There are several reasons why dogs might indulge in a destructive trait like eating drywall, such as behavioral, medical, or psychological issues. These include boredom, stress, age, hunting instincts, and pica, to name but a few.
The key thing to remember when dogs display unusual or damaging behavior is that it is their way of communicating with you. We all wish we could get inside their heads on occasion – and if they are experiencing pain, stress, boredom, or hunger, chowing down on your hallway might be a cry for help or a plea for attention.
Analyze your dog’s actions and surroundings when they are nibbling at the drywall and read on to see if any of the six listed explanations below fits with your dog’s habit.
Rule Out Medical Problems
Step number one would be to book in with your vet. The process of elimination here is key; before you can investigate whether your dog’s habit is behavioral, first ensure that they don’t have any underlying health conditions or dietary deficiencies.
Unusually enough, drywall contains a mineral called gypsum, which is mostly made from calcium sulfate – the same compound found in one of every dog’s favorite things – bones! Ask your vet to check their calcium levels. Dogs might be unknowingly trying to utilize drywall as surrogates for calcium-rich animal bones because they are low in calcium themselves.
A vet visit could solve your problem relatively easily – if your dog is suffering from irritation or pain, a diagnosis could lead to a course of antibiotics or treatment, and their gnawing habit could desist. But if your pet is healthy and well, the next step is to analyze their behavior.
There are a number of behavioral issues that a dog can display that correlate with how they feel – just as we do as humans! The core reasons that could lead to your dog’s destructive behavior are listed below:
- Boredom/Lack of stimulation
- Age – young or old
- Predatory behavior
Let’s unpick each one to determine which could be relevant to your pooch.
It is worth considering how long your dog is left alone throughout the day – if they are unstimulated for a prolonged period of time, they may begin to nibble at your drywall simply for something to keep them occupied. Remember, dogs love to chew – it is part of their DNA!
They may not have enough toys or stimulation to divert their attention away from your walls – supplying them with strong rope and rubber toys with extra durability may help in losing their interest in the drywall. Regular drop-ins from you, family members, or a dog walker could keep their brains occupied. More on this below in the next section.
Tying in somewhat with a lack of stimulation, your dog could take to eating your walls because of separation anxiety. Long hours alone or separated from family members could lead to destructive behavior simply to attract attention (even if it is negative attention).
This can be displayed even more significantly in rescue dogs, who have unknown histories and most probably have dealt with abandonment before.
It is mostly futile scolding a dog for tucking into your walls; it might be the case that the dog begins to associate their behavior with someone coming to check on them – so they do it even more!
Implementing regular daily drop-ins to subliminally reassure your dog that they are not going to be deserted could help, as well as simply spending more time with them or getting them a doggy playmate! The benefits of having a multiple dog household are detailed here.
Have you considered whether your dog initiates munch mode because they are unsettled? External factors such as fireworks, thunderstorms, and noisy roads can lead to dogs attempting to ‘escape’ to a safer environment – whether that be to a quieter room in the house or just to be surrounded by their humans who will keep them safe.
Dogs have highly sensitive hearing and can often detect thunder before you do – so if they are isolated in a garage or kitchen, their survival instincts may kick in and lead them to effectively digging their way to freedom.
Equally, if your dog has had a traumatic experience within the room they are confined to – be it loud bangs by falling furniture, a trodden-on tail, or a particularly exposed room which catches gusts (and with it, howls) of wind, your dog again might be chewing out of fear, anxiety or even aggression. The wall is a dormant enemy preventing them from feeling protected and secure – and they want out!
I’m a baby/I’m elderly!
A straightforward explanation as to why your dog is eating your drywall could simply be their age. Young dogs and puppies will be teething up until they are 8 months old; sore gums and irritating baby teeth could lead to them chewing on something tough like drywall to soothe them. They should stop once their teeth have grown through.
On the other hand, older dogs with ailing health may begin to struggle with exercising and walks, and another way to release their energy without wearing out their aching limbs could be to tuck into your walls. As with boredom, a fresh selection of enticing toys could help to turn their attention away from the drywall.
Another reason your dog might be digging at your drywall is that they can hear something inside the wall. Mice, rats, a bird’s nest – if they suspect something is living in the walls, their instinct is to forage it out. Just like hunting hounds! It could be time to call pest control to flush out the cause of your dog’s irritation.
Noisy pipes could also be a factor. From a dog’s perspective, just like when they bark at passers-by, they are protecting their home from a mysterious threat. Even if it does cause
I have a compulsive condition!
Pica is a psychological condition found in both animals and humans – it causes them to eat non-edible substances such as stones, sticks, feces, and man-made materials. Including your drywall! Pica is not always initially picked up during a vet visit but can be caused by several factors, including poor nutrition or boredom with their food. It could be beneficial to overhaul your dog’s diet and try some new brands of food. A change from the norm might encourage your dog to take more interest in its bowl than your wall.
It might be beneficial to seek the help of an animal behaviorist to determine if your dog’s drywall eating habit is pica, who will be able to assist in finding a resolution. More information can be found here.
There are several reasons why dogs chew – but for the most part, it is instinctive and a source of enjoyment or comfort for them. The key is to make sure they are chewing the right things (their toys, not your house!). Use the information above to pinpoint where your dog’s issue could be arising and seek additional help from a vet or a behaviorist if things continue after you have made adjustments in your home life.