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Sudden destructive behavior


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Our BC, Gomer, is 4 years old (he's the blue merle in my profile pic). We got him from rescue when he was 7 months old. At the time, he had been living outdoors with minimal positive human interaction. He has gone from a shy little guy to a fairly outgoing boy with a CGC certificate. He is extraordinarily thunderphobic, but otherwise he's been an absolute joy. Up until March, he and his "sister," Thelma Lou (13 1/2 year old Pointer/Lab cross), had become accustomed to a maximum of 4-5 hours alone in the house, but we had to change that when our job situation changed. They are now left alone for 8 hours a day a couple of times a week; otherwise, either my husband or I will be home half or all of the day.

 

This past Thursday, I came home from work (for one of those 8-hour stretches), and Gomer had chewed the living cr*p out of the lower third of the trim around our kitchen door (this is the main door we use to let the dogs outside through our garage). There had been no storms that day (nor had we ever seen this sort of behavior before), so we chalked it up to a critter getting into the garage and his desperate need to get to whatever it was. We called our favorite handyman to get it fixed, then covered the wrecked area with paper to give him something else to chew on if it happened again. (In case you're wondering how we knew it was Gomer and not our other dog, see below.)

 

Yesterday, I went out for about 3 hours to run errands. When I came back, a tiny bit of said paper had been pulled away, but otherwise no issues. Then, yesterday evening, my husband and I were out for 2 hours. When we got home, we discovered that (1) all of the paper had been pulled down and more of the trim had been chewed, and (2) Gomer had closed himself in the powder room that's very close to that door and had chewed up the trim around that door, several magazines, a basket and a little bit of drywall. He was panting and completely freaked out, and there was some blood on the wall and on the trim from all of his frantic chewing.

 

We are naturally very worried as we have never seen this sort of behavior before. He is usually such a good little boy and completely trustworthy. Could this be the beginning of separation anxiety? Or is it some specific reaction to something he's sensing in the garage? (I did see some animal droppings in there today...exterminator is getting a call tomorrow.)

 

Any thoughts or ideas would be appreciated. We are crating him now whenever we leave the house...a situation he does not like but it's better than letting him chew up our house until his gums bleed.

 

Many thanks in advance to this wonderful community of BC lovers.

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I can't say anything about separation anxiety or other concerns, but I hope that crating is at least a short-term fix and was the first think I was going to suggest. I would also suggest making sure he has some safe, chewable items in the crate (like a Kong or similar sturdy chewable) so that any anxiety that might cause chewing would have a potential outlet in something safe.

 

It *may be* that he had a reason to fuss at the molding and then found the chewing to be self-rewarding. Plus, when he managed to get shut in the powder room, that may have caused him anxiety and resulted in a frantic attempt to chew his way out.

 

I am sure people will contribute better suggestions and advice.

 

Very best wishes!

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Well, in my house, my immediate thought would be "BAT IN THE WALL!" They drive my dog crazy, though he's never chewed trim or wall to get at them.

 

Since the area he was chewing was the same area, from different angles, I wonder if there isn't something in that wall that he can hear and you cannot. Especially given that he's never shown separation anxiety or chewing behavior before, and signs of droppings in the garage. I've learned to trust my dog when he acts like he hears or sees something I don't hear or see. He's always right. :)

 

Very mysterious - good luck!

 

Mary

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My dog's separation anxiety started when he was around 3. We were out of town and had a pet-sitter coming several times a day to take him outside and play with him; DH was there in the evenings. The day before we returned, Jack chewed my front door, blinds in 2 rooms, windowsill, and backdoor. A veterinary behaviorist diagnosed him with separation anxiety and he has been on medication ever since. Unfortunately, I have had to crate him since then---he can't have free run of the house anymore. He broke off multiple teeth because of the chewing.

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Well, the exterminator didn't do much. It turns out the droppings in question are lizard droppings. He put out traps, but I'm not sure that Gomer could sense a tiny lizard on the opposite side of the garage from the other side of the door.

 

We're going to continue to keep an eye on this situation. If it continues, we'll definitely be visiting the vet.

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Is Gomer on any new meds? My Sophie has always been very well-behaved in my house until she started a long-term course of prednisone. Then, she began counter surfing, which I expected, and destructive behavior, which was a surprise. She chewed up any paper she could reach, including magazines and bills left on the coffee table, tissues on the nightstand, and books on the shelves. I caught her gnawing at the corner of a wooden table and screamed bloody murder at her, and she fortunately didn't do that again, but it all clearly began when she started the prednisone. After ten years of being loose in the house all the time, I had to start crating her. Now off the prednisone, she is much better and mostly trustworthy loose in the house again, but she remembers the behavior and because it must have been self-rewarding on some level she will sometimes revert if she is left completely alone (as in, no people and other dogs home with her) or something outside stresses her.

 

I hope this resolves itself at some point, but for now I'd crate your dog whenever you're gone.

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This may not be practical for you but my first thought was to set up a video camera in the area where he is when alone. Since you said he is afraid of thunder, maybe the phobia has jumped to another noise he is hearing while left alone. This happened with my guy who is extremely afraid of fireworks, for days he was afraid of any loud popping noise that was similar to fire works.

 

If you set up a camera you could see if it is a sudden reaction to something or if he is just wandering around then starts getting anxious because he knows you left.

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Thanks for all of the great advice, everyone. No new meds, really nothing new other than the slight change in routine that I mentioned in my original post.

 

I think we will try to catch him on video to see if we can figure out what's going on. He has gotten through the last few days with no issues. (Though he wasn't loose in the house for any really long stretch.) I did figure out a way to close off an area under our garage door where a small mammal could have been squeezing through, so maybe we've fixed the problem (knock wood).

 

I'll continue to keep you posted.

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My dog developed separation anxiety and started being destructive around the age of 3.5 to 4, but there was a medical cause for it. He has PRA and is now blind, and the anxiety started around the time his sight started to get really bad. He could previously be left loose in the house for any amount of time with no problems. Now I have to crate him. And for awhile he was even chewing up his plastic crate pans out of anxiety, but now that he is on Prozac that has stopped. He still has to be crated, and he barks out of anxiety and digs at his crate sometimes, but the destruction has stopped. He also developed noise phobias around the same, which would lead to the same types of behaviors. I hope for both your sakes there is an external cause or it was just a momentary phase!

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You might get your dog's throid checked - that can cause behavioral changes. I have a dog who started having weird noise phobias a year ago at age 9. He's now on Prozac which has helped a lot and also I give him supplements or treats with L-Theanine in it now which helps with anxiety.

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My first thought is anxiety. Some dogs are more sensitive to changes in their routine and sometimes even a slight change in schedule (like you being gone for 8 hrs rather than 4hrs) will create an anxiety which leads to destructive behavior. I'd condition him to get accustom to you leaving for longer periods and gradually allow him more access to the whole house. Give plenty of exercise before you leave and put down a treat cube, kong, antler etc. to keep him occupied while your gone.

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