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How to Prevent Your Dog From Being Destructive When Left Alone

Published April 8, 2022
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Do you worry every time you leave your dog at home? Are you hoping you won’t have to buy cushions a third time? You’re not alone. Maybe you’ve tried everything you can think of, and your pup still chomps the minute you’re out the door.  We’ll cover some ideas that might help.

Start with exercise every morning

Generally, dogs that get destructive when left alone may simply be acting out of boredom. They may also need some extra physical or mental activity. Walking your dog before leaving can release pent-up energy and get them ready to rest. If you’re going to be gone for a while, try to budget a 30-45 minute walk beforehand.

Throughout the week, you can also try switching up your routes. Even if all of your walks stay within the neighborhood, going in different directions can keep things interesting for them. It gives your dog a chance to work out his sniffer, which is good for mental activity.

Sticking with a consistent exercise routine can also help them settle down. Dogs can benefit from a schedule. If you exercise together every morning, they’ll start to know what to expect, and it can bring some calm. And if you’re able to tucker them out, they may associate your absence as time to rest.

Play cardio games

That being said, there are dogs out there that still get into mischief, even after a solid walk in the morning. One idea is alternate your morning walks with cardio games. These are also helpful when the weather isn’t great.

A cardio game you could try is “Cardio Twist,” which is a spin-off of the agility game Weave Poles. It’s a great game to give your pup a physical and mental workout. You can buy official weave poles, but you can also use items like chairs, boxes, or orange cones to act as “poles.” Once you’ve got some items lined up in a line, then you can practice weaving in and out together. Games like Cardio Twist require greater concentration, and can be tried with the hopes your dog will take a good long nap afterwards.

Give them good stuff to chew on

Once you’re gone, surround your dog with toys and treats that are okay for them to chew. KONGs are a great go to. Peanut butter, plain yogurt, and canned pure pumpkin are easy and healthy options. Depending on how long you’re gone, freezing them can extend the amount of time your pup will be chewing. All that chewing, hopefully on the right things, can help tucker them out.

And just like with walks, rotating between different toys and treats can keep things mentally interesting. You can try giving your dog a peanut butter KONG and a few select toys one day, and a different selection the next. While familiar, the variety will keep them on their paws.

Set up a space for them

To minimize unwanted chewing, consider setting up baby gates in spaces where there are less things to chew on, and fewer distractions. This can help redirect their attention to items they can chew. You could also consider a play pen with a lockable door.

In both cases, fill the space with toys or treats that are okay to chew on. If your dog likes to chew on blankets or beds, you can try an elevated dog bed, which is usually made to be more chew-resistant.

Practice rewarding positive behavior

If your dog is destructive even when you’re at home, it’s a great time to practice teaching them what is, and isn’t okay to chew on. When you see your dog chewing on the cushion, tell them ‘No’ in a firm voice, and redirect their attention to a toy or treat. Preferably, give them an item you’ll give them when you’re gone. When they chew on the desired item, be sure to give them lots of praise.

Consider taking your pup to daycare

Our last idea is definitely biased, but we do see a lot of tired pups after a day at Camp. For many, even 1-2 days a week is plenty of physical and mental stimulation. The rest of the week they snooze to recoup from the fun. Combined with the tips listed above, daycare can be another way to set your dog up for successful (and hopefully non-destructive!) alone time.

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