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Old 12-18-2013, 04:44 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Help with puppy when he's home alone

First off, my "Puppy" is going to turn 1 year old on the 1st of the year, which I'm very happy about.

I live alone, and don't have any other pets, so when I go to work I have to leave the puppy behind, unfortunately. For most of his life, I kept him confined in the kitchen with a nice sofa/bed, water/food, and a dog door to go outside. This has worked out well for both of us. At least I live close to work, so I go home for lunch everyday to walk him and to visit with him.

Over the last two weeks, I've been leaving him alone with the run of the house, as this is my ultimate goal for him. And most days, he is very good.

Buuuuuuuuuuuuttttt.....

Several days over the past 2 weeks I have found that he's gotten into the trash, or pulled down some letters from the table, gotten a tissue box, or gotten a throw pillow from the sofa, etc, and ripped them up, dragged them outside, or both. Today, I found that he had done ALL of these, plus ripped up several books and video game cases.

So, now he's back to being locked in the kitchen, at least for the time being.

I find this behavior especially frustrating as he displays zero destructive tendancies when I'm at home, so there's no opportunity for me to correct him or guide him away from chewing things he's not supposed to. When I'm home, he only plays with his toys or me, which is exactly what I want him to do.

I know that the accepted pratice for finding messes like these (for example, with housetraining) is to quietly clean up the mess and redirect the behavior, but the problem is that there isn't any observable bad behavior to misdirect. So the best I can do is reprimand him when I come home and he's been bad, praise him when he's been good, but I don't want to have him destroy half of my house before he gets the message.

I understand that he is still fairly young, so perhaps I was just trying this too soon. I also understand he is doing this out of boredom, and I don't blame him, but I cannot be home with him all day every day, as much as I'd like to. So he needs to figure out how not to be destructive when I'm not home.

I do have bitter apple spray, but I haven't found it particularly useful, and I cannot spray my entire house with it. And when the weather is good, I take him for morning and lunchtime walks in addition to dog park in the evening, so he's not so bored. But this time of year it gets light too late in the morning and too early at night, and is generally too cold to do anything but lunchtime walks anymore.

Does anyone have tips for what age to attempt "home alone" time, and what do when he slips up?

Last edited by Pattyobrien3; 12-18-2013 at 04:51 PM.
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:57 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes you should reprimand them as it happens, however there is nothing wrong with picking up the destroyed item when you get home, giving him a serious look and in a low voice tell him naughty boy and then ignore him for a few minutes - they know - believe me they know. I have done this and all mine have survived with no psychological issues!

He is very young and is doing it from boredom and separation from you. You could try giving him a 20 minute walk before you leave for work. Assuming you are feeding dry kibble, don't feed him in the morning, put the required food plus larger treat type food in a couple of treat balls. So he will have to work to get his breakfast by moving the treat balls and figuring out how to get the food, plus with the larger treat type bits, make sure they are big enough not to come out - he will just enjoy the smell.

Working like this will tire him out and hopefully once he has spent a couple of hours getting the food out will have sleep.
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Old 12-18-2013, 04:57 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I think every dog is different as to when they are "mature enough" to not do this sort of behavior when left home alone. Personally I think 1 year old is too young and wouldn't try this with my dog until 18 months, two years, or even older! But it depends on the owner and the dog.

Maybe if it's common for him to be home alone during the week (as it would be for me and probably a lot of people here), is doggie daycare, a dog walker, or a pet sitter an option for a few times a week? Increasing his exercise will help with this behavior, whether you can keep him occupied during the week or take longer walks, do more OB, or get him started in a club or sport when you're home.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:30 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Harry and Lola View Post
Yes you should reprimand them as it happens, however there is nothing wrong with picking up the destroyed item when you get home, giving him a serious look and in a low voice tell him naughty boy and then ignore him for a few minutes - they know - believe me they know. I have done this and all mine have survived with no psychological issues!

He is very young and is doing it from boredom and separation from you. You could try giving him a 20 minute walk before you leave for work. Assuming you are feeding dry kibble, don't feed him in the morning, put the required food plus larger treat type food in a couple of treat balls. So he will have to work to get his breakfast by moving the treat balls and figuring out how to get the food, plus with the larger treat type bits, make sure they are big enough not to come out - he will just enjoy the smell.

Working like this will tire him out and hopefully once he has spent a couple of hours getting the food out will have sleep.

Oh, my yes, I know they know. I've heard people say that dogs can't tell that you're punishing them for the mess they caused, but when I come home and he's been good, he's at the garage door when I open it, tail wagging. But when he's bad, he's at the top of the stairs or on his bed with a nervous look.

And as I mentioned, I love taking him for morning walks, but I don't really like to walk him when it's dark, and I have to leave before it gets light.

I have seen those treat balls, but I am somewhat skeptical that they'll withstand his nibbling. What do you use? I only ask because I've gotten toys for him that are supposed to be tough, or long lasting treats, or both, but I often find they are neither.

For example, I got him one of those everlasting treat holders, which seems like a great product.

Amazon.com: StarMark Everlasting Treat Ball, Large: Pet Supplies Amazon.com: StarMark Everlasting Treat Ball, Large: Pet Supplies

****, it's hard for me to get the cookies in the rubber housing, and I'm fairly strong. But he does something where he pries his canines inbetween the cookie and the housing and pops it out in like 5 minutes.

So, if you had a recommended treat holder that's shepherd-proof, I'd probably try one out.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Nothing wrong with putting him back in the kitchen. Yelling at him after the fact is kind of pointless. I make sure there's nothing interesting in the trash if there's any food waste I put the can in the bathroom, it's just too irresistible even for my old girl.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:32 PM   #6 (permalink)
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He probably isn't mature enough to have full run of the house yet. At one year old, he is still an adolescent and may not have completely outgrown those destructive behaviors yet. I would put him back to the kitchen and maybe try him again every two months or so until he can be fully trusted.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:37 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I think every dog is different as to when they are "mature enough" to not do this sort of behavior when left home alone. Personally I think 1 year old is too young and wouldn't try this with my dog until 18 months, two years, or even older! But it depends on the owner and the dog.

Maybe if it's common for him to be home alone during the week (as it would be for me and probably a lot of people here), is doggie daycare, a dog walker, or a pet sitter an option for a few times a week? Increasing his exercise will help with this behavior, whether you can keep him occupied during the week or take longer walks, do more OB, or get him started in a club or sport when you're home.
You may be right, he is still young. I'll probably try easing him into home alone time, like when I go to the grocery store. Oddly enough, he only seems to destroy things in the morning - when I come home for lunch, there's often a mess, but I don't think there's ever been a mess when I come home in the evening.

I have considered doggie daycare, but for one thing, I find it hard to justify the expense (I think upwards of $20 a day), and for another, he's not yet fixed, which I think auto-invalidates that option. I haven't really yet considered a dog walker or sitter, but he's only home alone for about 4 hours at a time. that's not too long a stretch, i'd hope.

I have thought about a club or a sport for a while, and I think it'd be fun for him and me, but i'm not sure how to get him started in that sort of thing. I'm in the denver, co, area - perhaps you could recommend some ways to get started?

Unfortunately, when I started looking for breeders in the area, I found the amount of knoweldge and helpfulness from german shepherd clubs to be sorely lacking. So I'd be interested to know how to get started.

On a side note - are the birth/death dates for blackjack accurate? If so, I am very sorry. It is hard to lose a dog so young.

Last edited by Pattyobrien3; 12-18-2013 at 05:39 PM.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:44 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Nothing wrong with putting him back in the kitchen. Yelling at him after the fact is kind of pointless. I make sure there's nothing interesting in the trash if there's any food waste I put the can in the bathroom, it's just too irresistible even for my old girl.
One day I came home to find a chewed-up ice cream container scattered about - I can hardly blame him for that one.

But mostly, he seems to go after tissues from the trash, or even whole tissue boxes. ><

I was a bit steamed about it at first, but on our walk after I came home today, I found it somewhat amusing that he only chewed up my paperback game of thrones books. I guess he doesn't like his favorite characters getting killed off any more than the rest of us.
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Old 12-18-2013, 05:49 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Pattyobrien3 View Post
You may be right, he is still young. I'll probably try easing him into home alone time, like when I go to the grocery store. Oddly enough, he only seems to destroy things in the morning - when I come home for lunch, there's often a mess, but I don't think there's ever been a mess when I come home in the evening.

I have considered doggie daycare, but for one thing, I find it hard to justify the expense (I think upwards of $20 a day), and for another, he's not yet fixed, which I think auto-invalidates that option. I haven't really yet considered a dog walker or sitter, but he's only home alone for about 4 hours at a time. that's not too long a stretch, i'd hope.

I have thought about a club or a sport for a while, and I think it'd be fun for him and me, but i'm not sure how to get him started in that sort of thing. I'm in the denver, co, area - perhaps you could recommend some ways to get started?

Unfortunately, when I started looking for breeders in the area, I found the amount of knoweldge and helpfulness from german shepherd clubs to be sorely lacking. So I'd be interested to know how to get started.

On a side note - are the birth/death dates for blackjack accurate? If so, I am very sorry. It is hard to lose a dog so young.

Thank you for your kind remark about my Jack. I went overseas for work and left him with some acquaintances who were suffering the loss of a GSD girl to a seizure... they left him outside unsupervised for an extended period and he dug out under the fence, strangling himself on his collar. It was a very devastating fact to come home to There are so many things wrong with that picture and obviously things I'd never let happen with my own dog (outside for a long time unsupervised, wearing a collar etc!)

Anyhow, Im very far from Denver but Im sure some other members will have some good advice on clubs!! Ward is a rescue and we've only had him for a few months and not ready to begin any sports, but he's a member of a training club that does daycare with walks and play, and day training. They also do agility training so that's something I'd like to try with him! We also have a GSD walking group that meets on weekends and is always a fun and educational thing for him.

4 hours is not too long to leave him, just maybe too long to let him free run of house just yet!!
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Old 12-18-2013, 06:21 PM   #10 (permalink)
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The best answer, and one that several have repeated is, back to the kitchen.

Then consider that garbage can not be left accessable to dogs until they are 4 or so. And even then it is best not to leave it where they can find it. He's probably attracted to specific books because of your scent on them - perhaps these were the books you most recently read or perhaps you had eaten something before you picked them up? (As smart as I think dogs are, I don't think mine can read just yet.)
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