Most dog owners have come home at least once to a shredded couch, papers or pillows! One of my pups was a shoe lover; I can’t count how many shoes I lost to this gal. She had a special affinity for the insoles of my husband’s best shoes, and if we didn’t keep all shoes out of her reach, she considered them fair game.

Yep, the most gentle of dogs can turn into a “beast of destruction” once the doors close and she is left alone. Don’t take it personally though; your dog isn’t trying to punish you. In fact, she doesn’t even really get that concept. But as you know, dogs are highly social animals. If they could, they would be by your side night and day, happily tagging along like a fluffy shadow of love. Sadly, that is not possible for most of us. Nevertheless, you obviously don’t want all of your possessions left to the whims of a lonely dog. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to reduce the potential for destructive behavior when your dog is home alone.

Play Time with You
Dogs tend to chew on things when they get bored, even if they do not feel the pangs of separation anxiety. Before you leave, give your dog something to remember by doing an activity first. Take them out for a stimulating walk, play a few rounds of fetch, or do any kind of activity that will give your dog some exercise, attention and something to think about while you are away. Doing this can help tire him out so he doesn’t have a lot of nervous energy after you leave, but it also gives him a chance to store up some positive feelings to counteract any sadness or loneliness he feels when you leave.

Dramatic Departures
Don’t. Just don’t. When you make a big deal about the fact that you are leaving the house, you may actually be setting your dog up for failure. Try making sure your departure is a pleasant experience rather than a dramatic one. If you can carve out some play time or relaxation time before you leave, that would be ideal. If not, remember that even your tone of voice when you get ready to leave can impact how your dog feels when that door closes.

We got in the habit of giving our dogs a treat as we exited; something like a CANIDAE Grain Free PURE Biscuit will have your dog wishing you would leave more often! Make sure your leaving is a calm experience. If you create any anxiety before you leave, you’re not doing yourself – or your dog – any favors.

Toys for Alone Time
If your dog is a chewer, you have two options. Buy him something to chew on, or accept that your furniture is always going to have stuffing and other materials exposed. (You can kiss your shoes goodbye, too!). That is simply not acceptable behavior, so give your dog a wide variety of things that are appropriate to chew on. Offer encouragement and praise when he does chew on these designated items. And for the time being, get in the habit of putting up enticing items like shoes until it’s safe to leave them out again.

Location and Options
Maybe the problem isn’t chewing, but other messes. A doggy door into a securely fenced yard can be a great solution for several reasons. When your dog has to use the bathroom, she has easy access. However, she can also go outside to play whenever she wants to. You might also consider giving your dog an outdoor pen where she can go while you’re at work or out of the house for other reasons.

A crate is another option, but it’s better if you or someone else can let her out after a couple of hours. Speaking of which, if you have to leave your dog alone often and for long periods, you might consider hiring someone to walk your dog while you’re away. Then she can have some company, stimulation and exercise to look forward to when you’re away. Remember, dogs are social animals and require positive interactions.

By Langley Cornwell