Thursday, October 13, 2011

Analyzing my dogs destruction

Since Hailey’s destruction is driving me batty, I have decided to put on my behaviour analyst hat and try and figure out what the function of this behaviour is and what we might be able to do about it. 

Possible causes/function of the behaviour (from my internet search):

1 Separation Anxiety: Upon further research into this, we don’t know if it is true separation anxiety because when we leave, we don’t hear any barking etc immediately. All the research I have read suggests the behaviour should occur as soon as we leave. The neighbours have never complained about obsessive barking (and they would complain!)
2  General Anxiety: It may occur because of anxiety caused by things like storms. We do not have storms that often, so occasionally it may be due to this, but not always.
    Lack of exercise: We are averaging at least 1.5 hours per day and sometimes more. On Caesar they only suggested 2 hours per day for a much bigger, part wolf dog.
4Curiosity Propelled Chewing – Occurs mostly in juvenile dogs (which she is) as they explore their environment.

We think it is curiosity propelled chewing. (It does happen sometimes when we are home)

To help prevent this we:
  • Provide her with things to chew on – she is left with treats, including a Kong, as well as access to many of her babies.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise!
  • We tried crate training, but this did cause separation anxiety and worst destruction, so we are not sure we should try that again.
  • Clean the environment to keep anything she may want to chew (but she is smart and tries to find new things!)
  • Pray she outgrows it – well, we will, but we don’t want to have our house eaten first!

What scares me is that some of the research suggests that some dogs never out grow this! Especially sporting breeds (which is likely in her mix). If anyone has suggestions for us, please, please share!


  1. Don't have many suggestions for you, but love your analysis. Stevie did the same, and like you, we couldn't quite sort it. When she came close to turning two (poor rescues and their estimated birthdays), she simply stopped. Mind you, only after eating essentially an entire chair and various, various, books, magazines, etc (can't blame a bulldog for being hungry for knowledge... ha). We're unsure whether she stopped due to maturation, or whether her general apathy for life sans her Mommy is a contributing factor - however, I'm probably playing up the latter to comfort my own separation anxiety. Hope Hailey's chew tooth soon loosens, and you guys gain some sanity!

  2. Great analysis.

    You are giving her tons of excersise, so that's great. And you guys make her work by training and giving her toys to figure out. So it's a difficult situation.

    I have heard that here are some natural remedies (pills or supplements) that you can get at pet stores or through the vet to help with anxiety, and even behaviors such as aggression. Might be something to look into and try if you are into that kind of stuff! if it's natural, it might be relieving for both you and her.

    I have also seen these Anxiety Coats:
    would it acctually work?? Who knows!

  3. My husband is glad that all the money we spent allowing me to become a behaviour analyst can work with the dog too!

    I will have to bug my vet about it. He just laughs.

    I have heard about the anxiety coats, but am confident if she is wearing it when alone, she will figure out how to get out of it and chew it.

    We move forward. 1 day without destruction, yay!

  4. Separation anxiety stumps me. We've had a few dogs come through the home that had it, but none to the point of being really destructive - just crying or barking. Dumb question - have you tried leaving and then coming back a few min later, doing this several times, and increasing it each time?

  5. The obvious question I'd ask is what kind of exercise, and how long for what kinds?

    And when I say "exercise", I don't mean "walks". For a young sporting mix, a walk isn't really exercise.

  6. I don't know if it is separation anxiety.

    Exercise includes: Long walks, time off leash at park, playing ball and training.

    What stumps us with this is there is really no pattern.

    For example, she has been destructive on days when left alone for 2 hours after a good hour run at the park. But on one of the two days per week I work all day, she may not destroy anything and only had a 45 minute walk.

    She is complex! But we love her!

  7. Okay... your problem could definitely be a lack of exercise.

    Long walks are, unfortunately, poor quality exercise. Good for socialization and exploration, but for a healthy, active dog, it's not hard work. The thing to keep in mind about a walk is that the amount of exercise your dog gets is probably limited by how much exercise you yourself can handle. Very, very few people have the endurance to match a young, active sporting dog, and I know of nobody who gets to spend as much time resting as their dog.

    In other words, your time is better spent getting her working substantially harder than yourself.

    If you do want to walk, raise the bar a bit for her. In the right environment, interrupting the walk with games of fetch is nice. I like to have the dog carry weight, too. A decent doggy backpack with a few pounds of dried beans or rice is great; 10-15% of the dogs body weight is plenty for most breeds (just be aware that in spite of having spots to hook leashes onto, most dog backpacks are *not* built for restraint). Dragging or pulling weight works if you have a harness (even a long rope through tall grass is better than "just walking").

    Time off leash at the park *could* be exercise, but the quality can be variable. It really depends on how hard she goes and how much control she has over how long she exercises. If she's mostly noodling around and searching for squirrels, it's decent brainwork and good for stress, but it's not good exercise. If she's running and wrestling with other dogs until she pretty much drops, that's good. Normally, though, that's not how it works. Dogs usually won't run themselves to exhaustion without you motivating them.

    Training isn't exercise (unless you're training for dog sports). It can mentally tire her out, though, and some days that might be all you can manage.

    Playing ball is good. Any kind of running exercise is good. Fetch is great. Fetch up and down a hill is better. Fetch up and down stairs (if safe, carpeted, with good landing spots on the top and bottom) is a good indoor substitute. Just like any kind of training, multiple short sessions per day rather than one really, really long session is preferable. I shoot for 2-3 runs of maybe 10-15 minutes long per day. But even 10 minutes of hard running is better than a 45 minute walk.

    You've also got options like biking or scootering, but that's not all-weather and doing it safely isn't something I can advise on.

  8. Thanks for the ideas. We will try and increase her running. I can take her for a walk (for me if nothing else) and then play ball in the yard. Our dog walker is trying to train her to run with her, but apparently it interferes with her sniffing and she doesn't love it!


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