The other day I got a message from a frustrated pup parent asking, “How do I stop my dog from destroying things when I’m gone?!”
You’ve probably been there too, right?!
You come home from an errand to find your favorite pair of shoes chewed, or the couch cushion ripped, or an unidentifiable mess in the corner. And lo and behold, there’s your dog, with a somewhat guilty look in their eyes. (Is it really guilt? We’ll cover that later…)
Exhibit A 👇
If you’ve become frustrated by the fact that you don’t know how to stop your dog from destroying things, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
The good news is that more often than not, there are simple solutions to address the underlying cause and stop it from happening again. And no, the underlying cause is not that your dog is being bad or is mad at you!
We’re here to help you break this down into two major parts: why dogs destroy things when you’re gone and what you can do to stop it.
If you’d like, you can use this menu to jump to what you’re most interested in:
- Video Version of This Article
- Podcast Episode of This Article
- Why Do Dogs Destroy Things When I’m Gone?
- How to Stop Dog From Destroying Things When I’m Gone
- Recap of Dogs Destroying Things When Left Alone
If you’d rather watch the video version of our podcast about this topic, watch below!
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And of course, here’s an episode from the Perfect Pup Podcast to help you overcome your dog’s destruction in your home!
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First and foremost, your dog does not hate you for leaving. And also, let’s clarify that “guilty look” we talked about earlier… it’s (likely) not guilt.
Science has proven that’s not how it works… Read more about that here!
Now that we’ve cleared that pet parent guilt, let’s talk about the real reasons dogs can be destructive when left alone.
There are legitimate reasons why our dogs aren’t always good boys and girls when we leave. Understanding those reasons can help us address our dogs’ needs!
When pups are young, it’s important to keep them within a confined space, even when you are home, until they are fully trained and familiar with their surroundings.
Otherwise, young pups can become easily overwhelmed. Also, they likely don’t yet know what is a toy and what is not.
Hence, them chewing on your slippers, table, baseboards, etc..
Expecting your brand new puppy to know that they shouldn’t chew shoes is like expecting an infant to know not to put things in their mouth…
It’s just not how it works!
Here’s a simple math equation to help us all remember how to think about freedom for our young dogs… 😉
I know that’s pretty harsh… but in most cases (especially with young puppies), it’s true!!
So, we’ll cover the solution later (or click below to jump to that section).
Most canine behavioral problems stem from a lack of mental and physical exercise.
Most dogs need between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise (physical/mental) per day, depending on the size and breed.
Not enough exercise causes pups to get bored and have a lot of energy bottled up, which usually gets taken out on your favorite pair of shoes.
As they say, idle paws are a devil’s plaything — bored doggies with built-up energy are bound to end up getting into trouble.
Sometimes anxiety is at play.
Separation anxiety is more common in dogs than many people realize — we’ll get into what you can do for it a little later.
If, on top of destructive behaviors, your neighbors have told you that your dog barks/howls a lot when you are gone, it’s a good chance your dog is anxious when left home alone.
We’ll talk later about how to figure out if it’s anxiety!
The best way to stop your dog from destroying things while you are gone is to address the root cause.
Whether it be too much freedom, a lack of exercise, or separation anxiety, there are things you can do to address your dog’s needs and stop the destructive behavior.
Here are some things you can do to help your dog — and your household items — better survive time alone.
Utilize crate training. Crate training is a great tool for getting dogs used to relaxing in a designated space and staying out of mischief when unsupervised.
Crates help dogs get used to being alone, and find comfort by having their own ‘safe space’.
Be sure to use a crate that’s an appropriate size for your dog and give them something to occupy themselves while in the crate — these dog chews can be a great choice since they are made with simple, healthy ingredients and help keep teeth clean. (Be sure to monitor your pup when first giving them new chews.)
Interested in crate training your dog?
Check out our full video lesson found in the 30 Day Perfect Pup Course (it’s free!). Sign up here.
If crate training isn’t an option, be sure to limit your dog’s freedom when you are not home.
Here are some alternatives to crate training:
- Dog-proofed room
- Safe fenced in yard (weather permitting)
The same principles apply here — it’s best to give your dog a chew (or something similar) to occupy them so they don’t get bored even in a larger space.
Utilize the time you are home to let your dog stretch their legs — and their brain.
A couple of walks and games throughout the day is usually enough to do the trick, though some active breeds might need a little more intense exercise.
That’s Scout, and she would play fetch all day long 👆
It’s also important to note that mental exercise is just as important as physical exercise for keeping your dog’s behavior on point.
Many pet parents fall short in this area especially when weather conditions prevent them from getting in long walks or days at the dog park.
That’s why we’ve put together 21 games, ideas, and exercises for exercising your dog indoors. These are a great mix of new skills, physical movement, and brain-teasing that will give your pup all the stimulation they need to keep destructive boredom at bay.
In some cases, you’ll need to take a deep look at what’s going on with your dog to see if they are experiencing separation anxiety.
Our Happily Home Alone Pup course gives you lifelong access to the tools you need to determine if your pup is suffering from separation anxiety and provides tools for addressing it.
It’s taught by Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer Julie Nasmith, CT, CSAT and utilizes proven researched-backed methods.
Here’s a sneak peek of what you’ll get in the course:
To learn more about the Happily Home Alone Pup course, head here.
So if you’re getting ready to leave your dog home alone today, just know that they aren’t acting out because they are bad boys and girls.
They just might have needs that aren’t being met and, since we haven’t yet perfected a dog thought translation device, don’t know how to communicate it with you.
Just as a recap of the best ways to stop a dog from destroying things when you’re gone are as follows:
- Control the environment and give less freedom
- Give plenty of mental and physical exercise before leaving them
- Determine if they might have separation anxiety and address as needed
Has your dog experienced behavior issues when home alone?
Have any of these solutions helped your pup stop acting out when you’re gone?
We want to hear all about your pup’s home alone experiences in the comments below!