Dogs may chew and eat the oddest things, and the behavior of dogs chewing through drywall can certainly be classified as one of dog’s most peculiar behaviors. Why would a dog chew through drywall? It might not make sense to us, but when we see things from a dog’s perspective, chewing and even eating the drywall, may start to make sense.. Well, perhaps we should say, it becomes a tad bit more understandable. If your dog is chewing through drywall, you may be wondering why he does that, and how to fix it. So what’s up with dogs eating through drywall, and dogs chewing up the baseboards or pulling off wallpaper? And most of all, what can be done to stop your dog from remodeling the whole house?
Busting the Boredom
Let’s face it: dogs have teeth and those chompers just happen to be in search of something to chew on. In the great outdoors, dogs often find handy things to chew on, perhaps a branch, a little twig or some bone some other animal left behind, but in a domesticated setting, dogs often don’t have much assortment of things to chew on.
This lack of sensory enrichment leaves a vacuum for fulling this natural desire to chew.
Then one day, it could be your dog happens to be sitting next to the drywall, bored and with nothing else to do, and he may happen to casually lick the corner of the wall, and next thing you know, he’s chewing on it.
In this case, chewing on the drywall provides sensory reinforcement, in other words, it just feels good. And when something feels good, dogs will want to experience it over and over, so soon the habit puts roots and next thing you know, you’re walls will start looking like Swiss cheese!
Dealing With Anxiety
A dog chewing through drywall isn’t always a bored dog, sometimes the behavior may stem from anxiety. If your dog is anxious about noises in general or scary events such as thunderstorms or construction workers drilling holes in an apartment nearby, he may experience intense anxiety and fear.
If your dog is in a small room or if he hides in a closet, his panic may cause him to dig or chew the drywall in a desperate attempt to escape the threatening situation.
Another common anxiety trigger in dogs is being left alone. Dogs who panic when their owners leave a room or the home may scratch at doors, chew windows and drywall in hopes of being reunited with their owners.
“I’ve seen them go right through windows, and chew through doors, drywall, even chain-link fences, breaking off their teeth and nails. They get into such a level of panic that they just aren’t thinking.” ~Stephen Blake, holistic veterinarian
Searching for Critters
Is your dog staring intently at walls and sometimes sniffing and whining in the evening? Most likely your dog is not sensing the paranormal and hunting for ghosts, rather, it’s more likely that he’s sensing the presence of some nocturnal critter who is likely living in your house.
What critters may be making themselves at home? It can be mice, snakes, lizards, crickets or even termites. You might not detect them, but your dog with his powerful sniffer and sensitive ears can, and chewing through the drywall may be his attempt to get to them.
Keep in mind that critters may be hiding in your attic, under the deck, in the garage, in a closed closet and inside the walls.
Grabbing Some Attention
Some dogs may resort to chewing things in hopes of getting attention. Dogs who are bored or enjoy social interaction with their owners and feel socially deprived, may resort to all sorts of behaviors in hopes of getting their owners to interact with them. Sometimes, bored or socially deprived dogs will even try things that lead to negative attention such as being scolded or pushed away just for the sake of getting their owner to stop watching television and start interacting with them.
So if chewing through the drywall gets your attention (and it certainly does!), this moment of brief attention, even if of the negative type may reinforce the wall-chewing behavior. And if you fail to provide attention immediately, your dog will likely chew for longer in hopes of eventually getting it (extinction burst). Not always though the attention has to be of the negative type though. If your dog is bored and every time he chews on the drywall, you play with him to distract him or take him on walk, next time, he may chew in hopes of play time or a walk.
Dealing with Pica
In some cases, chewing through drywall may be a sign of pica. Pica is a condition where dogs become attracted to eating nonfood items like rocks, wood, drywall, socks, and coins. Basically, affected dogs will eat objects that are not considered part of a normal dog’s diet. It is still not well understood what exactly may trigger pica. Is it boredom? A health problem? A behavioral one?
Some theorize that it may stem from nutritional deficiencies; however, no nutritional studies have ever backed up this theory. Also, with most of today’s current commercial dog foods being balanced and complete, it’s unlikely for dogs to have nutritional deficiencies, explains veterinarian Dr. Heindel.
It could happen though that dogs remain stuck in an “oral phase“from when they were puppies, she adds. Other possible causes are underlying digestive disorders or metabolic disorders, which explains why it’s a good idea for owners of dogs fixated with eating nonfood items to start with a vet visit to rule medical conditions out.
“Dry wall contains gypsum which is a mineral congomleration which includes a large amount of calcium sulfate. Very similar to bone! So, some dogs will chew dry wall because they discover it is like bone. Have the blood tested. You might find a low calcium level.” ~Dr. Ralston
Tips to Stop Chewing Through Drywall
As with many other dog behaviors, it’s important to go to the root of the problem and tackle the underlying cause. A vet visit may be a good place to start just to ensure there’s nothing going on in the health department.
With health issues ruled out, then it’s time to roll up sleeves and put on an investigative hat to pinpoint the problem. This is best done with the help of a professional, even because certain underlying causes of chewing the wall may require professional intervention as tackling these issues may not be easy.
For instance, if your dog chews through drywall because he is anxious, you will likely need to get help from a professional to implement a systematic desensitization program. Whereas, if there are critters in the wall, you will need to enlist the help of a local exterminator.
Bored dogs, or dogs in need for attention, benefit from being provided with more exercise and mental enrichment. Provide several safe chew toys of different textures for sensory enrichment and don’t forget to rotate them to keep a sense of novelty. Chewing dogs should be blocked from gaining access to the drywall area while the dog is trained to learn that other behaviors garner attention such as calmer, more desirable behaviors garner attention. With energy drained, the introduction of interactive toys and attention provided only when desirable behaviors take place, the drywall will become less and less attractive over time.