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Discussion Starter #1
Well, my 9-month-old GSD male is, I am quite ashamed to admit, still sleeping in his kennel. I have tried to convince my girlfriend to let him out more often, but every time we do, he more or less destroys everything in the house. Once, he even pulled an entire apple pie down on his head, and cut himself with the knife that was in it. Another time, he wolfed down 2 lbs of bacon I foolishly left thawing on the counter. When he is not getting into the trash / counters, he gets busy pooping in random bedrooms and hallways.

I have been trying to give him a chance to sleep out of his crate on the weekends, because that is the only time I am home to clean up in the morning. During the week I am out the door by 6:00 AM, so I must defer to my other half, who gives him one or two tries a month, at best. I am not happy about that at all, but what can I do? I cannot make assurances about his behavior, and I cannot force her to clean up his mess every morning.

So I was thinking, in addition to asking for some tips, which I would greatly appreciate, I was hoping I might get some personal accounts from some who have experienced this and gotten through it. What were your frustrations? How did you cope? How long did the behavior last? I would love to hear anything I can use to A) help Rex help himself or B) ease my girlfriend's fears.

(And no, guilt tripping her does not work for more than 1 night. I have tried.)
 

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I'm with your girlfriend. He's obviously not ready to be left unsupervised. By allowing him to be loose, you are allowing this destructive behavior and then it becomes a habit you have to break. Leave him in the crate at night.
 

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My GSD at almost 17 months still sleeps in his 48" crate during the day while noone is home (they get a break in the middle of the day if it's a full day)and a 4' x 4' xpen at night. The crating during the day is to keep him out of trouble, and crating at night is because he likes being crated. If I leave the pen door open he will whine and pace the room, once the door is closed he goes straight onto his bed and crashes for the night without a peep.

As long as they get lots of exercise - both physical and mental - crating is not a bad thing. It's a bed for them to relax in, not a prison.
 

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I agree, he is not ready to be out...

However, have you tried to set an alarm and bring him out in the night? He is old enough that he should be able to hold it however, you need to train that...

I would start by taking him out every one to two hours and then slowly start to increase the time in between.

As far as destroying stuff... Thats going to be up to you guys to train him not to care about those things. A 9 month old pup is GOING to eat something if you leave it out. I am sure a 10 year old would have taken advantage of 2lbs of bacon
 

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Our 12 yr old ate the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. Dogs are opportunists!
Two of mine just ate 15 pounds of dog food in the morning, just because I slept in and didn't feed them at 0600 as usual. It's the first time in ages that they have gotten into the food. Guess they wanted to teach me a lesson. :D
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Thank you for the replies.

If that is what is best, I would be happy to do it. My only worry is that he will not learn anything if he is locked in his crate every night. And he looooooves it when we leave him out, and he is extra affectionate when we go through the good-night ritual with him out of the crate. He also gives us this adorable look that screams, "Thank you so much! Thank you thank you thank you!" He gives us the same look in the morning when we wake up. Though, I suppose that could be him thanking me for the bacon/pie/etc he plans on eating.

Anyway, that brings me to my next question... if we leave him crated at night now, how will we know when he is ready to learn? I do not want him to be locked up every night for the rest of his life. That is a major fear I have right now.

Thanks again for replying.
 

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I would start by bringing the dog into your bedroom at night and closing and/or gating the door so that he can't roam around the entire house. This way you are more likely to hear any mischief and can offer a correction in real time.

Once he reliably settles nicely for the night in your bedroom uncrated, you can start to leave the door open.

Of course, to have a dog settle well at night it helps to give them attention, exercise and mental stimulation before bedtime : )
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I would start by bringing the dog into your bedroom at night and closing and/or gating the door so that he can't roam around the entire house. This way you are more likely to hear any mischief and can offer a correction in real time.

Once he reliably settles nicely for the night in your bedroom uncrated, you can start to leave the door open.

Of course, to have a dog settle well at night it helps to give them attention, exercise and mental stimulation before bedtime : )
Unfortunately, our room is our cat's one and only safe haven from Rex, who is not allowed in unsupervised. She likes to crawl into bed and sleep between us after we fall asleep, and those two do not get along. He gets curious, she runs, he chases, she hisses, he barks, and the rest is history.

I would hate to take that from her, but I will think about it. It is the most practical solution I have heard, so far.
 

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Thank you for the replies.

If that is what is best, I would be happy to do it. My only worry is that he will not learn anything if he is locked in his crate every night.
Anyway, that brings me to my next question... if we leave him crated at night now, how will we know when he is ready to learn? I do not want him to be locked up every night for the rest of his life. That is a major fear I have right now.

Thanks again for replying.
Your worried he will not learn anything locked in his crate but what you should be worried about is what he has been learning every time you leave him loose. He has learned that counter surfing is fun and rewarding, that going to the bathroom in the house is ok and that destroying stuff is awesome.

You have actually set back his house training by allowing him to self reward like this.

There is really no one to blame but yourself for the fact that he may not be able to be loose unsupervised for quite some time. I personally wouldn't think of it for 6 months more likely more. What he is learning in his crate is to be calm and quiet while you are sleeping. This behavior will transfer over later when you eventually leave him loose. When you do start to leave him loose perhaps someone can sleep on the couch if the cat needs to be locked in the bedroom.
 

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Have you trained this dog to do anything?

You haven't said one word about how you are training this dog.

How will you know when he's ready to learn?

He was ready to learn anything you were willing to teach him the day you brought him home.
 

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I'm with Michael, how much time a day do you spend with the dog and doing what?

The majority of dogs that are destructive are ones that have little exercise, mentally as well as physically.

My dogs have all been out of their crates and had free roam of my house day and night by the time they were 4-5 months old. I've never come home to 'destruction' , sure the occasional stolen food which is an easy fix.

I highly recommend signing up for a basic obedience class to start.
 

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Discussion Starter #14 (Edited)
He comes, he sits, he stays. He waits for permission to accept treats or eat food, he waits for permission to enter the house, he waits for permission to leave through the front and garage doors. He ignores things he is investigating on command, and he drops things he is carrying and/or eating when told to--unless he stole it out of the trash and thinks you cannot see it. He lays down when you tell him to, gets off of the furniture we allow him on when instructed to, and stops jumping on you when you tell him to, though he is getting to the point that he rarely ever jumps on anyone. He also approaches, opens, and enters his crate on command. He can also usually (he does get it wrong sometimes) find and bring you his three favorite toys, by name.

He is house trained, except at night when roaming unsupervised. He will not use the bathroom indoors during the day, or in his crate at night, even if not given a chance to go outside for a very long time.

I personally spend an average of ~20 minutes a day playing with him... wrestling, tug of war, frisbee, or chase games, and a lot more time just lounging around with him nearby. Well, except for yesterday, because I sliced my finger open on an exposed carpet nail while playing with him--kinda cut our session short. Once or twice each day, I make it a point to reinforce some of the commands he already knows that he is not required to use on a daily basis(come, sit, down, stay, etc), but we really are not interested in teaching him "tricks," so he has not learned much since mastering the essentials.

I also take him to the dog park every couple weeks, and the girlfriend takes him on walks a bit more frequently than that. I am not sure what training she has been giving him lately--it may just be more reinforcement. The kids spend several hours playing him him, especially our five year old boy who pretty much refuses to leave the dog alone. Between me, my girlfriend, the boy, and our nine year old girl, he really does not have much time to get bored unless he finds himself locked in his crate for misbehaving.

Regarding getting into the trash and eating off of the table, I have tried a few different things. I loaded some bread with cyan pepper, left it hanging precariously over the edge of the dining room table, and casually walked around a corner. He walked into the living room, licking his lips like a madman, not long after. It did not make any impression with him. Same thing with the bittering agents I have tried... I actually found him chewing up the bittering agent's spray bottle. Definitely not effective. Aside from such "Gotcha!" deterrents, we have tried to keep him distracted to keep his attention away from the trash and such, and he has spent so much time in his crate as a direct result of getting into things that I feel bad for him sometimes. It is not uncommon for him to be stuck in his crate for hours and hours and hours during the day, because as soon as he gets out, he goes straight for the trash can again, having learned absolutely nothing.

That is another reason I want him out of the crate.
It is doing nothing for him, as far as I can tell, and I know I would be building up a lot of nervous energy if I was stuck in a box all day and night. The way I see it, the only thing he is learning in his crate is that he only gets a few brief chances each day to exercise as much freedom as possible, and that definitely is not what I want to teach him. The way of the crate has been tried, tested, and consistently failed for the past eight months.

In fact, the only time any kind of exclusion seemed to make an impression was when I kept him outside literally all day, with a few brief stops inside just to show him where he pottied and why he was still out there. He started improving immediately after that, until he was where is at today.
 

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it sounds like he's no dummy for sure:)

As for the trash thing, easy fix , put it somewhere he cannot get to it. Same with food,

I agree the crate time could be just him becoming frustrated as well.

20 minutes a day would not cut it for my dogs. I walk , I hike, I do alot of outside stuff , classes.

The getting into stuff still sounds like boredom/attention getter to me,

Could he sleep in one of the kids room at nite? Night time may stress him out for whatever reason, and he's roaming around looking for something to do.

If he's out of the crate, I would he needs to be supervised 24/7 so you can correct him/redirect him when he goes to get into something he's not supposed to.

If he likes it outside during the day, there's no reason he can't stay out there, unless of course if it's a safety issue for him..
 

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For counter surfing we have tried what trainer suggested. Cans with coins inside. Taped unless you want to pick up coins sprawled across floor. Put into large bowl, set a trap with bread etc. when he goes to pull food off counter along comes the bowl with the loud crashing of cans. Scared the heck out of Dexter when he was a few months old. She also suggested upside down mouse traps.
Reading your post makes me feel lucky I can leave a 5 month old to roam the house at nighttime . Although majority of that time is asleep in his bed. I have noticed if we didnt do much that day he is awake most of the night. Try tiring him out for a day and see if that helps with his behavior at night.
 

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Aside from such "Gotcha!" deterrents, we have tried to keep him distracted to keep his attention away from the trash and such, and he has spent so much time in his crate as a direct result of getting into things that I feel bad for him sometimes. It is not uncommon for him to be stuck in his crate for hours and hours and hours during the day, because as soon as he gets out, he goes straight for the trash can again, having learned absolutely nothing.
I agree with others - remove the trash can from the equation (not forever, but for the time being)!

Aside from that, I also agree, it is not helping matters that the pup is crated for "hours and hours and hours during the day." When he starts acting mischievous.... instead of crating the dog, try re-directing to a positive play activity. If that doesn't work, put the pup on a leash and tether him to you for a little bit before trying again.

It sounds like you have a household of people who love the dog and would be willing to take on the role of keeping the dog engaged in positive activities :)
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Something as simple as a better trash can... heh. You know, we had considered getting one to help us, so we would not have to clean up after him. Clean -up is not that big of a deal to me, and I kept thinking Rex would be trained soon anyway, so we never bought one. I never stopped to think that it would be removing something that reinforces Rex's bad behavior. I think a better trash can just jumped to the top of my shopping list.

I will also try the can thing, but I am not comfortable using mouse traps. I am sure it is safe, but I can't shake the eerie feeling I get thinking about using a rodent killing device as a training tool.

So far what I have gathered from all of this is that I need to cut off opportunities for reinforcing his bad behavior. I should tackle what he does during the day, by removing access to trash and using other tricks like the coin can. During this time, I will keep him crated at night so he will have no opportunity to misbehave. When I feel more confident in his behavior, will try letting him sleep in someone's room. The main goal being, stop allowing him to reward himself, and get him in the habit of being good.
 

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You said you play with him/wrestle/etc. for about 20 minutes a day... does he go for daily walks?? Part of the highly destructive behavior you're seeing is almost certainly connected to him just having too much pent-up energy. By the time my puppy was 5 months old, she was walking about 4-5 miles per day, and now we walk her at least 4-6 miles plus take her on half-day hikes once a weekend. At 9 months old, 20 minutes of play/exercise is bound to leave him with excess energy, which he'll look to get rid of any way he can!
 
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