Okay, I'm done slacking off. I promised you a part 2 to the "Your Dog is Not Out to Get You" post from over a week ago. This time we'll talk about destructive behaviors, like digging and chewing.
I could go on forever about all the reasons your dog might dig or chew but the bottom line is this: They're dogs. They dig. They chew. Sorry, but it's part of their inherent dogness. But those behaviors don't fit in with our lifestyles so we need to learn how to correct them. Or better yet, stop them before they begin.
Bobita writes: "The [dog] only digs, rips [stuff] apart and shreds trees and shrubs when no one is in sight. She seems to have it particularly out for me. When she sees me and knows that she has committed some atrocity, she looks at what she has done, looks at me, cowers and then slinks away (likely because I have given her looks from the fiery depths of purgatory for each and every egregious act, accompanied by a whole slew of foul, yet appropriate, obscenities).
Why is Bobita's dog destroying things? The key words in that first sentence are "when no one is in sight". She has a young Labrador Retriever pup, a dog who is bred to be social and needs to stay close to his master and/or mistress. The dog may have been bored and probably a bit anxious that her mistress left her outside by herself so she took it out on the trees and shrubs. And not because they were of any importance but, possibly, because the dog had just seen Bobita digging around there herself. The trees and the area around it may have had Bobita's scent on it, or the dog may have figured if her mistress was digging around there then it was good enough for the dog. It looked like fun!
These dogs really want to be with us. To take your attention away is agonizing for these them, and not just labs but most other breeds as well.
Let's concentrate on digging for a moment. If your dog is digging out of boredom - exercise the dog. A tired dog is a happy dog, after all. Or give them an appropriate place to dig, like their very own dig box. Make an area that looks a bit like a child's sand box. Fill it with dirt and then hide things, like toys and biscuits, for them to find. That's their reward for digging there. Stand nearby and praise them when they've made a great discovery. Discourage them from digging in other places and move them back to the dig box. If you're consistent this should stop a lot of the digging. However, the best way to stop a dog from digging, besides just exercise, is to keep the dog where she can be supervised. If you can't stop her while she's in the act you've lost the opportunity to correct the behavior (just like eliminating in the house). Keep her in the house with you or in her own kennel or crate.
Destructive chewing follows the same pattern. Dog is bored or anxious = dog chews and destroys. Is there a rhyme or reason to it? Maybe, maybe not. If you have a destructive dog it's best not to leave them unsupervised with free reign of the house. Consider a crate or a safe place in the house where they can be gated off from the rest of the rooms. Give the dog a stuffed Kong or a treat ball (I love that product almost as much as I love the Kong and you can order it through this page - see below) to keep them occupied. I will never understand why dog owners insist on letting their dogs roam the entire house when they're not there when the owner knows the dog is destructive. If your dog has eaten the couch cushions it's time for another plan of action, don't you think? And exercise, exercise, exercise! Exercise is good for helping stop most problem behaviors. I can't emphasize that enough.
It certainly isn't too late for Bobita and her puppy. A steady routine of exercise, training, and supervision and that pup will turn out to be a fantastic dog. And yours will too!