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When you bring a new pet into your household, there is an adjustment period as the pet gets used to new surroundings, smells, sounds, and people. This transition can be challenging for new pet parents, especially if the pet begins damaging your home and you don’t understand why.
One of the most common issues new pet parents face is how to stop a dog from scratching a door. Doors are costly and a hassle to repair and replace, while door scratching can indicate that something is seriously bothering your new pet.
To be prepared for your new pet’s arrival or correct an existing issue with door scratching in your home, here are some suggestions for keeping a dog from scratching your door and prevention tips for curbing this behavior before it becomes damaging.
Why Do Pets Scratch and Damage Doors?
Rather than being angry or irritated at your new dog for scratching your doors, try to understand why the behavior is happening and what your dog might be thinking.
- Dogs often scratch the outside doors if you let them outside to go potty and don’t let them back in right away. This behavior is a sign that the dog simply wants to get your attention and come back in to be with you.
- Your dog might scratch at an interior door if they need to go to the bathroom and you haven’t let them out in a while.
- Dogs may scratch doors if they aren’t feeling well and need you to check on them.
- If a dog hears a noise or sees activity outside, it may scratch at a door out of curiosity and want to investigate what’s happening.
- Some dogs scratch doors as a symptom of separation anxiety. Pets may scratch at the door as a sign of panic that they can’t get out and don’t know if you will ever return. As pet parents, we want our pets to be excited to see us and develop an unconditional, loving bond with us. But separation anxiety is unhealthy for dogs and should be addressed as early as possible for the pup’s physical and mental health.
Similar and Related Behaviors to Watch For
In addition to scratching doors, your dog might exhibit similar and related behaviors to get your attention. When kept behind a door, a dog struggling with separation anxiety may bark, howl, and chew things it is not supposed to. Other signs of separation anxiety are pacing, destroying furniture, excessive licking or chewing of the fur, and trying to escape.
Observe your new dog’s behavior and watch for excessive panting, whining, and changes in bowel movements. These are all signs that your new dog is stressed out and needs a little extra love and attention. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to anxiety than others. Dogs that come from rescue shelters may have some emotional trauma. Neglect, prolonged confinement, and lack of social contact can be devastating for dogs. Still, fortunately, as a new pet parent, you can help your dog overcome these issues and live a full and happy life.
How to Get a Dog to Stop Scratching Doors
To stop a dog from scratching a door, consider making household upgrades to minimize damage. For example, there are plastic scratch screens that you can buy to install on a door to protect it. A DIY option is to cut a fiberglass sheet and attach it to your door to serve as a durable shield.
Home improvement stores also carry metal kick plates to attach to doors and create a protective metal layer between your dog’s paws and a door you want to preserve. If your dog has destroyed the weather stripping under the door, you can replace it with a piece of rubber, polyfoam, or vinyl lattice cut to the size of the door jam.
Helping Your Pet with Anxiety Scratching
In addition to these household upgrades, focus on your dog’s well-being to stop the behavior. You can work with your dog to manage excitement by offering fun distractions, like chew toys and balls, while you are away. Maintain calm energy yourself; dogs can sense tension, so a calm demeanor can help encourage your dog to relax too.
Set up comfortable places in your home for your dog to relax, and reassure your dog that you will always return after going away for a little while. Try reward-based training methods with treats to get your dog to stop scratching at doors. If those methods don’t work over time, you may need firm but gentle verbal corrections by saying “no” while pointing at the damaged door. Training a dog not to scratch doors can be challenging and time-consuming, but it is worth the time and effort for your dog’s well-being and to protect the various surfaces and belongings in your home.
If your dog continues scratching the door, it might be time to reconsider the schedule you follow to take your dog out for potty breaks, feedings, and playtimes. Your new dog might need to pee more often than you expect or require more attention than you are used to compared to other dogs you’ve lived with. Simply taking your dog out a half hour earlier than usual might do the trick and prevent door scratching first thing in the morning or just before dinnertime. Consider increasing the length of time that you take your dog out to exercise and play outside. Exercise is an excellent stress reducer, and a simple change of scenery can help your dog cope with negative feelings and insecurity while settling into your home.
Now, let’s say you have tried all these things to keep your dog from scratching doors, and the problem persists. This is when it’s time to visit the veterinarian to see what might be happening with your dog. Your vet may recommend additional training, specific techniques, or even medication if anxiety is the cause of the door scratching.
How to Prevent a Dog from Scratching Doors
To prevent your new dog from scratching doors, consider some of the following ideas:
- Install a doggie door so that your pup can come and go inside and outside as necessary. For security purposes, you can look into doggie doors that can only be opened with a dog’s unique ID tag and that are lockable and weather-sealed.
- Install a pet/baby gate in front of the door to prevent scratching and door damage.
- Crate-train your dog to help overcome separation anxiety by feeling more comfortable and safer in an enclosed space while protecting your doors.
- Hire a pet sitter or dog walker to check in on your dog and provide an extra walk and social time if you are gone for long periods during the day.
- Look into doggie daycares so that your pup gets more playtime and socialization when you are at work or school.
Another preventative tip is to trim your dog’s nails so that occasional scratching does not cause as much damage to your door.
When to See a Vet About Persistent Door Scratching
With consistent training, rewards for good behavior, schedule changes, and household upgrades, most new pet parents can handle door-scratching issues on their own. However, cases of severe door damage or non-responsiveness to training could be signs of a bigger problem with your dog.
If you have persistent concerns about door scratching, call your vet’s office to see if they can offer helpful tips or recommend coming in for an appointment to assess your dog’s health. If your pup is diagnosed with a new physical illness causing the scratching behavior, Healthy Paws may help you cover the costs. Just snap a photo of your vet bill, submit it through our mobile app, and we can typically process your claim within two days for reimbursement.
We care deeply about all the pets we insure and want to help you navigate the process of becoming a new pet parent as much as possible. Check out our pet care blog for more tips about dog care, training, and stories, and contact us at 855-898-8991 if you have any questions about how dog insurance works.