7 Reasons Your Dog Has Destructive Behavior

Written by Samantha Randall – Editor-in-Chief at Top Dog Tips

The main reason why dogs are rehomed or end up in shelters is due to destructive behavior. It’s no surprise that owners can become very frustrated when their dogs start chewing furniture, destroying belongings, barking incessantly, and engaging in other destructive behaviors. But this behavior is rooted in causes that can be easy to fix if you dig a little deeper.

Here are the most common reasons for destructive behavior in dogs and what to do about them:

Separation Anxiety

Dogs with separation anxiety may start acting out or acting destructively as soon as you start to leave for the day. They may bark or howl all day because they don’t like being left alone. Some of the best ways to manage separation anxiety are:

  • Having a camera in your home so that you can distract your pooch will help.
  • Getting a second dog as a companion.
  • Having a pet sitter come walk the dog twice a day while you’re gone.
  • Crate training the dog so the dog feels safe when you’re not there.
  • Talking to the vet about prescription medication for anxiety.
  • Working from home a couple days each week if that’s an option for you.
  • Doggie daycare so that your dog isn’t alone during the day.

Studies have observed that bored dogs are more likely to become anxious, depressed and destructive. Your bored pets will chew your stuff, tear things up, destroy toys and other items, and generally find other inappropriate ways to keep themselves amused. But there’s no reason to let your dog get bored when there are so many ways to prevent it.

If your dog is bored because you spend too much time away from home, some of the ways that you can prevent him from becoming destructive are similar to those used for separation anxiety:

  • Leave a radio or the TV on low volume, or try talking to your pet using a camera;
  • Stop home and see your dog on your breaks at work;
  • Hire a pet sitter to take your dog for a walk during the day;
  • Get interactive dog toys and place them around the house. Puzzle toys with treats inside is the easiest and cheapest way for eliminating boredom in dogs.
  • Adopt another dog so your dog has some company;
  • Take your dog for a very long walk or run in the morning before you go to work so your Fido will be tired and sleep during the day.

Health Problems

If your dog isn’t feeling well, he might start acting out on instinct or using destructive behavior to get your attention and let you know that something is wrong. Signs that your dog is acting out because of a health problem may include:

  • Biting or nipping at their sides or paws.
  • Chewing the fur off their sides or paws.
  • Drooling excessively.
  • Not eating or eating too much.
  • Drinking water constantly.

General Anxiety

Generalized anxiety is different from separation anxiety, but it’s another common reason why dogs turn to destructive behavior, research shows. Generalized anxiety is very common in dogs that have been abused or abandoned. Calming the anxiety will get rid of the destructive behavior. Great ways to deal with anxiety in dogs include:

  • Use calming sprays on furniture, bedding and around the house.
  • Use a pheromone diffuser to promote a sense of peace and calm in the house.
  • Give the dog treats designed to calm the dog before you leave.
  • Talk to your vet about prescription medication for anxiety.
  • Use a Thundershirt, calming collars or other anxiety aids.
  • Make sure your dog has a space he or she feels safe, like a comfy crate
  • Crate train your dog.

If you suspect that your dog may be acting destructively because of a medical problem, it’s time for a vet checkup. It’s the only sure way to rule out health problems as a reason why your dog has become destructive.


Hungry dogs are destructive dogs. This may happen if your dog is overweight and you’ve recently placed your pooch on a reduced calorie diet. The most constructive ways to deal with a hungry dog without blowing their diet are:

  • Place puzzle toys with low calorie treats in them around the house to keep the dog busy during the day. You can also use reduced calorie dog food in the toys instead of treats.
  • Redirect your dog’s energy by giving the dog lots of fun interactive toys to keep the dog busy while you’re gone during the day.
  • Take the dog for a walk on your lunch break or hire someone to take the dog for a walk during the day and get the dog out of the house and not thinking about food.


Maybe a surprise to some, but stress is very common in dogs and will often cause pets to become destructive. The best ways to eliminate stress in dogs are:

  • Get another dog to give the dog some company.
  • Sign your dog up for doggie daycare or give them PetChatz’ Digital Doggy Daycare.
  • Make sure the dog has plenty of fun toys and activities to do while you’re gone.
  • Crate train the dog so it has a safe and comfortable place to hide.
  • Spend as much time with the dog as possible when you’re not working.
  • Take the dog for regular walks.
  • Talk to the vet about medication that can reduce stress and anxiety in dogs.


Finally, if your dog is a puppy, it may be teething and the associated pain that may be the cause of destructive behavior. To reduce the pain of teething you can apply medicated gels to the dog’s gums and give your dog specially designed teething toys and treats.

The bottom line is that once you spend a little time to find out the reason for your dog’s behavior, and take appropriate steps to deal with his destructiveness, it will stop being a hassle. In most cases, this will be a very quick and easy fix, which is always better than returning a dog back to shelter.