Puppies and even full grown dogs often have a tendency to scratch and chew on walls, doors and furniture. It can wreak havoc on your home if you don’t get the situation under control quickly. Understanding the different methods that are available and which ones to try first is critical to saving your walls from certain disaster!
Getting your dog to stop scratching the walls is a combination of protective coverings for your walls and training for your dog. If you don’t want to use coverings or other contraptions to protect your walls, you will need to take more time to train your dog. If you prefer the quick and easy method, coverings might be just fine for you.
Since every dog is different, there are a variety of solutions to try that will yield different results. The key is to be patient while you learn what does and does not work for your dog. In case it’s not obvious, you are learning at the same time they are, so patience is definitely a virtue.
How Do I Get My Dog to Stop Scratching the Walls?
In this article, we are going to break down 7 easy ways to get your dog to stop scratching the walls. While these methods are quite simple, they do require some time and effort on your part, so be prepared. Like anything that is worth doing, you will have to dedicate yourself to the cause.
In a nutshell, our methods can be more time-intensive such as training and spending time with the dog, or a quick-fix like spraying something on the wall to deter him. Really think about how you want to approach the situation and then choose the method that will work best for you. As we mentioned before, it will likely be a combination of multiple methods.
Train Your Dog to Do What You Ask
If you’re a dog owner, you generally want to train a dog to do the things you want and not to do the things you don’t want. This sounds simple, but often is not. Dogs are not logical or subjective in the same way that humans are, so training them is more complicated. There is also the obvious language barrier between you and your dog.
Being consistent is the most important element when it comes to training your dog to do anything. If he scratches the walls every time someone leaves the house, you need to correct him every time. Since they are not subjective (if this, then that), you must be as consistent as possible.
Here are a few methods you can try for training:
Pennies in a bottle: A very simple way to correct the behavior without striking your dog is to get a small plastic bottle and put 5 or 6 pennies in it. Each time your dog scratches the wall, shake the bottle in front of him or toss it somewhere near him. Note that I did not say throw it AT him. This process can be frustrating, but let’s resist that urge!
The sound of the pennies will startle him and he will become focused on that instead of on the action of scratching the walls. Over time, he will start to think twice before doing it. Again, you must be consistent in order for this process to work.
Offer an alternative: Many dogs respond well when given an alternative behavior for whatever they are currently doing. For example, if your dog scratches at the door when he wants to go out, you could train him to ring a bell or bark instead. Some owners prefer to teach the dog to sit quietly by the door until noticed.
Regardless of which option you choose, this is a great way to get your do to stop scratching the wall. If you teach him what you want him to do, he will gladly oblige once he learns the behavior. Your dog wants to please you, so you need to give him clear communication about what pleases you and what does not.
Ignore him: Dogs are typically scratching and pawing because they want attention. Giving him the attention that he wants is only going to reinforce the behavior. It will teach him that scratching the wall will make you play with him, which is what he wants, so he will continue to do it.
Instead, try to ignore him when he starts scratching the wall. Freeze in place, turn your back to him, avoid eye contact, etc. Do this for about 10-30 seconds and see if he stops scratching. Once he does, you can pay attention to him again.
Teach him to shake: This seems completely irrelevant, but it can work wonders! If you teach your dog that his paws are not bad things, but rather that there is a right and wrong way to use them, he will begin using them for good. If he is scratching the walls with his paws and gets reprimanded, but shakes your hand and gets rewarded, what do you think he will do more often?
Properly Exercise Your Dog To Get Out Nervous Energy
Dogs are just like people in the sense that they require exercise to stay healthy and happy. Try to exercise your dog for at least thirty minutes per day, as vigorously as possible for their level of fitness. This can be throwing the ball in the backyard and having him retrieve it, taking him for a swim, or going for a nice long walk.
When dogs exercise, they get a very similar adrenaline rush to that of a human. If you’ve ever heard of the “runner’s high”, that’s what we’re talking about here. Dogs’ energy, alertness and “happy hormones” will increase when they exercise, which leads to much more contented behavior afterwards.
Whatever mode of exercise suits your dog the best is a great place to start. It often works best to do it before you leave the house for the day so the dog will feel happy and content to sleep while you’re away. But regardless of what time you exercise your dog, just make sure you do.
Play Mind Games to Keep Their Brain Challenged
Challenge your dog mentally using challenge puzzle games and other contraptions that make him think and keep him occupied for a while. There are tons of products on the market that can accomplish this. Most of the time, these contraptions have an interior spot where you can put a dog treat and then the dog has to figure out how to get to it.
Games like this will keep your dog’s brain active. Not only does this expend some energy just like the exercise does, but it will also allow him to have less anxiety when you leave the house. Much like humans, dogs need mental and physical stimulation on a regular basis to be happy and healthy.
More often than not, you will find that the combination of exercise and brain games contribute to much better behavior. If your dog is tired and content from playing games, he is more likely to chill out and behave in a way that compliments your lifestyle and your family’s needs.
Spend Time with Your Dog so They Feel Safe and Content
Have you ever heard the saying: Your dog is a small part of your world, but to him, you ARE the world? How true this is! There is nothing he wants more than to spend time with you.
Dogs innately tune in to the emotions of their human counterparts. The bonding time between you and your dog is really important for his peace of mind and quality of life. He depends on you to fulfill his need for interaction and it’s your responsibility to do that for him.
Not only does bonding time allow your dog to tune in to your emotions and feel connected, but it also helps with his anxiety. Many dogs experience separation anxiety because they have no idea when or if you’re coming back once you leave the house. If you can imagine that feeling, you can understand why he might scratch the walls.
Spending time with your dog on a regular basis helps him to feel secure in his relationship with you. I know that might sound crazy, but it really is true. The dog needs affection just as much as a human counterpart does.
Crate Your Dog So They Have Healthy Boundaries
Many people get really upset at the thought of crating their dog during the day while they’re at work, but it’s much worse for us humans than it is for the dog. Many dogs feel comfortable and safe in their crate. It’s like their own personal space where they can get away from everything and everyone out in the house.
If you intend to crate your dog during the day, be mindful that you should not also use the crate for discipline purposes. If you make him go to his crate every time he does something wrong, he will associate it with bad things and therefore not want to spend time in it. However, if you keep the crate door open when you’re at home with him, you may find that he goes in there on his own to lie down.
Once your dog is comfortable with his crate, it will be much easier to put him in there for the day. You will feel a lot less guilty about it. Start your dog with a kennel as soon as possible, when they are young, in order to help them feel comfortable.
Use a Scratch Guard to Keep Surfaces Safe
A scratch guard is basically a piece of plastic, rubber or other material that you can attach to your door or wall where the dog typically scratches. This acts as a barrier between your dog and the wall in the event that he starts scratching the wall. There are a variety of products on the market that fall in to this category.
Plastic coverings for walls and doors are the most common version of these products. They protect pets from splinter injuries while maintaining the integrity of the door and wall. These coverings sometimes come in metal varieties, but the plastic is much more common and much easier to install.
They are sometimes attached to the bottom half of the wall, from the chair rail down to the floor. Other models are hung on the door knob and cover several inches to the left and right. This allows the plastic to cover part of the door and part of the wall. This is especially helpful if your dog tends to scratch at the door when people leave the house.
While extremely useful in protecting your walls and doors from scratch marks, these guards can be unsightly if not installed well. Be sure to read the manufacturers label and instructions about how to assemble and install them. If you prefer to go the DIY route, be sure to check out some YouTube videos or blog articles to see what they should look like before installing them.
Use a Bad-Tasting Spray or Gel to Make the Wall Seem Gross
Scratching the walls can quickly turn into chewing the walls if you’re not careful. This is most often witnessed in puppies but can also be true for adult dogs. If you find that your dog is starting to do this, there are a few things you can try.
There are a few different sprays and gels on the market like bitter apple spray that you can spray on the wall or door where your dog tends to scratch and chew the most. As soon as he scratches it and then licks his paws, or actually puts his tongue on the wall, he will back away and be done with it. These sprays are hypoallergenic and non-toxic, so they are perfectly safe and humane.
If you don’t want to purchase one, you can always go the DIY route and make one at home. Chili powder and vinegar tend to do the trick really nicely. Again, the key is to make it as nasty-tasting as possible to deter your dog from touching that area.
Some people even use VapoRub as a deterrent for dogs chewing and scratching. It is a well-known fact that dogs hate the smell and taste of it, so it’s a great thing to use if you don’t want to train your dog or install scratch guards. Just make sure that you buy enough of it because the containers are super small!
The really important thing to consider before applying any of these solutions to your walls is whether or not they will discolor the walls. We recommend testing it out on a small patch of paint first. Let it sit for a day and then try to wipe it off.
If it discolors your walls really badly, this might not be a great solution for you. It all depends on the type of walls you have, the type of paint that is on them and the ingredients in the mixture. But definitely test it first!
Why Do Dogs Scratch Walls?
Destructive behavior is a sign of alarm and distress in your dog. Dogs generally become distressed if they feel uncertain about their environment. They might also feel threatened by something, which can also cause them to act poorly.
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that dogs display destructive behavior. If they are feeling stressed, they will scratch, chew, dig and do all sorts of things that you probably don’t want them doing. This tends to happen when they have extreme separation anxiety and cannot handle when you leave them along for a period of time.
This can also happen where there are things in the environment that are stressful. Thunderstorms are often the cause of stress and anxiety for dogs. If they are uncertain of how to handle the noise and the flashing light, they might resort to scratching, digging, chewing and more.
Another key reason that dogs scratch walls is boredom. As we discussed earlier, it is really helpful if you exercise your dog to get all their nervous energy out before your leave the house. If you do everything you can to help your dog overcome anxious emotions, you will be in a much better place when it comes to stopping destructive behavior.
Last but not least, sometimes the chewing and scratching behavior is simply the result of a puppy being a puppy. If your dog is really young and teething, there is no need to do any more research. He is just like a child who is teething and needs something to chew on to help with the pain and discomfort.
Why Do Dogs Have Anxiety?
Just like people, there are tons of ways that dogs can be triggered and experience symptoms of anxiety, which can lead to scratching walls and chewing on furniture. If you’re concerned about your dog’s emotional well-being, consider what might be causing his anxiety. There are a variety of ways in which a dog can become fearful or nervous.
Fear of Abandonment
Many dogs experience this fear, whether or not it has happened in their lives before. In general, your dog wants to be with you at all times, for any reason. When this opportunity is not given to him, he might get nervous.
You might see this quite a bit in your dog if he is a rescue and has been through something traumatic. He might’ve been abandoned before and is now terrified that it will happen again. Helping him overcome this fear will be critical in your success of getting him to stop scratching the walls.
Fear of Being Alone
This goes hand-in-hand with fear of abandonment. Many dogs don’t know how to behave or handle themselves when they are left alone. This can lead to some pretty scary thoughts and unhappiness, which leads to destructive behavior.
Your dog might also be fearful of light noises around your home such as the ice maker dumping ice, the air conditioner kicking on and other such sounds. While these sounds are not loud, they can be nerve-racking for a dog when he is by himself.
Fear of Loud Noises
Most dogs are really fearful of loud noises, regardless of whether or not their human is with them. Think of things like thunder, loud music, the sound of the garbage truck, etc. These types of sounds can really startle your dog and make him anxious.
When he hears loud sounds, he may become fearful for his safety or the safety of his family members. When this happens, he will either become very defensive or he will cower and retreat. Either way, it’s not a pleasant experience for him.
Sometimes, travel is a really great activity for your dog. Maybe he likes to sit in the back seat of your car and stick his nose out the window. Maybe he likes to get out at a rest stop and check out all the new smells that he encounters.
Traveling is not pleasant for all dogs, though. Some are extremely fearful and anxious in a car, truck or airport. Be sure to spend some extra time with your dog if you find that he is struggling during your travels. He needs the extra attention to ease his mind and make him feel more comfortable with his surroundings.
Your dog might also be really nervous around new people. Since he is unfamiliar with them, he might not adjust very quickly. Although many dogs love people and the opportunity to make new friends, this is not the case for all dogs.
Try to help your dog adjust to new faces and new smells when you have company over or when you take him out in public. The more you can socialize him, the better he will adjust in the future. Just keep in mind that if it’s really stressful for him, you should try not to expose him to it for long periods of time.
How Do I Know If My Dog Has Anxiety?
Aside from the destructive behaviors of scratching and chewing the walls, there are tons of other behaviors your dog might display out of anxiety or fear. If your dog regularly howls, growls, barks, etc., it could be a real issue for him. Although a little bit of these behaviors is normal, incessant barking or howling could be a sign of a bigger problem.
If your dog pants more than you think he should, paces the house or shivers like he’s freezing to death, it could also be a sign of anxiety. None of these types of behaviors are normal in a dog who has been raised in a comfortable, protected home. Dogs who have been rescued from intense situations are highly likely to display some of these behaviors.
It’s hard to believe, but another sign of anxiety in a dog could be self-harm. Behaviors such as excessive licking and chewing are definite signs that something is wrong. What’s difficult about it is that it could be allergies, or it could be anxiety!
Does My Dog Need a Psychiatric Evaluation?
Some people have their dogs tested for anxiety and other emotional or mental conditions. While this is certainly a possibility, it is not necessary. If you practice the tips that we shared with you in this article and spend some quality time with your dog every day, you should see some improvements in his behavior.
That being said, there are many dogs who have experienced trauma and really gut-wrenching experiences in their lifetimes. If you are a dog rescuer and regularly have rescue dogs in your home, you will likely run in to a lot of this. These dogs can undergo a psychiatric evaluation to let you know exactly what the issue is, but the treatment is likely to be the same, unless the doctor prescribes some medicine.
There are tons of reasons for which your dog might scratch the walls or doors of your house. If anxiety is really a concern, you should consider trying some of the training and relationship-building options listed above. These can be game changers for both you and your dog when it comes to behavior change.
If you have some pretty great DIY skills and you don’t mind the plastic coverings on your walls, that will be a much quicker fix for you. Although it’s not ideal in terms of helping your dog overcome his poor behavior, it will definitely do the trick when it comes to protecting your walls from his claws. Be sure to read the instructions before applying a coating or covering to your walls.
Last but not least, really consider what the root of the problem is. If your dog suffers from anxiety or abandonment issues, it will serve you both well to spend more time together and to help ease those fears. The more time you spend with your dog and the more you try to find the cause of the problem, the better off you both will be.
I hope this helps!