Battersea Q&A: Why is my rescue dog being destructive?
(Q) I rehomed rescue dog Roni, a Patterdale Terrier, two months ago. She’s being destructive — although only when visitors are here. At the weekend she destroyed a friend’s leather handbag, her purse and Nectar card, my socks, and her own leather body harness.
(A) Battersea canine welfare trainer Nathalie Ingham says: Dogs can be destructive for many reasons, including boredom and loneliness. In Roni’s case it sounds like she doesn’t like not being the centre of attention.
In the first few exciting weeks after adopting her, it’s very natural to give a dog lots of attention — but now, when you don’t, she makes her feelings known.
Roni has decided that ragging on anything near to hand (such as on the floor) is fair game, and from her point of view, your reaction means she gets what she wanted — your attention.
Tackling this issue could be quite simple. Share some fun time with Roni before visitors come, perhaps a walk or a little basic training like sit, paw, wait, and down, with lots of praise for good responses. By the time your friend arrives she will be physically tired and mentally exercised. Continue to practise these basic commands as visitors come in so that they can interact and reward her for positive behaviours and don’t become a cue for being left out. Or give her something like a special tasty Kong so that she can take herself away and occupy herself with that.
Set her up to succeed. Try not to leave stuff at ground level for her to investigate and grab. Have favourite chews and toys around which she can grab instead, and reward her for choosing them.
If she does get hold of an ‘illegal’ toy, ignore her. And ask your visitors to play with and talk to her too, so that they become a fun addition to her day, and not something which is going to make her feel left out.