Destructive Behavior In Dogs

Learn about causes and corrective actions for destructive behavior in dogs.

Beware of bored dogs. Golden Retriever dog demolishes pillow/Shutterstock

Signs Of Destructive Behavior

  • Destructive chewing
  • Ripping or tearing apart fabric bedding, rugs or other items
  • Scratching at or chewing up flooring, walls or siding
  • Pulling stuffing out of toys, pillows, cushions
  • Chewing and scratching holes in plastic crates

Causes And Corrective Actions For Destructive Behavior In Dogs

Boredom And/Or Over Confinement

Canine boredom accounts for numerous undesirable behaviors that include chewing or tearing things up as an enjoyable way to pass the time.

Leaving a dog confined all day with a short time outside to play in the evening provides inadequate mental or physical exercise, often resulting in a dog who makes every attempt to destroy and escape the crate or room.

Corrective Actions: Ensure your dog receives ample physical and mental exercise through training, interactive games and free running or swimming in safe areas. Confine dog when you leave home, but provide and alternate “busy” toys such as treat-stuffed rubber toys, chew bones, treat-dispensing balls or other safe toys made for dogs. Many dogs outgrow destructive tendencies, but supervise your dog in the home or yard until sure the behaviors have subsided.

Prey Drive

The natural instinct to chase, catch and eat prey animals, prey drive often induces dogs to chase and toss around soft stuffed toys or other stuffed items and subsequently rip them open and pull out the stuffing.

Corrective Actions: Provide dog toys made without stuffing, such as rubber balls (large enough that they cannot go down dog’s throat), rope toys, bumpers or others that dogs enjoy and can carry without “killing.” Properly direct dog’s prey drive into chase and grab games like fetch or canine disc. Supervise dog when loose.

Separation Anxiety

Many dogs release anxiety from being left alone through destructive chewing and tearing things apart.

Corrective Actions: When separation anxiety reactions prove severe enough to consistently destroy furnishings or potentially harm your dog, enlist a professional trainer; for milder cases, crate your dog and help him relax about being left alone through providing adequate exercise before you leave; train a relax cue, like “I’ll be back” said in a casual, matter of fact tone to remind your dog to relax when you leave, first for only a few minutes that you gradually build to longer periods; don’t make a big deal of comings and goings to keep your dog on an even emotional keel, sad-toned goodbyes and excited greetings increase anxiety; provide and alternate treat-stuffed rubber toys, chew bones or other safe toys to divert focus; play a radio to provide “company.”


A normally well-behaved housetrained dog can become destructive due to stress when his people run very late coming home and/or if he needs to potty and can’t get outside. Fireworks, a thunderstorm, unfamiliar people outside and other unusual noises can also trigger stress-related destructiveness.

Corrective Actions: If you run late getting home, try to arrange for a neighbor or your regular pet sitter to take your dog outside for a brief walk and potty trip to reduce stress. For a dog sensitive to fireworks, if possible stay home during peak firework activity dates to prevent dog hurting himself or destroying furnishings and/or crate your dog, preferably in a familiar location isolated from outside noise with a radio or television on to drown out the noise. Work with a trainer to desensitize the storm-fearing dog by playing a thunderstorm tape at low to gradually increasing volumes coupled with pleasant distractions such as treat-dispensing toys. If repair work must be done to the house without you home, ask a friend or your regular pet sitter to watch dog during those hours.

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Behavior and Training · Dogs