Hi, I'm new here, and I need help!
My husband and I adopted a gorgeous sweet mutt from the local shelter about a month ago. She's about 40 pounds, and the shelter said she was about 1 year old and some kind of hound/lab mix (although she looks more like a hound/german shepherd mix based on her coloring and body type). We don't know anything about her past, except that she was a stray found in a pretty rough neighborhood near LA.
We knew she was our dog as soon as we saw her, and for the most part she has seamlessly become part of our family, except for one thing...when we leave her alone during the week while we're at work, she transforms from a sweet angel into desctructo-dog!
We both work 9-5 jobs, but fortunately my mother-in-law lives nearby and goes over to check on her 3 times a day, so she is only ever alone for 3 or so hours at a time. She gets plenty of exercise; we walk her for 45 minutes every morning and every evening, and every time my mother-in-law checks on her she lets her out to run around in our fenced back yard.
For the first day or two we left her alone, we tried leaving her in the back room ("her" room, with her water bowl, toys, and dog bed) with the door closed. When my mother-in-law checked on her after we'd been gone only two hours, she had knocked everything off of the desk, ripped all her stuffed toys to shreds, scratched all the paint off the bottom half of the door, and bit the doorknob so hard she put tooth marks in it.
So we decided to try and crate her. We got one of the plastic crates with the metal doors, and she had no problem going in it initially. We put some blankets down and gave her a toy and let her hang out in there for a bit, and she seemed to actually enjoy it. But as soon as we would close the door to the crate she would start scratching and biting at it manically, even if we were in the room with her. Over the next few days we started leaving her in there, starting with us being in the room with her with the door closed, and working up to leaving her in there with us gone. We took our time and started with just 5 or 10 minutes at a time, working our way up to a few hours. We tried the crate for about a week, with our mother-in-law letting her out to go potty and run around outside 3 times while we were at work and leaving her with a food-filled kong each time, but every day we came home to blankets torn up into a million pieces and covered in saliva, and chew marks on the plastic panel sides of the crate. Eventually she broke free (still not sure how...the metal door was just off its hinges but not actually broken) and escaped the crate, and injured her paw in the process.
However, when we got home to find she had escaped, she was curled up on the couch in the living room and hadn't destroyed a single thing in the rest of our house. So we thought we'd try just leaving her in the main part of the house, since she seemed to just hate being confined in the crate regardless of whether we were there or not. We dog-proofed the house a bit (moved potentially poisonous/dangerous stuff out of reach, etc.) and for the first two weeks it worked perfectly! She didn't destroy a thing, and we were so relieved! But then one week my husband went out of town. She must have sensed that something was up, because when my mother-in-law went to check on her she had completely shredded all of the coats hanging by the door, knocked everything off of our kitchen table, and pulled all of our shoes out from under a bench and chewed them. Every day that week she destroyed something...the next day she knocked over every single one of my potted plants and tried to bury stuff in the big ones, the day after that she somehow opened the sliding closet door and ripped all the clothes out, the next day she knocked the breadbasket off of the counter (which I didn't even think she could reach!) and ate an entire loaf of Dave's Killer Bread...and so on.
That was two weeks ago, and since then every single day she finds something new to destroy. Fortunately she hasn't touched the furniture (I suspect because she loves to sleep on our couch and armchair, so doesn't want to mess up "her" stuff), but every day while we're at work she still finds something to destroy, and it's getting to the point that we just don't know what to do! We can never punish her because she's a perfect angel when we're home, and we can't even think of getting rid of her because we love her so much. We've thought about seeking professional help, but a behavioral therapist is soooo expensive so we're really trying to be patient and find other ways to train her out of this behavior.
So far we've tried:
- Exercising her twice a day, 45 minutes to an hour every morning and night (still do this every day)
- Confining her to one room
- Confining her to a crate
- Spraying everything we care about within her reach in the house with bitter apple spray (she actually likes
the flavor of it...)
- Leaving her with frozen food-filled kongs every time she's left alone (still do this every day too)
- Spraying the couch, arm chair, and her bed with that Adaptil Comfort Zone spray
- Feeding her two of the Zesty Paws Calming Bites treats every morning before we leave
- Leaving for short periods at a time (i.e. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 1 hour...she seemingly doesn't start to freak out until we've been gone for over an hour)
- Switching up our morning routines (i.e. putting on boots then doing nothing, getting keys then sitting down on the couch, etc.)
Is it boredom? Is it separation anxiety? Is it general anxiety? Suggestions? Magic tricks? We need help!