7 Reasons Your German Shepherd Destroys Everything (And How to Stop It)

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Are you wondering why your German Shepherd destroys everything when they were once your angelic-like companion?

Are you regretting getting a beautiful, smart, high-energy dog at all?

Don’t panic…

It’s not a shark, it’s just a German Shepherd.

And, you can easily learn how to solve and even stop their destructive behavior and chewing that’s wrecking your home and destroying everything in sight.

Why Does Your German Shepherd Destroy Everything?

If your German Shepherd becomes destructive you’ll need to know why in order to stop it.

German Shepherds are a high-energy breed that develops destructive tendencies when their needs aren’t met.

There are a number of reasons why your puppy might begin to destroy everything, but luckily there are steps you can take to help solve and stop their destructiveness.

So, why is your German Shepherd destroying everything in its sight and chewing all your stuff?

The top reasons why your German Shepherd becomes destructive are a lack of the right type of exercise, not enough mental stimulation, normal puppy teething, stress or illness, separation anxiety, and acting out for attention. The best way to find out the cause of your dog’s destruction is to watch what happens before they destroy your things or have destructive chewing, to consider the age of your German Shepherd (puppy vs. adult), and to make sure you’re meeting the basic requirements of this high-energy intelligent breed.

Why is my German Shepherd suddenly destroying things when it didn’t do this before?

If your German Shepherd is suddenly destroying things when it was previously well-mannered then there could be an underlying medical issue or emotional problem causing the sudden onset of this behavior.

Your dog might have an illness that you can’t see that it is causing it to be destructive or might have developed a phobia due to previous trauma.

Get your dog booked in for a thorough medical examination from your veterinarian to rule out medical reasons your dog is destructive.

Reasons Why Your German Shepherd Is Destructive

Do you see anything on this board that might cause your dog to become destructive?

German Shepherds aren’t generally known as destructive dogs.

They are a highly intelligent breed that requires an owner willing to invest time with them. Consider why your German Shepherd might turn to destroy things so you can understand how to help and train them to stop.

Here are some reasons why your German Shepherd is destroying everything.

1. They’re Not Getting The Right Physical Exercise

The German Shepherd Dog is a working dog. They are still used as herding dogs and in the military for their stamina.

Your breed is a high-energy fireball who has an obedient and alert temperament by design.

This means they are bred to do a job that requires them to stay physically active. If you don’t provide them the exercise to burn off this physical energy they would have used as a working dog, then they will begin to exhibit destructive behaviors and chewing.

2. They’re Bored From Lack of Mental Stimulation

Even if you’re walking your dog twice a day or more they could still become bored due to a lack of mental stimulation.

German Shepherds require a large number of mental activities that keep them working their minds.

There are plenty of reasons why German Shepherds are so smart, and it’s your job to meet the needs of their mental energy. It’s not only their bodies that need a workout.

They are built to figure out things on their own and must have a way to use their brains daily or they’ll become destructive as they seek an outlet for stimulation.

3. They’re Going Through Teething Pains

Puppies chew on everything when they’re teething to help ease the pain as their teeth push through their gums.

If your German Shepherd is a puppy that has just started teething then this could be the cause of its destruction. Teething lasts for months and it’s natural for puppies to begin destructive chewing during this time.

The best time to teach your German Shepherd the behaviors that you want is while it’s still young. Don’t punish your puppy for a natural growing pain they can’t help.

Instead, train them early.

4. They’re Stressed

Another reason your German Shepherd might exhibit destructiveness is when it’s stressed due to a trauma in its past or due to loud and scary noises.

German Shepherds have excellent hearing and loud cars, music, people screaming, or even noises you might not hear can hurt your dog’s ears and cause them stress.

As an alert breed, their watchful nature may cause them to become overly excited and worried about the noises to the point they become destructive.

5. They’re Ill

Your dog may have an illness it has just come down with, or another underlying medication condition that might go unnoticed that causes them to destroy things.

Some types of illnesses that cause your German Shepherd to destroy everything can be helped through a visit to your veterinarian for medical treatments which can help their behavior issues.

Never punish a stressed or ill German Shepherd or you will make their destructiveness worse and increase their levels of stress to the point they shut down.

6. They’re Experiencing Separation Anxiety

If your German Shepherd starts to panic and becomes overly stressed when you leave them alone, then the cause of the destruction could be caused by separation anxiety.

If you continue to leave your dog alone when they’re anxious they may start to destroy things as a way to cope with their anxiety.

To reduce destruction when you leave your dog alone, try to work on only leaving your dog alone for very short periods of time at first. Don’t just leave for hours when they’re a puppy as this can cause them to develop a pattern of destructive behavior whenever you leave.

7. They’re Acting Out For Attention

German Shepherds need plenty of positive attention from their owners.

But if you are too busy for your dog they’ll begin to act out to get your attention, even if that means destroying everything in your home.

This breed is known for attaching to one person and should their person not give them the attention they want or deserve they will certainly let them know by ruining their furniture, clothing, or electronics with destructive chewing.

How To Stop Your German Shepherd’s Destructiveness

how to stop your german shepherd's destructiveness
Get ready by choosing to make a training plan with your German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd is one of the most easily trained and obedient of all breeds — when you are present and make a plan to actually train them.

So, for their safety and your sanity, it’s important to set aside time each day to work through the right training so you can get the unwanted destruction to stop and under control.

1. Give Them The Right Type Of Exercise

Many people will tell you to simply give your German Shepherd plenty of exercise, and lots of it.

But this will only serve to give you a stronger and more athletic German Shepherd that’s capable of even longer exercise.

Think of it like this…

The German Shepherd is literally bred to walk and run hours on end when herding and working.

Can you run hours a day to keep up with the exercise needs of your breed?

If you can, then enter you and your dog in a marathon!

But, if you can’t, don’t worry!

Use these easy ideas for German Shepherd exercise and…

You don’t have to be fit enough to run a marathon to enjoy them!

Try some exercise that gets their body moving in unique ways and keeps them physically active.

How should I exercise my destructive German Shepherd?

Try a tail-teasing flirt pole to entice your dog to hone their herding behavior, or find a set of hills nearby and race your dog to the top to develop their powerful agility skills.

Focus on a variety of exercise that works all their muscles and includes ways to entice their minds at the same time so that their daily walks don’t become mundane.

Your breed requires at least 2 walks a day of at least 1 hour each time, but for many German Shepherds, this just isn’t enough movement.

Your German Shepherd may get into the habit of using the same walking trail, so switch it up to challenge them and keep them from getting bored.

2. Include Mental Stimulation To Avoid Destruction Boredom

While a bored German Shepherd is a destructive dog, a mentally active German Shepherd is a relaxed, happy dog!

Unfortunately, many owners are away long hours from home and are too tired when they return to engage their dogs in a mind game.

But, mind games and mental stimulation are a necessity for the German Shepherd.

You can’t simply command your dog to not be destructive.

You can, however, give their minds a way to engage with you and their environment in a positive manner!

There are many types of mind games or brain games on the market. Some owners even make do-it-yourself games, while others prefer games that are premade.

These reward-based strategy games mentally stimulate your dog and keep your dog from destructive boredom.

3. Use Daily Basic Obedience Training

Along with mental stimulation games, German Shepherds need obedience training sessions daily.

The quickest way to train your German Shepherd to stop being destructive is by setting them up for success using daily obedience training.

Obedience training helps engage your dog through positive, reward-based interaction that helps them learn not only basic commands but also how to listen and pay attention to you.

You can follow Easy German Shepherd Obedience Training at Home to teach your dogs skills that’ll decrease their need to destroy everything.

Training your German Shepherd isn’t just for commands…

It’s a step-by-step program to help your dog develop behaviors you can live happily together with.

4. Meet Their Natural Need For Nose Work

Did you know that German Shepherds have 225 million scent receptors and can smell a scent from over a mile away?

A German Shepherd who destroys things definitely is a great candidate to introduce to nose work to help them focus their natural scenting abilities.

And, nose work doesn’t require years of training or an expert degree.

You can give your German Shepherd a course in nose work by having them search and find their food for some of their weekly meals.

  • Use small plates or bowls and divide your dog’s food into about 4 portions. Place each portion into the small container you’ve selected.
  • Nest, hide the plates or bowls of their portioned meal in easy-to-find locations in one room of your house to start. This makes the game easy enough for an untrained puppy or older German Shepherd.
  • Now, say “search” or “find it” and help your German Shepherd find their meal.
  • After a few times of serving a meal this way your dog begins to understand the game of nose work and will readily seek out their food by sniffing the area on their own.

You can make it more challenging for them by using more than one room to hide their food or moving outdoors to your secured back yard and hiding their plates of food.

German Shepherds were bred to use their noses to find things, but in the modern world, their scent-finding abilities get neglected. This can lead to them destroying everything.

5. Give Them The Right Things To Chew

German Shepherds, especially puppies, need time daily to chew. Chewing is natural and helps your dog release its stress.

Leave a few strong German Shepherd chew-toys around the house so they’re available for your dog to find, and rotate them out with new toys so they always find them more interesting than destructive chewing.

If you see your German Shepherd chewing destructively on something you don’t want them to, get their attention by calling their name and then reward them with a tasty treat. Show them the right chew toy and encourage them to play with it.

Don’t physically pull them away from what they’re destroying or scold them harshly. Instead, use a positive voice and reward when they come to you and stop chewing your things.

You can clap your hands or even whistle to get them to listen to help teach your dog to pay attention to you when they have too much energy, rather than destroying everything in sight.

What are the right things for German Shepherds to chew that withstand being destroyed?

Did you know…?

The most common time of the day that your German Shepherd is likely to be destructive is when you’re away at work or out doing things outside of the house.

Leave your dog with the right toys while you’re away that is safe for them to chew. Many dogs tend not to play with toys without their owner there, but food or treats placed inside specially-made toys encourage toy exploration.

You can leave them a stuffed Extreme Kong, which is a heavy-duty chew toy you stuff with food and treats so it gets their attention. The idea is your dog chews on it, instead of your things.

6. Don’t Leave Them Where They’re Tempted To Destroy Things

One way to prevent and stop how much your German Shepherd destroys is to reduce their access to rooms in your house.

There are a number of ways that you can do this:

  • First, when you’re away, place your German Shepherd in an area they won’t be able to destroy everything. If they tend to chew destructively on furniture, then don’t leave them in your bedroom or living room. Some owners like to create a safe place to leave their dogs, such as an area that has temping items removed and put away.
  • Place pet-safe partition gates that block your German Shepherd from entering into rooms you don’t want them in. The gates still allow your dog to see through easily, which keeps your dog from developing too much stress when you leave them alone.
  • Pick up items that your dog finds interesting and place them in a secure area. Some German Shepherd puppies find shoes, pillows, remotes, and even electric cables interesting enough to chew on and destroy. Not only is this frustrating, but it’s also hazardous!
  • If loud or unusual noises stress your German Shepherd to the point they destroy things, then move them to a quieter area away from windows. Get a white noise machine to play soothing tones, or leave the TV or radio on low to help drown out the frightening sounds.

Some owners also prefer to crate train their German Shepherd so they can secure them when they leave.

The best way to prevent your German Shepherd from destroying everything is to not give them access to those items in the first place.

7. Play With Them More

Besides walking and different types of exercise, play is an important part of your German Shepherd’s interaction with you.

You might wonder…

How does play help reduce destruction?

Basically, your destructive dog has a lot of energy they don’t know how to control, and play shows your dog what to do instead. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog, and a bonded German Shepherd is more likely to stay calmer and not destroy your things.

Some ideas for constructive play include:

  • Playing catch or tug in your backyard for 15 – 30 minutes a day. Do this play in the morning when you’re more alert and your dog is usually very energetic. It’s also good to play before you leave your dog for the day. You’ll begin to notice they have less energy throughout the day to destroy things or chew if you help drain some of your dog’s energy earlier on.
  • Enroll your dog in doggy daycare or have a dog walker stop by. German Shepherds generally enjoy the company of other friendly dogs and a doggy daycare can help prevent your dog from destroying your home while you’re away. Ideally, a dog walker should stop by a few times a week to help you and your German Shepherd work off some of their pent-up energy when you’re away from home too long.
  • Find an agility course or teach your dog to catch a frisbee. Agility and catching a frisbee develop your breed’s natural athletic abilities and reduce some of their pent-up energy. It’s also a great way to teach your dog some obedience skills that you can transfer to the home environment to reduce their destructiveness.

Don’t think of play as a reward for an ill-behaved dog.

Instead…

Think of it as part of a healthy way to reduce or stop your German Shepherd’s need to destroy everything.

What NOT To Do For Your Destructive German Shepherd

what not to do for your destructive german shepherd
The wrong thing can slow your training and make your dog even more destructive.

When you’re training your German Shepherd to stop destroying things there are some things that you should keep in mind that might hinder your attempts.

Avoid spraying anti-chew deterrent

Some owners resort to using spray anti-chew products to prevent their German Shepherd from chewing destructively. But, using sprays doesn’t teach your dog what not to chew.

Instead, they may become wary of chewing anything — even the things that are safe to chew, like their toys. Using an anti-chew spray is a shortcut that simply teaches your dog that some things taste bad, but doesn’t redirect them to the right things or the right behaviors.

Never use physical punishment

If you use physical punishment when your dog destroys things you will lose their trust. They learn to fear you and can develop stress and anxiety.

Physical punishment creates more problems long-term and doesn’t solve the underlying issues of your dog being destructive.

Don’t expect too much too soon

It’s important to remember that at a younger age your German Shepherd will naturally have more curiosity and get into mischief since you haven’t trained them.

Despite their ability to make a mess of things in record time, it’s important to train them from the moment they come home with you using reward-based, positive training.

Don’t overwhelm or confuse them

When you’re training your German Shepherd to have better manners, it’s important to see their training from a long-term perspective. Don’t expect them to learn how not to destroy things overnight.

A well-behaved dog takes time to train, and pushing them to learn too quickly may overwhelm them, especially if they’re a puppy and it’s a natural behavior — such as teething.

Stick to the same training routine while they’re in a destruction phase to avoid confusing them. Don’t reprimand them for chewing your show one day, then think it’s cute the next as this will slow their training and cause more stress.

Don’t skip on their daily training

It’s important to train your dog regularly, preferably on a daily basis.

Especially a German Shepherd prone to destroying everything!

When your dog has bad manners you can’t skip daily training sessions, even on your busy weekends. Set aside time each day for their basic obedience skills.

Want more help for your German Shepherd that destroys everything?

Don’t give up training your German Shepherd to stop destructive chewing and behaviors, even if you feel like it’s taking too long.

Instead, find ways to encourage yourself through this troubling time.

Read Your German Shepherd Month-By-Month to help you understand what to do at each stage of your dog’s development. Detailed monthly descriptions tell you exactly what to expect, so you’ll be better prepared for your dog’s behavior and growth changes.

brain training 4 dogs official website

And, for an easy step-by-step training plan, use a scientifically-based program — Brain Training for Dogs, to walk you through teaching your German Shepherd not only their basic commands and obedience…

But how to develop better behaviors by using positive, reward-based training that taps into your breed’s intelligence.

Remember, a big part of teaching your German Shepherd to stop destroying everything is the right training and management.

Develop a system to help supervise and train your German Shepherd and you’ll be able to lose their shark-like destructive behaviors for good.

And your sanity will thank you for it!

References and Resources

BEHAVIOUR OF DOGS DURING OLFACTORY TRACKING, AUD THESEN, JOHAN B. STEEN* and KJELL B. DØVING, Division of General Physiology, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, Norway, J. exp. Biol. 180, 247-251 (1993), Printed in Great Britain © The Company of Biologists Limited 1993

German Shepherd Dog Club of America, Ask a Trainer

RSPCA, German Shepherds