We adopted a boxer/pug/bulldog named Magento. He is three years old. Our problem is that he is systematically eating our backyard from top to bottom. He is breaking branches off trees, and chewing on branches and the other plant materials in the yard. He only stops when he gets caught. A few hours later, he passes some obnoxious gas. This can’t be good for his digestion. Why is he doing this and how can we stop him?
– Allison Vann, Cleveland, Ohio
There’s an old saying, “If you don’t give a dog a job, he will become self-employed.” Apparently, Magento’s made it his full-time job to landscape your yard and prune your trees.
Here are some simple steps to stop your puppy from chewing up and destroying things
- Start by giving Magento more supervised time outdoors, since it sounds like he does listen to you when he gets caught. He wants to please you, so follow up your quick verbal corrections with treats and praise to show him you approve. I promise it’s a behavior he will want to see you repeat.
- As for why he does it, your enterprising dog may be feeling bored or suffering from anxiety. Bored dogs often entertain themselves by resorting to destructive behaviors, like digging holes, chewing on things or tearing up the house. Anxious dogs may exhibit the same behaviors, but for reasons related to being separated from you. Thankfully, both problems can be addressed in similar ways.Dogs need exercise and clever activities to stay physically fit and mentally healthy. Keep Magento active by walking him a few times a day or teaching him to play fetch or some other active game. Keep his mind busy by introducing puzzle toys where he must figure out for himself how to push a toy over or open a secret compartment to get a treat.
- Finally, teach him something for at least 10 minutes a day, like sit, down or retrieve a ball. Dogs often are more relaxed after training sessions because it requires a lot of brain power to listen and learn new things.
If you feel he might suffer from anxiety, talk to your veterinarian about medication to help him during this training/transition period. The goal is to keep Magento’s body relaxed and his mind busy, so he doesn’t feel compelled to re-design your backyard.
Cathy M. Rosenthal is a longtime animal advocate, author, columnist and pet expert who has more than 25 years in the animal welfare field. Send your pet questions, stories and tips to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name, city, and state. You can follow her @cathymrosenthal.