8 month old german shepard mix destroying her crate

Posted by lakotablue
Oct 12, 2009
I have a german shepard mix who has started eating her crate when left at home for short periods. My husband and I will soon be working the same shift and she will be crated for a longer period. She can't be left to roam the house, as we tried a trail run and she pulled down curtains, bent curtain rods and put a hole in the door knob with her teeth. Any suggestions?
Posted by KOPsarah
Oct 17, 2009
hi lakotablue and thanks for your post

This sort of behavior is common with many dogs around this age as they are approaching maturity and start testing the boundaries and their position in the pack. This period is often also associated with destructive and attention seeking behaviors such as digging and chewing. There are several things you can do to make this period easier for you and your dog.

Be the Alpha dog
It’s easier to manage your dog if you understand the rules of dog social behavior. Our bonus book “Secrets to Becoming The Alpha Dog" will help you become the top dog and rule your roost. The key point however is that if you act like the pack leader your dog will see you as pack leader, however if you don’t you dog will feel it has to assume the role itself.

Remember that in a wild dog pack the dominant pack member controls :
-access to food
-access to favoured sleeping areas
-any interactions with lower pack members
-access to favoured items such as toys

In order to show your dog her position as bottom of the pack you and your whole family can take advantage of these keys points. For example

1) Your dog must be the last to eat at every meal and should never get treats from the table, these can be saved for training treats later.

2) Your dog should never walk through doors before you. A good way to practice this is to walk around the house and make them sit at each doorway and wait.

3) If your dog is lying in the hallway or anywhere you have to get past make them move. If you think they will snap leave a lead on them so you can move them whilst maintaining a bit of distance.

4) When you arrive home completely ignore the dog for 15 minutes. Don't look at them, talk to them or pat them. After this go to them and give them some quiet attention only as long as they are relaxed and calm.

5) Only interact with the dog on your terms. If your or someone else is petting the dog or playing with it and it becomes aggressive or badly behaved immediately remove your attention from the dog by either removing yourself from the area or moving the dog to another area. You should do this without displaying any emotion such as anger just be a calm but decisive pack leader and the dog will appreciate knowing where it stands.

6) Similarly you can assert your dominance by not allowing access to beds and couches or by only bringing out favourite toys when you want to play and removing them when you are finished.

Keep your dog challenged
Keeping your dog mentally and physically challenged will greatly reduce behavior problems in dogs of all ages but especially in the high energy teens months. There are a number of ways to keep your dog challenged.

Regular daily obedience training is a good routine - just five minutes a day spent rehashing familiar commands with your dog is an extremely effective way of reinforcing your authority and dominance while also keeping your dog mentally challenged. Be sure to use praise and/or treat immediately whenever your dog does something right.

Regular exercise is also very effective at improving your dog’s behavior and it can be both mentally and physically challenging. Quite walks, while not particularly physically challenging keep your dog mentally stimulated especially if you vary the walking environment to include new and interesting places. Free running your dog at the park or jogging with your healthy dog on lead can provide a great energy burning opportunity. Alternatively you can train many dogs to run on treadmills which is especially useful if you have reduced mobility or limited time and have a high energy dog.

Finally toys are also an important source of mental stimulation for dogs and are very useful for keeping dogs entertained when owners are out. Try to build up a collection and rotate them so your dog does not get bored. Toys which can be stuffed with food and require the dog to work the food out slowly are especially valuable.

Correcting general disobedience
For general disobedience, use the “Alarm-No!-Command” method (p55 in your ‘Secrets to Dog Training’ guidebook).

Three steps to take immediately when your dog disobeys:
-Alarm your dog with a squirt from a water pistol or by shaking a pebble filled can
-At the same time say a loud “No!” or “Bad” or utter a sharp growling sound like “Aaahhh.” Be stern and sincere every time so that the dog associates the harsh word with stopping the behavior
-Redirect your dog with a command. ‘Sit and stay’ is a very good choice. Praise your dog as soon as it responds correctly.

Some dogs however can be difficult to alarm. In this case the time-out method is best. Set up a time out spot such as a crate, kennel or quiet room. As soon as the dog disobeys calmly and silently remove it to the time-out spot for a 3-minute time out. To make the situation positive again when the 3 minutes is up let your dog come back out and ask it to sit, when it responds correctly praise. Teenage dogs in particular are constantly seeking your attention and therefore removing your attention by isolating them with time out can be a simple and effective training tool.

If you are consistent and clear with your teenage dog and employ the methods above you and your teen should be able to get through this period smoothly and enjoy your time together. I hope this helps and if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask.