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Need advice on how to deal with dog's destructiveness


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#1 SunBride

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    Posted 26 February 2009 - 06:54 PM

    My beagle is almost 2 years old and has destructive habits. We thought he would grow out of it but we are loosing hope. The past week has been way worse than usual and we don't know why or what to do about it.

    A bit of background...

    Our dog was never crate trained, my husband didn't want to. I know people have different opinions about crate training, some think it's so good for the dogs and they actually enjoy it (they are calmer than if they have the run of the house) others think it's cruel. In our particular situation, we didn't think it was a good idea because we are gone for long days (we are away for about 10 hours a day, although for the first few weeks my husband would stay home for half the day, and the next 2 months we paid a neighbourhood girl to come let him out midway through the day, although it still wasn't enough, he coudln't even hold it for 2-3 hours for the first couple months. But he has been house trained since being 3.5 months old).

    So the dog was kept in the entrance with baby gates (it's large enough that he has plenty of space to roam around). After about 6-8 months we started letting him have the run of the 1st floor (baby gates blocking the upstairs) while we were at work because he was getting better and not destroying stuff as much.

    So from the time the dog was about 1 year until now, he has been destroying stuff a few times a month, like maybe an average of 2-3 times a month. About half the time it's when we are home (i.e. he'll go in another room and eat my bra, my husband's hat, a book, earphones, etc). We try to keep an eye on him while we are home but once in a while we forget and sometimes he destroys stuff. The other half the time it's when we are not home. We are careful about not leaving stuff lying around (we "puppy proof" the house before leaving) but sometimes we miss something, for example pens, a pad of paper, etc. We never leave clothes or shoes around when we are not home. The good thing is, he never touched the furniture or stuff that is always in the living room, like the wii, dvd player, stack of movies, remotes and phone which are all on the entertainment unit or coffee table well within his reach.

    So last week he ate the phone (Very unusual, it's always been there and he never touched it). Saturday he pulled a bag of bagels off the counter and ate them all (somewhat unusual, although he does often "counter surf" so if I left them within reach on the counter it's not totally unusual). Monday he ate a remote control (very unusual, it's always been there and he never touched it). Yesterday I had left the pantry open and he destroyed 2 boxes of ziplock bags (not all that unusual and luckily cheap to replace).

    So the weird thing here is that it's happened 4 times in a week, and that 2 of those incidences were items he never touched before even though they were always available. We can't think of any reason that would have made him act out this week (no changes in the routine or anything unusual at home).

    So we decided to go back to restricting him to the entrance with the baby gates. We are really disappointed it has come to this, as he has been allowed on the main floor for almost a year now. It's very inconvenient (putting up the gates, which chip the paint at the edges, and also the pillow lying in the entrance) and more importantly it's sad that he has regressed to this point.

    We don't know what to do to stop this behaviour. When we catch him doing it, we let him know he's a bad dog in a stern voice, but we don't hit him. We used to only discipline him if we caught him in action (as we were told that dogs don't understand if you are punishing them after the fact) but now we never catch him anymore, it's always way later, so we do punish him by showing him the destroyed item/mess he made.

    He's got several toys to chew on (nylabones, real bones, other toys), he gets lots of exercise (walked twice a day for 20-30 mins) and we do what we can to minimize his seperation anxiety (try not to make a big deal out of depatures, give him a treat in his kong to distract him as we leave, and don't go overly crazy with hellos when we get back). I don't think it's seperation anxiety related (although it could be) I think it's more than he loves the feeling of destroying stuff. He still loves to chew and he loves to play tug a war and hear his rope or blankee rip. He loves to rip paper (obviously I don't let him, but when he gets his paws on some) and was really bad about making a mess out of toilet paper, before I changed all the garbages to ones with lids in the past couple months.

    Does anyone have any other ideas as to what we could do about this?

    Overall I would say he is a fairly well behaved dog (some say very well behaved and others think he's average). He listens very well to commands (sit, stay, go to your mat, comes when called, although sometimes with a bit of a delay!) and is a fairly calm dog (doesn't jump up on people too much, doesn't run around like crazy unless playing, sleeps a lot,). The destructiveness is by far the worse thing about him. The only other bad habit is that he begs/jumps up for food (i.e. sniffing what's on the counter although he can just barely reach, hangs out in the kitchen when I'm preparing food, bugs us when we eat on the couch).

    #2 lauraandmatt

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      Posted 26 February 2009 - 08:37 PM

      I have a three year old boxer who has seperation anxiety issues similar to yours! She has eaten shoes, remote controls, magazines and books. She was in a crate till she was 1. From 1-2, she had the run of the kitchen with the baby gate. I thought that her issues would get better if she could look out the window, so she now has the run of the lower level. She's 70lbs so she needs a lot of exercise! It sounds like your dog is getting two walks a day, but I wonder if that's enough. My dog becomes destructive when she does not get enough exercise. I now take her to doggy day care twice a week. We usually go to the dog park but if it's too wet, she has a 30 min walk. I've read the books and searched the internet too for solutions!! I don't want to resort to the medications to calm the dog down. I would suggest trying longer walks or trying to tire her out with a ball. I know that it's expensive, but the doggy day care has been a lifesaver to me! (we both work long hours too) Good luck!

      #3 binzer

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        Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:23 PM

        Your dog definitely has major separation anxiety. If you look at info on the beagle breed, you will find that they are not ideal for being left home all day, as they are definitely companion animals. As a result, you are going to have to work extra hard with your dog to keep it happy.

        Unfortunately 40 minutes of exercise is not that much for a young beagle (especially if you have a high energy one). You probably want to be aiming for something closer to an hour and a half. Ideally you would take your dog out for about an hour in the morning before work, and then another half an hour when you got home.

        You should also leave your dog something to keep him busy while you're gone. I recommend buying a bunch of Kongs or other food puzzles and filling them with treats before you go (you could also get him some chew sticks of some kind). There are even things you can buy that willl release kongs on a timer so that your dog can gradually receive them throughout the day.

        You should also make sure to sneak out when you leave, and not make a big deal of it when you get home. If coming and going is a quiet affair your dog is far less likely to experience anxiety. I know it's hard not to act really excited when you get home and see that wagging tail, but if you act like it's a big deal, the dog thinks it's a big deal.

        There is definitely no point in punishing the dog after the fact. Out of curiosity...how do you discipline him when you catch him in the act? Ideally, you want to avoid situations where he can even get into major trouble. Treat him like a puppy, and keep him in sight! If you see him going for something that isn't a toy, tell him no, give him a toy, and praise him when he's playing with appropriate items.

        Your dog doesn't sound too badly trained, but you may want to watch or read some of Cesar Milan's dog training stuff, because it really works well on dogs such as yours.

        In general, try to exercise your dog more (especially before you go to work), engage with him more at home (play with him, talk to him, encourage good behavior) and always try to establish that you are the leader of the pack.

        Also keep in mind that your dog is doing all of this because he is anxious and unhappy when you're gone. Crating him isn't going to make him less happy...he'll just sleep. You could also give him a very small area where he can't run, but has access to some kongs/chews and a bed. This will give him something to do, but encourage him to keep his energy level low. You can also try crating him or giving him short time-outs when you catch him behaving badly. He needs to know that when he does the wrong thing, play-time is over.

        Beagles are generally prone to becoming neurotic (as are many intelligent dogs who love their people) and there isn't going to be any quick fix (as a result, many beagles end up re-homed). You are really going to have to work at this, and if all else fails, I recommend hiring a dog trainer for some one-on-one time.

        #4 binzer

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          Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:23 PM

          Your dog definitely has major separation anxiety. If you look at info on the beagle breed, you will find that they are not ideal for being left home all day, as they are definitely companion animals. As a result, you are going to have to work extra hard with your dog to keep it happy.

          Unfortunately 40 minutes of exercise is not that much for a young beagle (especially if you have a high energy one). You probably want to be aiming for something closer to an hour and a half. Ideally you would take your dog out for about an hour in the morning before work, and then another half an hour when you got home.

          You should also leave your dog something to keep him busy while you're gone. I recommend buying a bunch of Kongs or other food puzzles and filling them with treats before you go (you could also get him some chew sticks of some kind). There are even things you can buy that willl release kongs on a timer so that your dog can gradually receive them throughout the day.

          You should also make sure to sneak out when you leave, and not make a big deal of it when you get home. If coming and going is a quiet affair your dog is far less likely to experience anxiety. I know it's hard not to act really excited when you get home and see that wagging tail, but if you act like it's a big deal, the dog thinks it's a big deal.

          There is definitely no point in punishing the dog after the fact. Out of curiosity...how do you discipline him when you catch him in the act? Ideally, you want to avoid situations where he can even get into major trouble. Treat him like a puppy, and keep him in sight! If you see him going for something that isn't a toy, tell him no, give him a toy, and praise him when he's playing with appropriate items.

          Your dog doesn't sound too badly trained, but you may want to watch or read some of Cesar Milan's dog training stuff, because it really works well on dogs such as yours.

          In general, try to exercise your dog more (especially before you go to work), engage with him more at home (play with him, talk to him, encourage good behavior) and always try to establish that you are the leader of the pack.

          Also keep in mind that your dog is doing all of this because he is anxious and unhappy when you're gone. Crating him isn't going to make him less happy...he'll just sleep. You could also give him a very small area where he can't run, but has access to some kongs/chews and a bed. This will give him something to do, but encourage him to keep his energy level low. You can also try crating him or giving him short time-outs when you catch him behaving badly. He needs to know that when he does the wrong thing, play-time is over.

          Beagles are generally prone to becoming neurotic (as are many intelligent dogs who love their people) and there isn't going to be any quick fix (as a result, many beagles end up re-homed). You are really going to have to work at this, and if all else fails, I recommend hiring a dog trainer for some one-on-one time.

          #5 **~Jenn~**

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            Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:54 PM

            I agree with Lauraandmatt...Doggy Daycare has been a life saver!! After 2 days there, he is so tired and relaxed its like a different dog!!

            It really sounds like he needs more exercise. It doesn't 100% mean seperation anxiety..He could just be really bored...and a bored doggy is a destructive doggy!!
            My FI & I are gone 8-10 hrs during the week...and 3 of those days he's home, happily sleeping in his cage. He has been in there since he was a puppy though, so I'm not really sure crate training will work for you at this point, but he def should not have the run of the house anymore.
            The thing about crates, or even just a smaller blocked in space...They feel comfortable in "their" space and it creates security for some dogs.

            Another suggestion..And this may not be in your plan or budget, but just a suggestion...Maybe adopt a little friend for him? They will tire each other out and if it is seperation anxiety it may ease his mind a little.
            or maybe hire a dog walker to come in the afternoon to ake him for a half hour walk. It may break up his day and make him more tired in the afternoon.

            Either way..It sounds like he needs more exercise..So I would start there.

            There is lots of good advice in the above posts so hopefully something will work for you. I'm sorry that your going through all that.
            Some dogs are more needy then others :-)

            Good luck and keep us posted with at you do :-)
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            #6 YaelM

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              Posted 26 February 2009 - 10:59 PM

              I agree with the others in that he probably needs more exercise :) good luck!

              #7 Virg

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                Posted 26 February 2009 - 11:07 PM

                I agree with the exercising. Our cocker spaniel is full of energy and bringing him to the dogggy park DRAINS HIM COMPLETELY, which is great :)
                My FI and watch "At the end of my leash" quite a bit to get good ideas about discipline. I would start there too.
                I am a strong believer in Crate training. Our dog is 2 yrs old and we still put him in his "room" before we leave for work. and he does enjoy it, its his safe place, and we never force him in there physically. We simply say "bailey, in your room" and he happily goes in.
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                #8 ikupoo

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                  Posted 26 February 2009 - 11:18 PM

                  Hiring a dog walker I think is a good idea. He needs something to keep his mind and body occupied while he's left home alone. He's probably a high energy dog, and he probably needs to play a lot!
                  Also at the animal shelter that I used to work at, we would keep crate-shy animals on the leash and hook them onto a heavy furniture of the room where you're in. Give him something to play with, like a rolled up old tshirt that he can chew one. There's nothing cruel about this method, and you can keep your eye on him while you're at home.

                  #9 seaprincess

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                    Posted 26 February 2009 - 11:31 PM

                    My monkey's (1.5 year old boxer) name is Bailey too!. We have crate trained him ultimately because he was destroying our house when left alone even for a short period of time. When we're home, he's fine and plays with his toys. The only thing he does naughty when we're home is eat tissue out of the garbage in the washrooms. And sometimes when we're sleeping he'll sneek his nose into the laundry and chew a pair of panties (he sleeps with us). This is getting better but he was going through a phase where he was eating (including swallowing) a pair of my panties every couple of days. He would either throw them up or pass them and we'd find them in the backyard when we were cleaning up!

                    We tried leaving him out and he's eaten our phone, our remote, tore our leather couch (thank god it was old), our shoes, my slippers - honestly it was ridiculous! Now we crate him and when we are ready to leave we tell him 'its time to go to your house' and he runs up and sits in there waiting for us to close it. When he was getting used to it he hated it and would houdini his way out of it when we were gone by pushing it open.

                    We have gotten in the habit of arranging doggy playdates a few times a week with our friends/family and he has gotten so much better. We just aren't able to walk him enough to wear him out and the only way to drain him is to arrange for another dog to come over and they will wrestle for hours.

                    Doggie daycare may be a good option or having a dogwalker come in once a day to take him for an extra long walk?

                    Good luck! I sympathize with you for sure! You just want them to be happy and healthy, but destructive beahviour is difficult to handle.
                    Lindsay and Jamie - January 28, 2009

                    #10 SunBride

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                      Posted 27 February 2009 - 12:14 AM

                      I honestly don't really think it has to do with exercise. I think people may have missed the part where I say he is a very low key dog. He sleeps a lot. When we get back from our walks he normally falls asleep right away, he seems pretty tired out. When he's at home, most of the time he just wants to cuddle on the couch. When he turned about 8 months it's like he became an adult dog. Most people who have seen him in the past year couldn't believe that he was only 1 year old as they found him to be very calm.

                      I'm not saying it's not exercise related, it may be, but I don't think so. Aside from the walks twice a day, on weekends we bring him to the dog park to tire him out more. Summer evenings I can take him there too but not in the winter as it's dark and too dangerous to have him offleash.

                      I also don't think it's seperation anxiety because as I said he does it when we are home too (and yes we try to keep an eye on him at all times, but like I said, maybe once or twice a month it will happen that he gets away without our noticing, usually when I'm not home and my husband is on his computer and didn't gate the upstairs, and he destroys something) and because he isn't as worked up when we get home as he used to be. He used to whine real loud and jump around, now he's quite a bit calmer. And like I said we pretty much already do what we can to reduce seperation anxiety. He can get anything out of a kong in less than 2 minutes, and we can't give him more than one or two as we have to watch his weight carefully (beagles have a tendency to be fat). He does LOVE getting stuff out of his kong though (he's way prefer spending 2 minutes getting something out of the kong, then just getting the treat directly), I just wish we could make it last longer.

                      We have been considering getting a 2nd dog. We know that beagles (well all dogs in general but especially beagles) are used to being in packs. On the one hand, we may have double the problems. Also more expensive to get a sitter when we go away (we have no family nearby, and so we have to pay to leave him somewhere when we go on vacation, go away for the weekend and fly home to visit my family). At first I thought my husband was crazy for suggesting a 2nd dog. We'd have to get a bigger car as our current small sports car hardly fits the 2 of us and the dog when we make the 10 hour drive to visit his family!!! But lately I've been becoming more convinced.

                      My husband is going to try bringing the dog to the dog park every morning. It will mean double the walk he normally gets, plus he's off leash and gets to play a bit. I just honestly have trouble believing that my husband will be able to keep this up long term.




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