Destructive Dog? Bored Dog? 10 Ideas to Redirect that Mental and Physical Activity

Wow! Lately we have seen a bunch of destructive dog tendencies from otherwise-sweet and well-behaved well-adjusted dogs:  tearing up doggy beds, chewing up pillows, digging in the sofa… you can imagine! Not fun for pet owners to come home to, clean up, or try try to figure out and avoid in the future.   

Well….   Alexandria Pet Care’s TIPS to the rescue to help you out! 

We have seen these tendencies and worked with dogs (and owners) before to solve them. 

All day long when the house is quiet – when people are out on errands or at work, kids are at school, or maybe the household is sleeping… those are all times when a dog alone is most prone to destructive tendencies.  And all year long, rainy days, and winter days are usually the hardest for dogs who need to “work” with their brains or bodies, and for energetic dogs who need a few playtimes during the day. 

Here’s what we hear.   

Our clients’ #1 question is:  How Do I keep my dog from….  (fill in the blank)…”   chewing?  scratching? digging? stealing? 

Aha! GREAT Question, because it starts with “HOW DO I” — and yes, human, that’s us.   Only the humans can help, assist, prevent, and change dogs’ behavior.   If your dog is causing problems in your home or in your life, the first place to start is with YOU. What can you figure out about the behavior? What solutions can you try? What tactics can you use with your dog? 


Three steps to a solution

  1. BE CURIOUS.   Ask yourself WHY and WHEN destruction is happening…   we list some possible reasons for destruction below. Do any of those resonate? 
  2. EVALUATE the type of behavior….   is this brand new behavior? Is this a long-time pattern?  Is the dog a puppy or adolescent going through a phase (hint: don’t wait it out. Take action to prevent and teach. In any case, work on it!)  Is there anything new in your home environment or immediate neighborhood ?
  3. TEST different solutions and try different tactics 
    Not all dogs act up for the same reason, and not all dogs will respond to the same solutions.  Try one or two new things a week, see what your dog enjoys most, what tires them out, what calms them down afterwards… over a few weeks with some trial and error, you should see a difference! 

So, WHY is this happening? 
Here are a few of the hundreds of reasons we see:

  • Boredom (does your dog need new toys, new games, or more time with you?)
  • Change in routine (have schedules changed at your home? Is your routine different? Are walks shorter?)
  • Anxiety (Is your dog home alone longer than usual? Is there more noise? Is there construction around? Are smells different? )
  • Post-holiday blues (many dogs get used to more humans around to play and more cuddles with in November and December.  January can bring a back-to-work blah for dogs too!) 
  • Winter stir-crazies (lower light outside means less outside playtime, colder winter weather sometimes means fewer walks and shorter walks) 
  • Attention seeking (is your dog trying hard to get your attention for affection? To engage you to play? To be mischievous when you’re not looking? To “love” on your stuff because you’re not there? )

If you identify with some of the above reasons, or if you can come up with a few more, then you’re HALF-way to a solution!


Alrighty, let’s get to the point already:

Our secrets for more engagement, play, mental activity, and physical exercise!


  1. Practice old skills and words (sit, down, stay, come), or learn some new ones (spin, roll over, paw/shake, speak). Just 10 minutes each morning, and 10 minutes each evening are a mental relief for your dog that really can help.
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  2. Schedule an outdoor play date with a well-known dog or neighbor.
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  3. Play fetch with your dog (need to teach your pup to retrieve AND return? Here’s a good resource: 
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  4. Play “Find it” – Hide a few treats (or favorite toys) around your living room where you can direct and praise as your dog to finds them (don’t forget the praise when they discover the prizes!)
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  5. Set up a treat puzzle (make your own with a muffin tin and 6 or 12 tennis balls to “cover” the muffin holes but only hide treats under half.
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  6. Read-up on more doggie mind games and dog tricks for you two to learn TOGETHER.   The key here is interaction with you.
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  7. Lazy day toys:  if you’re unable to do more physical exercise or unwilling (have a cold?) then give your dog more supervised antler-chew toys, dental toys, or freeze a kong toy with peanut butter or treats inside to lick for a while.  Just be sure to supervise your dog anytime they have a chew of any kind.
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  8. Go on new adventures 2 or 3 times a week   (slowly for dogs who are timid with new experiences)  – new places, new sights, new smells will all work a dog’s mental energy (like a LONG day for you at work) so that they’re tired when they come home.
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  9. Try an agility course, either outside in your own yard, or in a class, or at a doggie gym. The NEW type of exercise will be fun to learn and physically active at the same time.
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  10. Get more exercise.  Ok, so we saved the BEST for last.   Really! A tired dog is a good dog, everyone says.   So, add a walk. Add TWO walks, of an hour each.  Add a romp indoors with a rag toy. Toss a ball UP THE STAIRS at your house for your dog to retrieve.  Add some running time in your yard or at a dog park. Just do it. (as they say!)


2020-02-06T19:46:10-05:00 January 31st, 2020|

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