Have you ever watched your dog with a new stuffed toy? The sheer joy as they shake it, squeak it, and unfortunately try to mutilate it makes me smile every single time. Of course, I’d prefer the de-stuffing take several days, but with a Jack Russell Terrier this could be a matter of minutes. I often told my husband, wish I could bottle the feelings she has right now and then serve them up during the next thunderstorm. That’s when a little light bulb went off and screamed, YOU CAN!
I could! Not literally, but I could create a similar opportunity during thunderstorms. Heck, she wanted to destroy my drywall anyway. As an added bonus this just might just be an avenue for counterconditioning too. I purchased 10 of her favorite toys, the honking Hedgehog stuffed toy. He only came out during the thunderstorm. She squeaked him a few times, but it wasn’t until much later when Sileo was introduced that she tore him up like she usually does.
What else could I offer up? That’s when the Game of Destruction was born. This game alone has made a change for many dogs. It almost forces us to get super excited and take our minds off the storm and into getting the dog to shred something. I’d love to explain some science behind this, and I’m sure if I dig deep I could relate it to the “hunt,” but where’s the fun in reading that right now.
The Game of Destruction is simple and there are only two rules:
- Use an object that you don’t care if you ever see again.
- Children can help prep toys, but only adults should play this game with the dog.
Here’s a list of some of the favorite things we have “destroyed” during a thunderstorm:
- Pool noodles from the dollar store
- Egg Cartons
- Toilet Paper Tubes
- Amazon Boxes (I know you have a secret shopping addiction!)
- Old t-shirts
- Old blankets
- Paper (Forget the shredder, use the dog!)
- Old stuffed toys
- Rope Toys
If your dog doesn’t naturally destroy things, start with a peanut butter smear and get excited. Have them chase the item while you run (this works great with the pool noodles). If your dog gets too excited, you can always slow down your movements and/or redirect him to a food toy for breaks to calm down. It typically does not escalate for most dogs as they are stressed and alter what they might normally do.
Play and have fun with your dog. Just remember, this game can have the consequence that your dog may see these items as fun outside of a thunderstorm. If your kids use pool noodles in the pool, don’t choose that item if you think your dog will try to play this way outside of the storm. Some dogs learn quickly that its only when they are engaged that they should do this, others don’t learn this so it is important that you know your dog. If you need help determining if this is a good fit for your dog, we are here for you.