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It’s common knowledge that puppies can be destructive, but it can be very concerning if your normally well-behaved dog is suddenly destroying things.
Not only is a sudden change in behavior for dogs worrisome, but it can also be frustrating for you, as the owner, having to clean up the mess and spend more money to replace items.
So the question is – why is your dog suddenly destroying things?
Anytime your pet has a sudden change in behavior, there is cause for concern since it can indicate a deeper underlying issue. If your dog is suddenly destroying your things, this could be caused by boredom, stress, separation anxiety, or medical problems. It could even be something as simple as attention-seeking behavior.
As a dog owner, you’re used to seeing your dog partake in a normal amount of chewing, but this new destructive behavior is likely concerning you. So, let’s dissect the possible reasons your dog is destroying things, and what you can do to prevent this behavior!
Why Is My Dog Suddenly Destructive?
As we’ve mentioned above, as a dog owner, you expect your dog to chew on things. However, you don’t expect your normally well-behaved, non-destructive dog to start engaging in destructive behaviors.
Just like humans, dogs can have bad days and not feel well. As dogs get older, they can’t tell us how they’re feeling, so it’s up to us, as their owners, to pay attention to their behaviors and body language to understand what may be going on with them.
Older dogs that have never been destructive before and are now suddenly being destructive are doing it for some underlying reason. Dogs don’t just start new behaviors out of nowhere! The reasons causing this new behavior can range from something simple like boredom or stress to more complex and serious reasons like anxiety or even medical problems.
If your pet is experiencing this new destructive behavior out of nowhere, it’s best to start with a vet appointment to rule out any serious underlying cause.
Now, let’s unpack and discuss some of these reasons that may be causing your dog to be suddenly destructive.
Reason 1: Teething
While the rest of this article will focus on reasons causing older dogs over the age of about two years old to become destructive, it is important to mention that puppies can experience teething until they are 6 to 7 months old.
If you have a younger dog under the age of 8 months old that is suddenly destroying things, chances are your puppy is just experiencing normal puppy teething.
During this phase, their mouth is incredibly painful as baby teeth fall out and adult teeth come in. Puppies can chew and destroy items in an attempt to relieve some of their pain.
Reason 2: Teenage Behavior
Similar to human development, puppies can become incredibly difficult as they shift from their puppy stage of life into adolescence. For dogs, the adolescence phase can range anywhere between six and 12 months and can end between 18 and 24 months. It really depends on the individual dog.
During this phase, they can become quite unruly as they experience hormonal shifts and more brain development. Adolescent dogs are often rowdier, jumpier, and more obnoxious than at any other point in their life.
As puppies enter this adolescence phase, it often seems like a switch has suddenly been turned on in their brain. To many owners, it feels like overnight, their puppy has gone from calm and sleeping a lot to rowdy and getting into everything.
As adolescent dogs begin to test their boundaries as they grow and develop, they may start taking that energy and frustration out by getting into things they never did previously, or were already trained not to do, like chewing and destroying things in your house.
If your dog is suddenly beginning to destroy your things and is between the ages of six months to 24 months, chances are you’re dealing with frustrating adolescent behavior as your puppy transitions into an adult dog.
Now that we’ve unpacked the two major reasons for dogs under the age of about two years old to begin suddenly destroying your things out of nowhere, let’s discuss some other reasons that are likely the culprit causing dogs over two years of age to be destructive suddenly.
Reason 3: Boredom
Dogs get bored, just like people! Contrary to popular belief, dogs typically don’t just lie down and take a nap when they’re bored. Instead, they often find ways, usually inappropriate ways, to entertain and occupy themselves.
Usually, bored dogs will entertain themselves by getting into things they shouldn’t, like the trash. They’ll also chew on whatever they see lying around, which is why they sometimes seem to destroy their own beds out of nowhere.
If your dog is suddenly destroying your things out of nowhere, it’s important to think about your dog’s overall day to determine whether they may be bored or not.
If there’s been a sudden change in your schedule that leaves your dog home alone for longer periods of time or not able to play with him as much, then your dog is probably just bored and destroying things in an attempt to entertain himself.
Reason 4: Stress
Dogs can get stressed. In fact, some dogs are very sensitive and more prone to stress than others. Dogs can get stressed out over big life changes like a new house or a family member in the house, they can also get stressed out by smaller things you may not notice, like noise outside or a new piece of furniture in the living room.
If your dog is suddenly becoming destructive, it’s important to consider whether there have been any events that may have stressed your dog out.
Travel, guests coming over, and thunderstorms are other common reasons that can cause your dog to become stressed. When stressed, dogs often attempt to soothe themselves by licking and chewing on things they shouldn’t.
Reason 5: Anxiety
Did you know that dogs get anxiety, just like people? In fact, anxiety in dogs is pretty common. One study showed that 72.5% of all dogs showed at least one anxiety-related behavior. Noise sensitivity is the most common type of anxiety and affects 32% of dogs.
Separation anxiety is another common anxiety that affects 20% to 40% of dogs. With separation anxiety, dogs experience extreme emotional distress when they’re separated from their owners or other animals that they are attached to.
When dogs experience this sudden frantic and anxious energy, they often react by becoming destructive. If you leave home only to come back a few hours later to your belongings thrown all over the house and suddenly destroyed, it’s very possible that your dog is experiencing some level of anxiety.
Dogs often become more anxious as they get older. If you used to be able to leave your dog with no problems but not come home to a mess as your dog gets older, this sudden behavior of destroying things could simply be caused by your dog growing more anxious in general with age.
Reason 6: Attention-Seeking Behavior
Dogs are considered man’s best friend for a reason. They love to be near us and interact with us. Sometimes, dogs can be destructive out of nowhere simply because they want to get your attention.
Typically, when dogs are destructive, and you catch them in the moment, you’re giving your dog some sort of attention (whether it’s good or bad). You’re talking to them and maybe even chasing them down to get something out of their mouth.
While you may understand that this isn’t good attention, your dog can’t. To your dog, you’re simply focusing on them and talking to them.
By giving your dog this attention you can inadvertently reward them for stealing your items and destroying them.
So, if your dog is suddenly destroying things, you may need to ask yourself whether you’ve spent quality time with them If you haven’t spent as much time with your pooch as usual, they could simply be destroying things in an attempt to get your attention.
Reason 7: Hunger
Hungry dogs may suddenly become destructive as they search for food or things to eat. If your dog is primarily destroying things to eat them or is destroying trash or other kitchen goods, your dog is most likely hungry.
If you’ve recently put your dog on a diet, they may not have adjusted to their decreased caloric intake yet. In cases where dogs seem to not only destroy inedible objects but consume them, pica might be the real cause. Pica is a condition where dogs regularly consume non-food items, like rocks, trash, or even sticks.
While you may initially think your dog is just hungry since he’s consuming the item, pica is a serious medical condition that stems from complex underlying conditions, like a nutritional deficiency or obsessive-compulsive disorder.
If your dog is suddenly destroying your things and consuming them, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Not only is pica dangerous for your dog, but it could also indicate a serious underlying medical problem.
How To Prevent Your Dog From Destroying Your Things
It’s well-known among dog owners that all dogs will chew, at least sometimes. The important thing in owning a dog is to establish the difference between what’s normal chewing behavior in dogs that just need their training refreshed and what’s a sudden and very destructive change in behavior.
While you should address your dog’s sudden destructive behavior by addressing the underlying reason, as we’ve laid out in this article, it’s also important to try to prevent your dog from being destructive in the first place by setting them up for success and managing their environment.
You can find plenty of help from online sources like this video for example, but if the issue persists you might want to consult a vet or a dog trainer.
Now let’s see some of our top tips for preventing this destructive behavior!
Dog Proof Your Home
As a dog owner, it’s important to do your part in setting up your dog’s environment, so he’s not tempted to perform bad behaviors, like being destructive.
Using barriers like baby gates or exercise pens can help contain your dog to specific areas or block access to areas. Ensuring trash cans have a locking lid or are out of reach will prevent your dog from getting into the trash.
Perhaps most importantly, removing items like toys, blankets, or shoes from the floor and putting those out of reach of your dog will help prevent your dog from destroying them.
Provide Mental Enrichment And Physical Exercise
All dogs need mental enrichment and physical exercise. This ensures that you’re meeting your dog’s basic needs, which helps them to be happy and healthy. Also, meeting these needs will ensure that your dog is content and less likely to chew your things or become destructive.
While physical exercise requirements will vary depending on several factors like age and breed, most dogs could benefit from a thirty-minute walk around the neighborhood.
In addition to that, choosing to use puzzles or food toys for their meals will help them use their brain to problem solve. If your dog is a big chewer, providing adequate chew toys will also help satisfy their need to chew and will prevent them from finding things to chew on, like your belongings!
Train Your Dog
Training a dog is really a life-long task. People often associate dog training with teaching puppies new behaviors, but engaging in training with your dog throughout their life is incredibly important.
Not only can you focus on new skills to make your lives together easier, but keeping your dog’s brain engaged is important for their mental and emotional health.
When training your dog not to be so destructive, focus on skills like “leave it.” You can even play games like “zen hand” or “look at that.” These games help teach your dog to make decisions on their own without being told.
Instead of having to tell them what to do, they will see items left out and learn that the appropriate choice is to leave them alone and return to you for a reward.
Anytime a dog begins displaying a new behavior suddenly, and out of nowhere, it’s important to determine the underlying cause.
While in most cases, this sudden behavior of being destructive is likely caused for fairly innocent reasons like adolescent age, boredom, or attention-seeking, there are serious underlying medical conditions that should be ruled out, like severe anxiety.