We’ve had Mia since June 2011. We believe she is nine years old. For the first two years we had her, she did not do a single thing wrong. The only things she tore apart were her own toys.
She did display a few anxious tendencies:
- An occasional shrill whine we dubbed “squeak squeak whistle whistle.”
- An incessant high-pitched bark in the backyard. Kind of a playtime thing, although she refuses to share her ball, even to have it thrown for her benefit.
These were minor offenses, and honestly, I considered her a fairly mellow dog because she likes to lie on the couch all day long, and is not reactive to bicycles or joggers or any of the other things that piss Leo off.
Last summer, when we returned from Seattle to discover four door frames had been shredded to pieces, my first suspect was Leo. We revised our accusations to see Mia as the ringleader, presumably because she was made extremely anxious by the beeping of Rob’s car alarm low-battery alert.
Yes, the destruction was jaw-dropping, but I was more distraught by how anxious Mia must have felt to cause that much damage. My poor, poor girl, worked into such a destructive frenzy.
Months went by. No additional damage was incurred. For mostly unrelated reasons, we installed security cameras.
We had the doors replaced in late November. A week or so later, we were gone overnight and the doors were chewed again. We aimed the security cameras directly at the doors. At some point, I bumped the camera facing the bathroom door, redirecting its gaze to the ceiling, and that was the day the door got chewed again. It’s like Mia knew we couldn’t catch her.
I started dosing her with Rescue Remedy before leaving the house.
Finally, last Friday, I caught her in the act.
What a surprise!
To my unprofessional eyes, she does not appear to be having a major anxiety attack. She’s trying to turn the doorknob with her mouth. Could we avert future destruction by leaving the bathroom door open?
The thing that astonishes me the most about this video is that she’s never behaved that way in front of us. I’ve never seen her paw a door or mouth anything that’s not a squeaky toy. Where did this behavior come from? Anxiety? Boredom?
If you google “dog destroys door,” the Internet will diagnose the problem as separation anxiety, but I’m not entirely sure that’s what this is. She doesn’t do it every time we leave her alone. Assuming the first incident was caused by the car alarm beep, did that experience teach her that she likes chewing door frames? Why doesn’t she do it in front of us? (I keep coming back to boredom.)
I don’t think crating her is an option. Since we have never crated her before, I fear that will make her more anxious, that she will injure herself trying to escape the crate. I doubt spraying the doors with Bitter Apple (or the like) will deter her, but what the hell, I’ll try it.
Another possibility is that we should leave her outside for longer periods during the day. She does seem to like it, and she was probably more of an outdoor dog in her previous home. I just worry about her bothering neighbors with barking.
Leo, you will notice, is not at all involved. We owe him a huge apology. As destructive a puppy as he was, he has never (to our knowledge) destroyed anything while left alone in the house. He tends to tear into things right in front of us when he wants attention.
My question to readers, dog owners and behaviorists: Watching the above video, what do you see in Mia’s behavior and body language? What would you do if this were your dog?
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