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My 12 year old Shih Tzu has always been well behaved, but lately has started to climb on the furniture when no one is home and excessively dig, to the point that she has started to damage it.

A few notes that might help, we lost another dog late last year and we have recently added a new dog back into the household. This change in her behavior just started the past few months and it is almost like she is throwing a temper tantrum.

What could be causing this change in behavior and how can I train her not to do it anymore?

  • Does he settled with new dog well? Does he is lacking in you attention? Providing this detail will help. – Ankit Sharma Oct 9 '13 at 11:36
  • The Shih Tzu is fine with the new puppy, they play, sleep in the same beds together, we haven't noticed any issues between the older dog and the puppy. She also gets plenty of attention and is not being ignored. This behavior only comes up when no one is home. – Taryn Oct 9 '13 at 11:40
  • Stupid question, how do you know its her and not one of the other dogs if it happens while you're not home? – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 10:20
  • @ThomasH A couple of reasons, first we have a puppy who is not quite able to be left out when we have left the house, second when we return she looks awfully guilty and will even hide because she knows that she is not supposed to have been up on the couch, third when she was a puppy she would burrow in her bed and now it just seems like she has started the habit again. – Taryn Oct 10 '13 at 11:24
  • A dog looking guilty is never a reason to suspect it of any wrong doing. Dogs lack the ability to temporarily and causally connect something they did a minute ago with you punishing them. More likely, the dog picks up on you being upset and adopts an appeasing demeanour. This is just to say that you might want to make doubly sure that it's the right dog you're trying to change – ThomasH Oct 10 '13 at 12:55
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Dogs are social animals and they always love company. Without company, they want something to do, digging can be one of them. To control this, using a polite way is the best, by distracting him from acting those things.

Like if you see your dog digging, distract him by giving him some toys or play with him etc. Giving him more of your company will be better. Losing a mate can be a reason for this behavior.

  • As I said, this is a recent change in her behavior. We have a total of 3 dogs and the oldest is the one who in the past few months has been acting out. She has plenty of toys and only behaves this way when we leave the house. – Taryn Oct 9 '13 at 16:22
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This is not so uncommon behavior in some dogs, especially in the circumstances you describe.

Introducing a new dog to the family.

It sounds like it could be an objection to both the interloper (new dog) and you leaving the house. She is a, relatively, old dog and is used to her routines and the household, from what you say was static for much of her life. Dog's are susceptible to changes within the household and can become jealous, if there is a perceived shift in attention away from them to someone else in the household (other pets, children sometimes).

Without knowing clearly the timeframe of when this behavior started with reference to when you introduced the new dog (eg [x] weeks after we got the other dog, I can only answer generally. If you have been going out more frequently than usual, this could exacerbate the behavior.

How dogs communicate.

Dogs can't speak to us, so the only way she can show her frustration is using her body. So dogs will communicate in ways, we sometimes perceive as difficult behavior: excessive barking, digging, biting, growling, soiling in the home, jumping up to name a few.

In the fuss and natural concern to introduce a new dog to the family, she may be receiving less attention. Well at the very least she was the only dog for some months and she adapted to having no competition for attention.

The gentle solution.

This is the time to give her more attention. When you come home be so happy to see her, use lots of verbal praise and physical affection. It is best to ignore the furniture. There really is no value in scolding a dog, after the fact. Whether or not the dog can make the association with the act, it serves no purpose to further isolate her, by scolding her. (When I say isolate, I am speaking from her point of view, I don't mean to say for an instant she is socially isolated.)

Take time out each day to spend some time with her and let her know she is your special girl. Treat her, play with her, walk her, I would recommend giving her some one on one time to begin with, as she may be feeling a little insecure. Your previous dog died and was replaced. Dogs are not as silly as we may think. (my opinion).

Gradually you can mix the new dog in with this special time, so she associates the new dog with attention from you, treats and fun.

Separation anxiety.

If the problem persists, I would suggest that it could be separation anxiety, which is another issue. Given the details you have provided, I think the extra attention and time with her, would be the best way to go.

As a side note, you do not want to be held ransom by your pet, but if you are able to temporarily increase the time spent at home with your dog and gradually increase your time away, combined with the above techniques, this may assist in alleviating the problem.

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I can only think of sharpening his nails. Like most other animals, dogs sharpen their nails by rubbing it in woods. Your furniture (if wooden) can be the reason for digging.

If not, then it can be due to dog's natural instinct to dig holes. Dogs dig holes to make den for themselves. It is this way, they show that the place is his. They don't use that hole for toilet and use it for sleeping, resting etc.

Frankly, I have never heard dogs digging into furniture; our dog, dig holes into soil. But hearing your problem, the cause may be either of the two possible reasons aforementioned.

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    Not sure about the nails, mainly due to the fact that this is recent a behavior change in her. She has never done this before the past few months, honestly it is almost like she is throwing a temper tantrum. – Taryn Oct 9 '13 at 14:35
  • @b, If you don't mind, I think this information in your comment is very vital. Add this portion to your questions, as it simply invalidates my answer. You should consider adding it. – Mistu4u Oct 9 '13 at 14:41
  • Added a note that it is a recent change in her behavior only the past few months. – Taryn Oct 9 '13 at 14:44
  • @b, Yes, I saw that :-) Thank you for the edit. I will edit the answer as well. – Mistu4u Oct 9 '13 at 14:59
  • @Mistu4u if you have never heard of the problem, may I suggest that you do not provide an answer? cheers :) – Yvette Colomb Oct 13 '13 at 11:00
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Could it be she is burying something. Is she doing this with a toy or item?

We recently adopted a dog that "buries" stuff into the chair not long after you give it to her (she also digs in the garden too and buries things in bushes, dry grass... you name it), it could be this new dog has caused her to be concerned that they will take her stuff so shes trying to hide it.

We have blankets on the chair so she just digs into that now and i built her a sandpit with soft sand so she isnt digging harsh areas as much. While you begin to solve the psychological issue (which i think the answers above would do) then try covering the chairs with some old blankets when you go out.

We only give them treats when we can keep an eye on them and we brought loads of cheap stuffed toys which now strewn the garden and house and have made toys less of a valuable resource... she no longer buries toys!

protected by John Cavan Apr 8 '15 at 20:02

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