(See also Separation Anxiety.)

Pups need to chew, and will chew whatever they find if they aren't supplies with permissible chew objects. Pups and young dogs tend to be quite destructive, while they are at the chewing stage, and until they learn what they can and can't chew. This also applies to adult dogs which have never lived in a house. Try to make sure your dog doesn't have access to forbidden objects. Bitter apple, tabasco and other preparations are used by some owners to protect furniture. They sometimes work, but not always. It's more helpful to provide safe and attractive chew objects.


What is safe depends a lot on the dog - some dogs swallow parts of chew items, or try eating them whole. You can make boring nylon bones and the like more attractive by smearing chicken fat on them, or something else that smells really good to the dog. Knotted cloth chew toys are also useful chew objects, so long as your dog doesn't eat them. You can make the chew toys more fun by hiding them (with the nylon bones made to smell good), and getting the dog to find them. Play games with your dog using permissable chew toys, and swap them round every now and then. You want the dog to see them as super-interesting.

Pups and untrained dogs need to learn what they shouldn't chew, like furniture, CDs and books. They need to be supervised while they learn this, which means confining them in a safe area with no access to forbidden items while you're out. You can both make permissible items more attractive, and forbidden items less attractive. A gentle startle noise like 'chsst', when the dog approaches a 'forbidden' item can work with sensitive dogs, then offer an attractive permissible item. It's also worth teaching 'leave', starting out with a titbit in a closed fist, and saying 'leave' when the dog nudges your fist, Then the dog gets the titbit as soon as he stops nudging. Once he's grasped the idea of 'leave', you can try walking the dog round the house and garden on a leash, with permissible and forbidden items strewn around. As he's on the leash, you can make sure he doesn't get hold of a forbidden item, while saying 'leave' and say 'take it' or something similar in a pleased tone of voice, as he picks up a permissible item.

The classic pup game is to run around with socks, or something else fun they have found, and invite you to chase them. Don't let your little darling manipulate you this easily! Get something very high value and encourage the pup to come to you and trade what he has got. Smear chicken fat on many boring objects, and they become very high value. Then praise him for coming to you, and say 'drop' as he drops the sock or whatever to get the permissible item. You could also teach 'give up' if you want the item given up into your hand, though 'drop' may be easier at first. Then work on retrieving (see Possessiveness for how). It's much easier on your socks and your temper if the dog brings his prize to you and gives it up willingly. Your dog will then probably bring you objects for retrieve games, and if you encourage this, you can train a useful retriever. That is much better than chasing the dog round the house, getting very cross, and trying to force his mouth open to get your sock out of it. Then possession becomes a battle of wills.

Older dogs may be destructive through boredom and/or separation anxiety. Dogs need exercise before they are left for a few hours. They are more likely to sleep after you leave, rather than chew up the house. They do need exercise to poo, and feeling uncomfortable because they need to 'go' means they can't relax and sleep, so are more likely to get up to mischief. Chew toys and hollow Kongs smeared with something tasty inside can give dogs something to do when they wake up. See also Separation Anxiety.

Some dogs have an abnormal desire to eat inedible objects, including whole socks, t-shirts, and even small stones. This can lead to very high vet bills. Get a vet check just in case there is a medical cause. Give the dog plenty of exercise and games, train what's permissible and not permissible in the normal way, and confine the dog somewhere where he can't eat 'forbidden objects' when you are out. There's anecdotal evidence that eating large inedible items is an inherited trait, and it's better not to breed from a dog that does this. Ex-strays may chew on clothing and other items, swallowing part of them, and that may simply be lack of training and boredom, so they need to be trained as though they were pups, and given more exercise and structured play.

Sometimes dogs bite window frames or other items near windows out of frustration, because they can see another dog or a cat outside. Try to organise the room so they don't have access to the window, and can't see out of it when you're out. Improve their recall, so if they move to the window to start to bark at an 'enemy' you can call them back fast.

Dogs may also become very destructive if they panic during a thunderstorm or firework display. If you are in the house, or know a storm or display is likely, confine the dog somewhere safe, where you can lessen the noise and light coming in from the outside as much as possible. Providing a bolt-hole, like a safe space in a corner behind a chair can also help.