Destructive behaviour in dogs

(Also read Oh My Garden, Oh My Slippers! & Dogs With Energy to Burn)


This can be due to:

*Attention-seeking behaviour – this is very common. Different dogs require different levels of attention to satisfy their needs. Some dogs will learn ways to get attention, whether positive or negative to help them satisfy their needs. Unfortunately the attention-seeking behaviours have been learnt and are constantly, unintentionally reinforced by the actions of people. Attention-seeking destructive behaviour will usually occur in the presence of the owner.

*Teething – Puppies will chew for amusement to help relieve tooth pain and as a method of investigating their environment. They learn to be very good at this behaviour and some may carry it on into adult life.

*Boredom – This dog hasn’t got enough to do.

*Separation Anxiety – These dogs are in an anxious, distressed state and will dig or chew to escape out of the house or into the house when left alone. They may chew objects that the owner has been in close contact with such as pillows and items of clothing or escape areas such as door jambs and window sashes.

*Fears and Phobias – These dogs destroy items when they are unable to escape from a fearful stimulus.


Digging occurs to mark an elimination area, bury or cover something, keep warm or cool and in play. Some breeds are more prone to digging than others, eg Jack Russell Terriers.

Some of the possible causes are listed below

*Part of elimination behaviour – this involves back feet and results in shallow scrapes and a broad dispersal of soil.

*Marking – this involves an immediate visual display of digging and leaves a visual mark.

*To bury or cover – this usually follows exploratory behaviours such as sniffing, listening and pawing. The dog is stimulated to dig by sounds or smells.

*Keeping warm or cool – Dogs dig holes in which to lie. Soil helps conserve heat in cold times and disperse heat in hot times. Provide adequate shelter and bedding from the heat and cold and a wading pool in hot climates.

*Play – Dogs learn to dig for fun at a young age. They find it enjoyable and repeat the behaviour. The longer digging continues then the more reinforced the behaviour and the better they get at it.

*Boredom – Not enough to keep him mentally occupied so he digs holes!

*Anxiety related behaviour – These dogs often dig in a constant, fixed manner that is not easily distracted.

*Sexual – Male dogs may dig to get access to a bitch in season.