chewing the door frame for many reasons. Some dogs may chew door frames simply because they’re bored or trying to eliminate excessive energy. On the other hand, some dogs may be dealing with underlying severe emotional issues like separation anxiety, fear, or even medical conditions.
Chances are, if you’re reading this article, your dog has chewed your door frame at some point, so let’s go ahead and unpack this topic by discussing why your dog is chewing your door frame.
Reason 1: Chewing Is A Natural Behavior
As annoying as it can be for you, chewing is actually a natural behavior for dogs. Wolves and even feral dogs scavenge for food and then spend time ripping and chewing meat from prey. Chewing can actually be good for their dental health! As dogs chew, they can strengthen and exercise their jaws while keeping their teeth clean.
If you’ve ever seen a dog with a chew toy or bone, you know that many dogs could chew for hours if we’d let them. Since chewing is such an instinctive behavior, dogs find great joy in chewing.
While we’d prefer our dogs to chew on appropriate chew toys, sometimes they end up chewing on inappropriate items, like door frames or your favorite shoes, instead.
If your dog wants to chew on something because that instinct behavior is kicking in, it may just be that your door frame is the closest object available.
Reason 2: Boredom
Similar to the reason listed above, if your dog is bored and has nothing better to do, they may start eating away at the door frame to entertain themself if there are no other toys or objects around. Just like people, dogs get bored. There’s only so much a dog can do to entertain itself, and one of those main ways is chewing.
One of the critical factors in making sure that dogs don’t get bored is to make sure that you’re meeting all of their exercise and mental stimulation needs.
Dogs need to be physically exercised and mentally stimulated to be happy, calm, and content. If these basic needs aren’t met, they have excess energy that they try to get rid of, which is often destructive, like eating the door frame or eating objects they shouldn’t.
Reason 3: Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety is one of the most common and more severe reasons your dog is chewing the door frame. Separation anxiety in dogs is defined as a condition in which a dog exhibits distress and behavior problems when separated from its owner. These are often destructive behaviors ranging from door frames to dog beds and everything in between.
Separation anxiety usually occurs in dogs when the owner leaves home, but it can occur in other circumstances too.
Since separation anxiety depends on the dog’s mental and emotional state, it’s difficult to understand precisely what is happening, but scientists are studying this to understand it better. We know that some dogs are highly affected by separation anxiety while others aren’t, and we’re still trying to figure out why that is.
When discussing dogs and their destructive behaviors while the owner is away from home, many people may downplay the seriousness of separation anxiety. It may be helpful to think of separation anxiety in dogs as similar to a panic attack in a person.
These are severe issues that can end in bodily harm. A quick Google search or maybe even a chat with a friend will show you that some dogs have gone so far as eating through entire walls and breaking through glass doors due to separation anxiety.
Why Is My Dog Chewing The Door Frame When Left Alone?
When dealing with separation anxiety, dogs often experience various symptoms like vocalization, destruction, escaping, panting/shaking, and urinating/defecating. A dog chewing a door frame is usually a clear sign of separation anxiety because they’re experiencing destruction and escape behaviors due to the anxiety.
Destructive Behaviors And An Attempt To Escape
Many dogs that chew on door frames due to separation anxiety tend to chew one door frame in particular – the door that the owner exits. That’s because dogs are smart animals, and they associate the owner leaving with that one door.
When the dog is feeling anxious and trying to escape, they often chew on the door frame the owner left because that is their attempt to escape. They could also chew or scratch other areas around the door like the carpet but the idea is the same.
In a dog’s mind, chewing on a door frame serves two purposes: to attempt to escape and release the anxious energy by chewing.
How To Stop Dog From Chewing on Door Frame
As we’ve already mentioned, chewing on door frames is not only another household repair you’ll have to add to your to-do list, but it can also be harmful to your dog.
When your dog chews off the door frame, he’s chewing through sharp pieces of wood, which can cause dental issues and cause his mouth or tongue to blood. In some severe cases, if your dog ingests the wood, he’s at risk for intestinal perforations.
Establish A Routine
Dogs thrive on routine and are more content when they know what to expect. If you can establish a regular daily routine, this will help your dog understand and predict the day more. Your dog will be better equipped to know when he can expect to be played with and fed and when he’ll be given attention.
Meet Your Dog’s Needs
As we’ve already mentioned, it’s essential to ensure that you’re meeting your dog’s physical exercise and mental stimulation needs is incredibly important. Taking your dog on a walk and playing fetch in the backyard are both excellent ways to ensure he’s getting his exercise.
You can consider feeding from a puzzle toy instead of a bowl, trick training, and even playing with new chew toys to meet his mental stimulation needs.
Teach Your Dog To Settle
In today’s world, our dogs are often busy and come with us to many places. Most dog owners enroll their dogs in obedience classes, but there can be a skill that many dogs are missing – and that’s how to be calm.
We’re often so busy teaching our dogs what to do that we forget to teach them to be calm and relaxed. Working on a relaxation protocol can be incredibly helpful. This detailed and specific day-by-day training plan helps you teach your dog to lie in one spot and become relaxed.
Hire A Dog Trainer
Suppose you already have a consistent routine, have ensured that all of your dog’s needs are met, and have taught your dog how to hang out and be relaxed. In that case, chances are that your dog may have separation anxiety, and you need to address that specifically through training.
Working with a professional dog trainer to overcome severe separation anxiety training is lengthy and time-consuming. It involves breaking the training down into baby steps and initially only being away from home for 1-2 minutes and working up to several hours. In some cases, this entire process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
Since separation anxiety is a complex behavioral issue, getting help from a trained and experienced professional is essential. Many trainers still practice outdated training advice, like keeping your dog with separation anxiety in a crate. While crates can be helpful, they can actually be incredibly harmful to dogs with separation anxiety. When looking for a trainer, find a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer since they’ll likely already be experienced with dogs chewing dogs.
In some very severe separation anxiety cases, consider speaking with your vet or seeing a veterinary behaviorist. Dogs with separation anxiety are in extreme emotional distress. Sometimes, a veterinary behaviorist may need to prescribe medication to help regulate your dog’s mental state so that the training you do can be more successful.
As you’ll see in the video below, it’s important to work with a trainer to create an actual training protocol that teaches your dog to feel comfortable and calm, so that he can be happy and calm while you’re out of the house. A thorough training program will teach your dog that the correct behavior is to lay die or chew on an appropriate chew toy but not chew on door frames.
If you work on separation anxiety training with a trainer, they’ll likely explain the importance of leaving quietly. When you leave your home, it’s best to go quietly. This keeps your dog calm and relaxed. If you make a big fuss while leaving and tell your dog goodbye over and over, that could cause your dog to have anxious energy and worsen separation anxiety issues.
Leave A Puzzle Toy
For most dogs, it’s easy to handle their owner leaving when they can put their energy and focus into figuring out a puzzle toy.
This occupies your dog as you leave, so they aren’t too worried or concerned when you leave. Plus, puzzle toys are fun and filled with treats or food, so your dog will be happy and think of this toy as a special treat.
How Can I Leave Immediately And Prevent Damage?
Unfortunately, even if your dog has separation anxiety, chances are that you can’t wait until you’ve worked on training to leave your home. You can’t wait months and will need to leave your house at some time.
So that leaves us with the question – how can you leave your home now and prevent damage?
Leave Your Dog With Trusted People
Of course, the main reason that dogs have separation anxiety is that they’re separated from their person. If you have to leave your dog, it’s best to leave them with a trusted friend, family member, or even a young neighbor. If that’s not an option, consider hiring a pet sitter, or dog walker or even taking your dog to a doggie daycare if they like other dogs.
Get Creative With Furniture Barricades
If you have to leave and can’t leave your dog with a trusted person, you could try to get creative with chairs, x-pens, or other furniture to barricade the door frames to prevent your dog from even accessing them.
Of course, this can be tricky if you need to squeeze through the furniture barricade so you can use the door to leave. Plus, setting this up can get annoying every time you need to leave your house.
Use a Deterrent Spray
Deterrent sprays are frequently used in puppy training. There is a range of deterrent sprays for different scenarios. There are sprays to prevent your puppy from marking inside, and bitter apple sprays to prevent your dog from chewing, and more.
If you’re in a hurry to leave, you could try spraying down the door frame with a bitter apple spray to deter your dog from chewing it. However, many dogs aren’t bothered by the taste of the bitter apple and will chew right through it, so understand that this option may not work. And while there are other smells and tastes dogs don’t like, they aren’t all safe.
If you want to try this option, try it for the first time when you’ll only be gone for a short time to see how your dog responds.
While these options will help you leave your house immediately and will hopefully ensure your dog isn’t destroying your door frame, it’s essential to understand that these three options are simply quick fixes to try to get you out the door. Still, they are not long-term solutions because they’re not addressing the underlying problems and reasons for your dog chewing the door frame.
What Do I Do If I Come Home To A Mess?
While it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying to come home to a mess you must clean up, and it’s important to remember to stay calm and levelheaded.
Anytime you come home, you should enter quietly and gently ignore your dog for the first few minutes after you arrive. This is similar to the tip about leaving quietly that we listed above. This helps your dog understand that departures and arrivals are nothing to get worked up or stressed out about.
If your dog has made a mess, you don’t want to yell at your dog or scold him. First, your dog likely made the mess hours before, so he doesn’t understand that what you’re yelling at him for now is in relation to what he did hours ago. Second, as we’ve established, most dogs eat door frames because they have underlying stress, fear, or anxiety. Yelling and scolding will contribute to those feelings and could worsen your dog.
Dogs can chew door frames for several reasons, but most dogs seem to chew door frames due to separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is a severe behavioral concern. Dogs in such serious emotional distress can cause serious harm, so working with a trainer and your vet is essential to help ease your dog’s anxiety.