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My partner and I adopted a dog about five months ago and are running into a few behavioral issues, almost exclusively related to when we leave home. Dog is a ~10 Month old Husky Staffordshire Terrier Mix. There’s also some Chow Chow and some Schipperke, and 2% wolf, though not sure how relevant her minority breeds are in this situation…
To preface this, I will say she is extremely food motivated and has done well with basic obedience training (sit, down, stay, etc) when treats are used. She's obedient when she is calm, as well, and is quite mellow at home, but chews to destroy. She hasn’t done any damage to our furniture or house, but, man, I’ve never seen a dog break a Kong until I met her.
We're on a pretty good regimine of at least one running (fetch in park, dog park) type of exercise a day, and at least one (sometimes more) walks of about an hour in length per day. We are very active and she's getting good exercise. She's not aggressive towards people. Plays well with other dogs. We’re home most days (WFH) so she is rarely left alone. When she’s not on her walk or run she’s lazy snoozing or chews her bones happily.
Overall, she seems to like her crate. She sleeps well in it at night (8 hours without whining or anything). She sometimes voluntarily spends time napping in the crate during the day. That said, aside from an occasional success story, she goes INSANE howling and chewing her bed within 15 mins of us leaving her in the crate when we leave. Neighbors aren’t stoked and we aren’t either. As a result, I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve left her alone for more than an hour.
Obviously, we would love to have the ability to leave her alone for more than fifteen minutes. We recently read "I'll be home soon" by Patricia McConell and it actually doesn't seem like she even has separation anxiety—she just seems bored. When we're home, she'll often snooze in the other room or go into her crate on her own accord when the night is winding down and she wants some alone time. (She is asleep in her crate in the other room as I type this)
To back up a bit, I know and understand that leaving dogs needs to be a slow and gradual process. We experiment with leaving her in her crate with the door shut when we’re home for 30-90 minute bursts, sometimes stepping out for a sec, coming back, etc., but she really only seems to flip out when she knows we are bona fide out-the-door for an errand. She can really sense it. Leaving her with food stuffed toys seems to distract her a bit, but I can’t seem to find anything that occupies her for more than 15 minutes in the crate (see note above, she can literally chew through a kong. Bully sticks last about 10 mins.)
We're both growing a bit concerned as she's gotten older but the situation hasn't smoothed out on its own. We spoke to a behaviorist at our rescue and she basically thinks she’s acting out because of her age, and is rebelling because, while she likes the crate, she is not CHOOSING to be confined to the crate. She recommended working with a trainer or doing a doggy bootcamp. She strongly advised against any kind of bark collar (I’ve never used one of these either).
While I’m definitely open to a trainer I am also sort of feeling like another test may be to leave her home alone NOT in the crate, and see how she does. Part of me thinks she would snooze and chew her bone and enjoy the quiet, another part of me thinks she could eventually work herself up and take out her frustration on my couch.
That said, dog training enthusiasts of Reddit, let me know what you think! Is the whole crate training recommendation a bit too one-size-fits-all, or does a dog need to be comfortable alone in their crate before they can be comfortable alone in your house? Anyone go through something like this?
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