Gauze door damage

Posted by Karen-Wilson
Aug 25, 2009
I have a 2 year old shep cross. She is so well behaved in everyway, except for the damage she causes to gauze doors. She rises onto her rear legs and scratches at the gauze. After several days, she manages to claw right through it. She seems to like the noise it creates, and enjoys scraping her claws, a bit like a cat. She mostly does it when we are out, as she knows it is wrong to do it, and will not do it when we are home.

Any ideas on how to stop this, as it is costing a fortune to constantly repair.
Posted by LetsPlay
Aug 26, 2009
Hi there,

I often find that behavioral problems that show when you are not home is due to the fact that your dog doesn't accept your leadership. Here is a one sentence explanation why:

Dogs naturally want to be or have a leader, therefore if they don't see you as the leader of the pack they will become the leader themselves, therefore they think it is their job to protect you and care for you, therefore they get anxious and stressed if you are not there and they don't know what could be happening to you, therefore they will try to get to you, for example by scratching the door.

You will find that some dogs don't necessarily scratch on the door, but for example start licking themselves until they have bald patches, bark all day, cry, destroy and chew things they are not supposed to, some dogs just scratch themselves a bit more and don't show very clear signs etc. Dogs differ in their way to show that they are stressed, but your dog seems to send a very clear signal.

The best and also easiest solution is to establish yourself as the pack leader.
I suggest reading the Alpha Dog book to start with.

When I got my first dog years ago I thought that some of the things you have to do to become the leader of the pack are not very nice, for example ignoring the dog for at least 5 minutes when you get home. My dog was always so excited and I felt bad not greeting him. But very quickly I learned that by being a good pack leader my dog will be so much happier and relaxed, so if that meant I had to do things that perhaps didn't come naturally to me I still had to do them. I always chatted away to my dogs, gave them lots of attention, spoiled them rotten etc until I realized that I wasn't doing them a favor at all. I hope that helps you to understand why it is so important to be a good leader.
The latest addition to our family is a Labrador puppy and we constantly have people comment on how well behaved she is even though she is still very young. I even had people stop on the street and ask what medicine we give her or what the trick is to make her so calm. Obviously we don't give her drugs, she is just relaxed because she knows that we are the leaders and look after her. There is nothing to worry for her. If people come to the door she stays in her bed because she knows that we will tell her when she is allowed to say hello. She can stay at home happily for hours on end and just snoozes or plays with her toys, because she doesn't have to take care of us and worry about us. I hope that makes sense?

Here is what you can do:
Ignore your dog when you get home, when you have been in different rooms, when you have just gone to the mailbox etc. Basically ever time you have been separated even if it is just for a minute or two. It should always be you who initiates the greeting.

Never give in when your dog comes up to you for attention - ignore her for a moment, then call her to you and greet her.

Don't play with your dog if she comes to you with a toy in her mouth.
Take it away, ignore her, then 5 minutes later call her to you and play with her.

Don't give her access to all her toys, you need to hand them out and take them off her again. She can have one or two toys to use all day, but the special one's are yours and she is only allowed to play with them when you want her to.

Don't make a fuss when you leave the house or return. That makes the separation anxiety even worse.

Always eat before her. Prepare her meal and yours at the same time, then eat yours and feed her when you are done. If that doesn't suit your schedule have a piece of toast or a biscuit that you eat in full view while she is waiting for her food. Only put the bowl down when you are finished with your snack. Make her sit and wait.

Let me know if you have any questions. I know it might seem bizarre as you don't deal with the door issue directly, but you will see that if you implement this method you will see a quick change.

The other thing is that you should always try not to leave her alone for too long. Dogs are social creatures and they shouldn't be home all day long without anyone checking on them. Do you have a neighbor who could take her for a short walk? A friend who can spend some time with her? A dog sitter? Can you take her to work?

Let us know how you get on.
Posted by Karen-Wilson
Aug 26, 2009
Thanks for the advice.

I already apply the eating after me rule, but do stroke her when she greets me, I'll have to change that one.

She's never left for too long, as I only work part time and my children are home straight after school too
Posted by KOPsarah
Aug 26, 2009
Hi Karen,
Along with alpha training and making your entries and exits fuss free you could consider using some mentally challenging and time consuming toys such as treat balls, kongs and chews. They will keep her mind occupied and hopefully reduce her interest in the screen door. Also try giving her heaps of exercise before you leave so that she is more inclined to sleep quietly while you are away.

You can also try temporarily moving something into the area where she normally stands on her back legs to scratch. It would need to be something that is difficult for her to stand on or has an unpleasant texture. For example you could try putting a big smooth garden rock there. Rotating the items may also help as she may work out ways around the item after a while. Once the habit is broken and she is redirected onto other activities such as the toys the behavior should stop.

I hope this helps and if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to ask.