My Couch Has Been Destroyed by My Dog

Dog Behavior: My Couch Has Been Destroyed by My Dog

“My couch has been destroyed by my dog!” is not something these dog owners were proud to confess. It is a pretty embarrassing thing to admit. My dog ate the couch! Ouch!

Plus, if they don’t fix the problem, what piece of furniture is next on the hit list!  It also presents a huge problem, because now, not only do they have to determine the cause of the destructive chewing, but they have to fix the problem before purchasing a new couch.

This couple is definitely not alone in that boat. I’ve seen a lot of damaged furniture this past year, that’s for sure.

My Couch Has Been Destroyed by My Dog

Another complication is the destruction usually takes place when the owners are not home. This makes it impossible to catch their dog in the act and in time to do anything about it.

When they get home and see the damage, suffice to say it’s not a pretty picture – then look out dog!

This brings up yet another problem. When their dog is corrected after the fact, the dog doesn’t associate the punishment with the crime.
There are huge side effects to late punishment including a heightened sense of anxiety and stress in anticipation of the owner’s return which intensifies the dog’s chewing activities to relieve tension.

It seems like an endless loop and it can definitely become an endless loop.

The Clue? Your Dog’s Environment.

While there are many causes of destructive chewing, most lie not with the dog but with the dog’s environment. Dogs relieve tension in many ways. They bark, pace dig and chew.

As I’ve said before, most all behavior problems in dogs is stress related. It is the owner’s responsibility to find and remove the source of the stress in the environment and redirect the dog’s chewing to something more appropriate.

A previous client had a Golden Retriever that sat on a couch gazing out the window when the owners were away. A neighborhood cat taunted the dog outside the window for hours, sending the dog into a frenzied state. The Golden took out all of this tension on the couch.

Their quick and easy fix was applying some inexpensive frosted window application (the peel-and-stick variety available at Home Depot) to the inside of the window preventing their dog from seeing the cat. The Result? A new couch was ordered.

Do you have a destructive chewer? Can you identify the stressor in your dog’s environment?

If you need a check list of things that “could be” contributing factors, the following have been known to contribute to destructive chewing in some dogs:

Owner Related Factors

• Giving your dog personal belongings like socks or shirts as toys
• Providing fabric toys for your dog if he’s a known big chewer.
• Punishing your dog excessively for being too mouthy.

Stress-Related Factors

• Your emotional departures and arrivals
• No structure/rules in the dog’s life
• Excessive doting on your dog at home
• Isolation of your dog used as punishment
• Barrier frustration (as in example of the Golden and the cat above)
• Physical punishment upon the dog after the destructive chewing
• A noticeably upset owner upon arriving home
• Boredom
• No significant exercise program for the dog

Of critical importance is no display of emotions from you when leaving the house or arriving home as this could contrast too sharply with your dog’s alone time.

For example, when arriving home ignore your dog for at least 5 minutes and avoid eye contact as well – as if he weren’t there. After 5 minutes, call your dog calmly over and ask him to sit, then praise him and briefly pet him and send him on his way.

Make sure that before you leave there are plenty of approved chew toys for your dog.

In summary, identify the cause of your dog’s stress in the environment and remove it. Leave acceptable chew toys for your dog just before you depart for work, start a consistent exercise program with your dog and work on creating 3, 2 minute dog obedience training sessions daily for your dog.

Remember, it may take 4 weeks of consistent work to begin to see a difference so don’t go out and buy that new sofa just yet.

I’m really interested in your thoughts and opinion on this.   Do you have this problem?  – I’m here to help.

 

“Together, We Can Raise a Happy and Obedient Dog”

Jim Burwell, professional dog trainer for 25+ years, serving 8700+ clients, has a profound understanding of dog behavior and the many things, we as humans, do that influence that behavior – good or bad.  Jim has the ability to not only steer dogs and puppies down the right path but to also train the owners to understand their part in having a great dog.

His Ground Rules for Great Dogs is the culmination of these years of training into an easy, step-by-step process so that your dog understands what you expect of him, you empower him to be able to give you the behavior you want and you empower him to be successful at living in a human home.

9 replies
  1. Jim
    Jim says:

    Angela: pls. re-read the article as I give you a List of reasons this may be happening. Take some time to pay attention to your dog and my bets are you will find the reason on that list i gave.

  2. Lorna
    Lorna says:

    Hi. I am at a loss as to what to do about my dog Mays chewing my couch. She is now a little over two at best guess. I got her last January as a rescue. she was an extremely timid dog when I got her. Scared of people, dogs, cats, pretty much everything. She had gotten pregnant and the people who had her threw her out into the back yard where she made a nest for herself, had her puppies and did her best to survive. She and her puppies were rescued.
    Anyway she has made tremendous strides since I’ve gotten her. She is still timid but is now very social, loves going to the dog park and playing with other dogs there and my two cats at home.
    My problem is her problem with my couch. She shredded it in the first few months I had her. I tried kennel training but was unsuccessful. It’s hard to know her situation unknown prior to me having her but she reacts violently to the kennel. I tried giving all her treats only in the kennel, feeding only in the kennel, in and out with praise, etc. She shredded the bottom tray, bent the wire connection somehow and squeezed herself thru about a 4 inch hole injuring her face and drug herself and the kennel 6-8 feet across the floor and went completely backward in her potty training, would have a accident(diarrhea)daily in the kennel and the potty on the floor when out. So kenneling is out.
    For the last couple of months she hasn’t bothered the couch at all so when a friend had one for sale I bought it cheap. That was Saturday. Today, Monday I came home at lunch and the cushion was partially pulled off and the corner chewed. Help! I don’t want another couch ruined and I don’t know how to prevent it! I hired a trainer whose solution was bitter apple spray ( which seemed to have no effect) or put her in a kennel. I don’t know what to do. In every other way she is a fantastic dog. Loving, smart, very obedient and trainable.

  3. RaeAnne
    RaeAnne says:

    I enjoyed reading your article but I am still at a loss about what to do with our German Shepherd. He is 14 months old. He began shredding the couch about 2 months ago. He is a heavy chewer and very mouthy but we always keep him supplied with toys and have not had problems with him chewing or shredding items that are not his before. He does shred his blankets so I stopped putting them his crate. We stopped putting him in his crate while we are away about 4-5months ago. He usually lays there most of the day anyway and is usually alone less than 6 hours a day. The confusing part about his behavior is that he usually has been sufficiently exercised when he tears the couch and I have not been away more than normal. The first time we had been busy and there had been rain for about a week so I understood his frustration. The 4 other times that has not been the case. Do you have any suggestions about what could be triggering this behavior or how we might discourage it. We began a group obedience class about a month ago but I don’t speak the same language as the instructor so I haven’t been able to talk with him about it. Ironically, our usually very obedient dog has begun to ignore commands since we began obedience classes.

  4. Jim Burwell
    Jim Burwell says:

    Michelle

    Thanks for commenting. Leaving your dog outside more is not the answer. It’s too hot and it does not solve the problem. There is something amiss as far as your dog is concerned. You will have to
    figure out what that is. If you come upon destruction after the fact – say nothing, no looks, nothing. You’re too late. You will need to look at how you have life structured
    with your dog(s) and see what is out of balance.

  5. Michelle Phillps
    Michelle Phillps says:

    Jim, we have a 1 1/2 year old Rottie that likes to chew but it isn’t a consistant thing. Most days are fine then one afternoon we may walk in to a coffee table or chair chewed up. She has two other companions in the house with her during the day. A husky which she pals around with and an older pom that pretty much just lays in the bathroom and sleeps. She otherwise a very good and sweet tempered pup! My husband takes her out in the backyard every evening and plays with her but other than that she’s inside most of the time. The other things on the list didn’t apply….except maybe the “upset owner arriving home! But I do not physicaly punish her. Usually just a “who done this?” withan accompaning stern look. Should she be outside more? I hate leaving her out as hot as it is.
    Thanks for all of the wonderful articles!
    Michelle
    La Marque, TX

  6. Chuck
    Chuck says:

    Good article. I think it’s always so easy to blame the dog instead of looking at what we’re doing to contribute to the behavior. Kinda like society today – always blame the other guy instead of taking responsibility.

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