So, our dog ate our couch.
For too long my partner and I wanted a dog, but when that moment finally arrived a week ago it proved a bit overwhelming.
We returned home one day to find a priceless ornament torn to shreds, my shoes chewed up and cleaning products laying in various dog beds.
The white couch – the part that’s not already eaten by the dog – is now always coated in mud.
To stop your canine friend from destroying your house, experts say it’s about keeping them mentally stimulated. Dog-proofing your house
Keira and the couch, before it was eaten. Photo: Chris Pritchard
Whether it’s a puppy or an older dog, applied canine behaviourist and dog trainer Cat Saunders of The K9 Company says many of their behaviours can be very similar if they haven’t had training.
Saunders likens adopting a dog to having a crawling baby, where everything within reach could end up in their mouth.
“Don’t leave things laying around like your shoes and socks because dogs can be rather opportunistic,” she says.
“If they see it and you’re not supervising them, then they’ll certainly have a grand old time chewing up your things.”
The more often a dog has an opportunity to display a behaviour, the more it’s being reinforced, Saunder adds. And like everything, prevention is better than cure.
Keep shoes in a cabinet as opposed to on a rack, and ensure there isn’t anything hazardous or sentimental within reach.
Pushing the dining room chairs in and removing any other furniture they can jump on to prevent them from accessing items higher up. Deterrent sprays can also work.
It’s never too late to confine those who have already given their dogs free reign of the house. Photo: Natalie Boog
Saunders says pet owners should give their dog the level of freedom they can deal with responsibly.
“If it’s a young pup, you can confine it to an area, where it’s got the ability to move around freely, go to the toilet et cetera ??? at least then you’re limiting how much destruction they can cause.” Protecting your items could protect your dog
Pet owners should give their dog the level of freedom they can deal with responsibly. Photo:Getty
Veterinary behaviour specialist Kersti Seksel of Sydney Animal Behaviour Services says leaving socks and shoes laying around can create problems if dogs ingest them.
Socks can cause blockages, which may result in surgery, she says, and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhoea.
To get outside, dogs can even eat doors and window frames.
“If they have separation anxiety or they’re frightened of noises, you’ll often find that animals can become quite destructive,” Seksel says.
“They’ll try to get out windows and doors, and they’ll eat venetian blinds and furniture – and it’s not because they’re naughty, and it’s not because they’re bored [and that’s what everybody thinks], these dogs are actually very, very distressed because they’ve been left alone.
“Often people get really upset with the dog because they come home to this mountain of destruction, but in fact the dog is communicating with them and saying ‘help me, help me; I’m really upset, I’m really distressed’.” Don’t get into a routine
A tired dog is a good dog. Photo:Darren Pateman
Dog trainer and behaviour consultant Tamara Jackman of Underdog Training recommends regularly changing the daily routine, such as feeding and walking.
“The thing with having a really set routine like most people tend to have is that the dog develops really firm expectations,” she says.
“That’s fine if we meet those expectations really consistently, but the problem is we tend to change even from weekday to weekend.
“So things vary, and that’s where sometimes dogs can get anxious or frustrated because they don’t understand why – for instance – they’re not getting their regular walk at 5.30AM/PM and it’s a bit later.” Is it possible to keep your house clean?
A clean dog means a clean house, so remember to frequently groom your hound and wash them semi-regularly.
For a long-haired dog and coated breeds, Jackman says to trim around their paws and ensure the area is free of hair to reduce the amount of water and mud they bring inside.
She also recommends having a towel or a rug in doorways where the dogs are coming through, and rugs for the high-traffic areas of the house. Alternatively, owners could confine their dogs to non-carpeted areas of the house.
Consider buying big throw rugs for your couch – ones that you can easily take off and wash – to protect it from muddy paw prints
Jackman says feeding the dogs a really good quality diet means they will smell better, which could make a significant difference to your furniture and carpet. How to keep your dog occupied
Making sure your dog has access to toys they enjoy playing with is key, but it’s not always financially viable to keep buying new ones.
Jackman suggests dividing the toys into two to four groups and rotating them every few days, rather than giving them access to everything.
“That makes a really big difference to the longevity and the interest that the dog has in a toy,” she says.
Pet owners can also provide interactive and treat dispensing toys, and change up the food they put in it to spark their interest again.
Keira occupies herself with a kong. Photo: Haylee Pritchard
Saunders says mental stimulation is very important; all dogs like to smell so consider giving them scent-oriented games and scattering their food around in the backyard as opposed to putting it in a bowl.
Try freezing water and a kong with foods and treats, and hiding them inside an art deco brick or sand pit. Putting a food bowl upside down also means they don’t eat their dried kibbles within seconds.