Stress Can Cause Destructive Behavior in Dogs

Stress Can Cause Destructive Behavior in Dogs

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[This is another post in Misha’s Birthday Progress report.]

I was reading Ruth’s post on the Dog Pawsitive Tidbits blog about moving. It reminded me of when Misha and I moved.  We were living with my dad at the time.  His health was deteriorating, and then, after a two week stint in the hospital and emergency surgery, he passed away.  That was May 2010.

We moved in with my mom two months later.  The time between was one of grief and an unsettled household.   Family members were in and out, boxes were packed, rooms were emptied.  It was tough on the humans, so it is only natural that my dog would be affected.  She turned 1 year old right after my dad died. As I’ve written several times about how this affected Misha emotionally, I won’t go into it today.  Let’s just say that it was upsetting for us all, the dog included.

During this stressful time, Misha hid in unusual places
During this stressful time, my dog hid in unusual places like a pile of laundry

Misha was reasonably trained by her first birthday.  She was a fast learner, got her commands down easily, and was housebroken.  Before we moved, I did little things to ease the transition like taking one of her beds and leaving it at our new home.  I also took some toys so she’d have her smell in the house.  I took her over a few times before we moved so the place would be familiar.

However, once we moved all that changed.  She was difficult to housebreak (taking months, not days or weeks), but she was fully housebroken when we moved.  All that went out the window.  She was peeing everywhere indoors.  It was like I hadn’t trained her at all.

I went back to training mode, taking her out every hour.  Eventually, she got the message.

The next problem was far more difficult to solve.  My cute, little dog who had good manners suddenly became very destructive.   She became obsessed with the wall to wall carpeting.  Any piece of yarn that was sticking out a bit too far or leaning over an edge had to be pulled out.

She’d get this look in her eye which meant she was about to sneak behind the couch or into the spare room to attack the carpet.  Sometimes she’d do it right in front of you! She made a nice little hole near my mom’s closet.  I am sure my mom was having second thoughts about letting this dog live in her home.

I turned to a trusty old solution to get her passed this stress induced problem.  I hadn’t used Bitter Apple since my first dog was a pup.  I don’t remember very good results.  It doesn’t work for every dog.  My sister’s dog is impervious to the bitter taste.  But, I was willing to try anything.

The next time Misha chewed an area, I sprayed it with Bitter Apple.  When she came back, she gave it a lick and made a sour face.  If she could say “Ewwww!”, she would have

This dog is a quick learner and never forgets a bad moment–or so it seems.  It only took a few times before she sniffed an area cautiously before chewing.  It wasn’t long after that she decided that chewing the carpet wasn’t such a good idea after all.

Moving is stressful for dogs
Moving is stressful for dogs

It took awhile to work through all the quirks.  Eventually the nervous habits subsided and Misha became comfortable in her new home.  Let me tell you, it makes for a better home all around.

Just like humans, change affects our canine companions.  Just like humans, they get stress out.  And, just like humans, they grieve.  I know science is out on that one, but I’m convinced that they do.

We don’t always think about how a death in the family or moving might impact our pets.  If we’re emotionally upset, chances are our dog will pick up on that.  If you’ve noticed your dog’s behavior has changed for the worst, stress could be a factor.

If destructive chewing is a problem and Bitter Apple hasn’t worked for your dog, there are other products you might try.  Each is designed to make the object being chewed taste disgusting.


In the long view, I learned quite a few things, and hopefully, that will aid me the next time around.

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2 thoughts on “Stress Can Cause Destructive Behavior in Dogs

  1. No doubt in my mind about it, dogs do grieve! And no doubt about it, you are so right that dogs feed off of our moods and if we’re anxious, they might very well be. I have thought about this as I prepare to move and sure hope I don’t have any long-term issues with Valentino, oh joy!

    1. Ruth, Valentino is pretty well adjusted. Hopefully, that will help as you transition to your new surroundings. Misha had just turned one and being a little unsure of herself to begin with was fertile ground for emotional distress. I realize now how easy it is to be inside your own emotions and problems and forget to keep tabs on your dog. Thanks for your comments!

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