How to stop your dog from destroying your home – Part 1

I currently have three rescue dogs, and have had many dogs in the past. Several have been destructive and some still are (my works-in-progress) but rest assured, with time and effort on your part, things can improve.

Luckily, my mutts are only destructive when I am not home. For me and my pack, crate training is the only sure fire way I have found of preventing destructive behavior (when I am absent or when I am not able to monitor behavior).

And that means proper crate training, not just cramming a dog in a box and leaving it for 10 hours.

First, the dog must want, really WANT to get in the crate. I accomplished this with the big motivator for my two crate-trained dogs – food. Every time they go in, they get food and they race for the crates when I do the two things that signal my departure – popping gum in my mouth and picking up my keys.

Second, they must be happy, well at least contented, to be parted from you. This means leaving them for short periods of time (seconds) at first, gradually lengthening the time to as long as you need to be gone. It also means NEVER letting them out of the crate if they are acting up and NEVER leaving them longer that they can tolerate. If this means weeks and WEEKS of practice and/or hiring a dog minder in the interim, so be it.

Third, before crating them for a long time (over two or three hours depending on their energy level) let them blow off steam – a game of fetch in the back yard, a long (an hour at least) walk, an intense training session – whatever it takes to make them want to rest. (All dogs should have plenty of exercise every day, and that doesn’t include chewing on the sofa.)

Forth, never let them get overly excited when you get home, and let them out of the crate ONLY when they are calm. And don’t make a big deal of letting them out – although this is tough for me as I am generally as glad to see them as they are to see me!

Fifth, de-clutter your house. Don’t leave tempting things laying around. And that includes things on countertops (like chocolate chip cookies or a pot-roast). Don’t leave anything you treasure, anything of value, or anything that might be harmful to your best friend. (This especially applies if your dog is destructive when you are home too.)

Sixth, plan ahead. Start crate training and find someone to let them out when you are gone BEFORE you really need to leave your dogs for any length of time. If you know you don’t have the proper time to crate train a new dog, consider postponing the adoption, or ensure you have a good friend or trainer who can help or do the work for/with you.

Seventh, don’t assume your new best friend won’t chew your favorite old shoes. Puppies will chew on everything, and even older dogs that are billed as not-destructive may develop the habit with the stress of fitting into a new situation. Plan for the worst and hope for the best – assume the dog will chew and plan accordingly.

It took about two months of intermittent training with my shepherd-collie mix and about two days for my hound mix, but it paid off – they often enter their crates on their own for naps or in the hopes of a treat – and my books and shoes are safe (if not the soap). Now I need to start working on the old couch potato, who just ate the cover of my Queen’s Greatest Hit’s CD while I was out buying dog food…

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