Destructiveness & Escaping
Chewing and digging are normal dog behaviors. But if you’re coming home to chewed shoes, gnawed furniture legs or gouges around the door frame, your dog could be suffering from separation anxiety.
Destructiveness is a common anxiety symptom that can include chewing, digging and scratching household objects around the home. Some dogs will also carry or drag items from one room to another. The damage can range from minor to extensive, depending on the severity of the anxiety.
If a dog is intent on escaping their environment, they’ll focus their efforts on exit points. The dog might chew or scratch at door frames or window sills, or push on their crate door, or try to jump over their pet gate. In more severe cases, dogs have injured themselves in their desperate attempts to escape — even throwing themselves through glass doors and windows.
For an example of what escapism and destructiveness look like in a dog with separation anxiety, check out this video of a dog trying to escape a crate.
To learn if your dog’s behaviors may be a sign of separation anxiety, take our quick, free quiz.
Are Your Dog’s Destructive Behaviors or Escapism Separation Anxiety or Something Else?
Here are some of the reasons a dog might be destructive or try to escape their environment:
Lack of exercise/boredom:
A dog that isn’t getting enough physical exercise or mental stimulation will look for ways to burn off excess energy. This often means chewing, digging and scratching, especially if the dog doesn’t have a chew toy or food puzzle to keep them busy.
For some dogs, thunderstorms, fireworks or other noises can create stress, causing them to try to escape.
Negative association with their crate:
If a dog doesn’t see their crate as a positive place to spend time (e.g., they weren’t crate trained properly or they experienced a stressful event in their crate), they might try to get out.
Around 16 weeks of age, a dog’s permanent adult teeth start pushing out their baby teeth. Teething lasts until puppies are about 7–8 moths old and can be very uncomfortable. Chewing helps alleviate their pain and soreness.
Foraging for food:
Dogs are highly food-motivated (as we all know), so it’s not uncommon for them to paw at trash cans, pantry doors or kitchen cupboards in search of a snack. If the damage is focused in areas related to food, the cause is probably not separation anxiety.
An overweight dog on a restricted-calorie diet or a dog with a nutritional deficiency might chew on things in search of calories.
Looking for a mate:
Unneutered males are driven to search for mates and might try to escape.
Decoding Your Dog’s Behaviors
To better understand exactly what your dog is doing when you’re gone and how severe the problem might be, we recommend setting up a pet camera. Here are some things to watch for:
- How long after you leave does your dog start chewing, digging or scratching?
- Is the behavior continuous or does your dog settle down in between times?
- Does your dog seem distressed or panicked?
- If they’re focused on escaping their environment, are there any external factors (e.g., sights or sounds) that might be triggering their behavior?
- Is your dog showing other symptoms of separation anxiety, such as vocalizing, pacing or panting?
Other Resources to Help Your Dog with Destructive or Escapism Behaviors
- VIDEO: Zak George: How to Stop Your Dog from Chewing
- VIDEO: How to Use a Kong Toy Video
- Choosing the Best Interactive Toys and Food Puzzles For Your Dog
- 3 Simple Steps to Choose the Best Chews for Your Dog
- Popular Dog Chews That Are Actually Dangerous to Dogs
- Everything You Need to Know About Crate Training Your Puppy or Adult Dog
- How to Stop Your Dog From Counter Surfing
- AKC Puppy Teething and Nipping: A Complete Survival Guide
Treating Destructiveness and Escaping Related to Separation Anxiety
If your dog’s vocalization is due to separation anxiety, there are options for treatment, including the Calmer Canine Anxiety Treatment System, behavior modification training, compression wearables, and more.