Mia the secret destroyer

secret destroyer

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:

  1. An occasional shrill whine we dubbed “squeak squeak whistle whistle.”
  2. 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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12 thoughts on “Mia the secret destroyer

  1. Oh, wow! Pretty amazing that you caught it on video. Is this the only door she’s done this to? Is there possibly something of great interest/value to her behind the door? (I can’t imagine what!) I agree; she doesn’t seem especially anxious. Just kind of bored and subsequently very engaged in this task of destroying your door :-p. Is crating her an option, or somehow preventing her access to the door until you can figure out what might be causing this behavior?

    • She did all four of the closed doors the first time, last summer, but this is her favorite. Rob thinks she’s trying to get to the wastebasket inside so she can chew up used tissues.

  2. Wait, is that my dog? Well, it could have been years ago when she was younger. She was also quite the destroyer but only odd objects. We never did figure it out. It looks as if Mia is trying to turn the knob. She’s smart, she’s probably seen you guys turn the knob and then, wham, the door opens. She doesn’t appear anxious only determined to open the door and get inside. That’s the bathroom, right? Our dog has a thing about the bathroom. It’s where she goes for comfort. Maybe Mia feels the same? Or maybe she just wants to because she can. She’s very, very smart. Sometimes I think it would be easier to have a stupid dog, sigh, sigh. Cheers and have a great week.

  3. I think she is trying to open the door. Our German Shephard does the same with the door to our living room. She havn’t destroyed anything, she just opens it and walk into the living room. She can open the door handle by jumping on it. When we are at home and the door is closed, she sits and stares at the door and then she stares at us, until we open the door. She can’t have the door closed. She don’t do anything in the living room, but she love to lie on the floor in that room.

  4. I think the used tissue angle is probably correct. Think back about the last couple of episodes and whether or not they happened during cold and flu season. One of my dogs is pretty obsessed with salty snotty tissues. meaning you may need to leave the interior doors open when you leave.

  5. Some dogs really enjoy laying on tile floors like a lot of bathrooms have. To me, she looks determined to get in the bathroom, but not panicked. I’d try leaving the door open and see what happens.

    • Well… I’d like to say leaving the door opened helped, or blame it on snotty tissues, but today the bathroom door was left open and she went to town on the closed guestroom door, which I tried to block with an X-pen. Oh, Mia.

  6. I found the video fascinating. I think Rob’s onto something-she wants inside! Bear also love to chew tissues from the bathroom wastebaskets when we’re gone. I’d take that over eating the doorframes any day though!

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