Pillow fluff everywhere, scratched-up furniture, broken lamps, and knick-knacks, it looks like a crime scene! Your pets must have thrown a party while you were gone. 

destructive cat clawing at furniture

A destructive dog or cat can make the state of your home unpredictable and oftentimes messier than a person can keep up with. You may feel helpless and as if there is nothing you can do to stop the negative behavior. 

Fortunately, there are ways to halt the destructiveness that has worked for other pet parents in your shoes. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all option for fixing destructive behavior. Animals have different underlying reasons for becoming destructive, which may include boredom, anxiety, or an excess of energy. Dogs and cats also respond to different methods of training, and you shouldn’t expect the same results from the same method for both animals. The most effective remedy will depend upon their routine, disposition, and the underlying triggers of the behavior.

Follow along to learn more about why your pet may be destroying things around the house which will help us find the appropriate solution. 

Reasons Why Your Dog Might Be Destructive

Dogs love to chew, and it can be a healthy behavior up to a point. Newborns and young pups will chew to learn their way around a new environment and explore the things around them, and older dogs chew on things for teeth and jaw maintenance. 

Chewing is not a behavior that should be discouraged unless it is becoming dangerous and destructive, like when they begin to chew things other than toys or bones. If a dog is chewing on things like furniture and pillows, destroying everything in its path, it could mean that they are bored, anxious, hyperactive, or want attention.

A dog who misses its owner and is feeling separation anxiety may destroy things around the house as a way to calm down and express how they feel. This kind of destructive chewing can be dangerous, not only to your valuables but also to the dog. They may try to swallow or chew on something that can get stuck in their throat. This behavior can even lead to many kinds of disasters, including house fires and floods, in extreme circumstances. It should not be ignored or swept under the rug! 

Once we determine the reason your dog is destroying things, we can find the proper training techniques to avoid further accidents.   

Reasons Why Your Cat Might Be Destructive

The most common destructive behavior that cat parents notice is scratching furniture and other surfaces that aren’t meant for clawing. Cats instinctively scratch things as a way to maintain their nails and sometimes for comfort or to express excitement. The most notable victims are usually leather furniture, carpeting, and even doors. 

Clawing is also a scent-marking technique, so if your cat has already scratched something, chances are if you leave it there they will do it again. You may have to remove the item entirely, which is understandably impossible in some cases, so you have the option of making it less appealing to your feline friend. That could mean putting a blanket over a favorite couch or covering their most loved spot on the carpet with an area rug. You can also try spraying the affected area with a pheromone spray to make them less likely to mark, or using something like orange oil or pepper oil to make the area less pleasant for them.

In addition to scratching, some cats may engage in chewing or digging-type behaviors, causing deeper levels of destruction than a casual claw on the furniture. In extreme cases, the cat may get into foodstuffs or knock over objects, creating a sizeable mess more typical of a puppy than a small cat. Many times, these destructive episodes are triggered by separation anxiety or a feeling of insecurity.

It is also worth noting that punishing your cat for bad actions does not effectively teach them to avoid the behavior, rather teaches them to fear you and could damage the relationship between you and your kitty.   

How To Stop Destructive Dog Behavior

With any animal, you’ll have to put in some effort to discover the underlying source of the behavior and come to a compromise. 

To minimize destructive dog behavior, there are a few steps that you can take. First, start with dog proofing your home by locking up valuable items, especially those your dog comes across in their day-to-day life. Next, look into purchasing various chew toys to keep them entertained under supervision! Dogs should never have access to toys or bones unsupervised; this is a choking hazard. You could also teach your dog the command “leave it,” and invest in an at-home security camera with a speaker so that when your dog misbehaves, even while you’re away, you could simply give them a verbal command that prevents a destructive outburst. 

Most basic commands like sit, stay, drop it, and leave it are taught through a positive reinforcement technique where the dog is rewarded every time they follow the command until they eventually don’t need to be rewarded to obey.

More importantly, you need to look at the underlying causes triggering the destructive behavior. The most common causes, and their solutions, can be found below:

  • Boredom and excess energy — Give your dog sanctioned activities, like toys they’re allowed to chew. Provide them with enrichment activities, like treat puzzles or a toy with peanut butter or cheese inside. Make sure they get regular exercise and stimulation, like games or training sessions filled with yummy rewards.
  • Separation anxiety — Separation anxiety is a complex subject we’ve covered before. Addressing the issue requires patience, deliberate training, and efforts to increase the dog’s confidence. The main goal is to build-in other sources of companionship and satisfaction for your dog outside their relationship with you. You can also provide positive reinforcement to show them that you’re leaving the house isn’t going to mean an awful time, such as by taking trips of varying lengths to reinforce that you aren’t always leaving for hours.

How To Stop Destructive Cat Behavior

Cats require a different approach to curbing unwanted behavior. In most cases, you have to trick your cat into thinking that they actually desire what you desire. In this case, we want your cat to find the furniture less appealing to scratch in comparison to their designated area rugs and posts. Cat scratching posts are an excellent way to shift your cat’s attention from the furniture because the material is optimal for claw maintenance. The main strategy is to find the shape of the scratching post that they like, and where they want it placed in the home. For more stubborn cats, there are plug-in diffusers from trusted veterinary brands that give off pheromones to help your cat stop scratching. 

Another way to curb your cat’s desires is to trim their nails for them, although many cats are not fond of people touching their paws so this can get tricky. When you trim your cat’s nails, ensure that you are only snipping off the sharp ends and not pushing the clippers in too far on their nails. While a cat’s claw may seem to be all nail, there are some sensitive nerve endings at the base of the nails that you could easily damage if you cut through them. When you are trying to stop a cat from destructive behavior, remember that deterring them from the object of their desire will have more effective results than scolding, hitting, or spraying them with water. 

Finally, if your cat seems to become manic when you leave the house, take steps to address their comfort areas. Provide them with food, water, and clean litter so they don’t feel they need to find substitutes for these on their own. Have someone check on the cat if you’re going to be gone most of the day or for several days at a time. Provide the cat with plenty to do, such as by offering catnip-infused toys or a cat tower to climb.

Dog Training and Enrichment at Greenlin Pet Resorts

Whether your pup needs to brush up on basic training or is ready for advanced classes, our qualified trainers at the Greenlin Pet Resorts locations can build a custom training plan for you and your dog. Additional training is not only beneficial for a dog’s social and listening skills but can also help their personality blossom and confidence skyrocket. This is a great way to improve a dog’s quality of life as well-trained dogs often gain more freedom and trust between their owners. You can discover underlying causes of unwanted behaviors, like destruction, and seek to address them together in the home.

Additionally, Greenlin provides dog daycare in your area seven days a week! Play sessions at Greenlin allow your dog to feel stimulated, build confidence, get out their energy, improve their ability to handle separation, and give them something to do other than sit around the house.

Greenlin Pet Resorts has 6 locations all throughout the Harrisburg area. Check out our pet daycare options and dog training services, and schedule a free consultation with one of our trainers to curb unwanted behaviors and work towards a better relationship with your dog.