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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!
 

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Sounds like she may need more mental stimulation, boredom can cause anxiety, have you done obedience classes with her yet? what about putting her in doggy daycare for a day or two during the week, that way she can socialize with other dogs and new people, and it will help stimulate her mind as there will be so many new things to explore!!
 

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Sounds like separation anxiety. Veterinary behaviorist helped a lot with my dog who has it and used to be just as destructive as your dog. He broke out of a crate before I got him too. He also ripped out two window air conditioners and almost jumped out of a third floor window. Now he's been on an antidepressant Zoloft for well over a year which made a huge difference plus all the behavioral techniques.
Also some dogs long walks isn't enough exercise especially young dogs like yours. Mine needs at least an hour in the local dog park every day to wrestle and run and play with other dogs, two hours is better. He loves other dogs. My last dog didn't like other dogs but needed an hour or two of running and playing fetch with me every day to be happy.
I put my dog in doggy daycare at least a couple of days a week as he still gets too stressed being home alone all day five days a week. He's much happier and never destroys things anymore.
 

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When you're dealing with destructive behavior in the home, there's two main motivations- one is lack of mental stimulation leaving you with a bored dog that entertains itself, and the other is considerable emotional distress leading to anxious destruction, often in an attempt to escape.

I'd be more likely to suspect this is related to anxiety than bordedom, given that it sounds like she does worse when confined (not uncommon in separation distress/anxiety related issues) and especially given that it sounds like there have often been emotional components to when you see the behavior vs don't (bad when she was newly adopted, got a little better, then worse when crated, then got really bad when your husband was away from home).

There are protocols for treating separation related distress and anxiety in dogs, but in situations where quality of (human and canine) life is being effected and significant damage is being done to the home, I'm always inclined to recommend meeting with a veterinary behaviorist over a dog trainer, and strongly considering the use of medications to help alleviate some of the anxiety to a more workable level. A standard vet can prescribe medication for behavior as well, but a veterinary behaviorist has the specialized training in both medication-related interventions and pure behavioral interventions to make a more educated treatment plan (standard vets get little to no behavioral education, unfortunately, and it's a mixed bag of what kind of behavioral advice you're going to get from them). Do expect it to be fairly expensive (I have heard commonly of $500 initial consult fees), but a well educated veterinary behaviorist will be worth it.
 

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another vote for a vet-behaviorist, or a CAAB if there's no Board-cert'd DVM

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that Ur dog put toothmarks in a doorknob is way-past the "shred the sofa-cushions for amusement" standard -
I, too, think this sounds like sep-anx, & a pro should be consulted - a CAAB or, preferably, a vet-behaviorist.

Vet-behaviorists are thin on the ground, but many do remote consults by using the local vet as their hands-on help for diagnostic stuff or monitoring the dog's clinical signs, while looking at the dog via real-time live video, or recordings.
The owner of course is the one who follows the vet-behaviorist's B-Mod protocol, & updates both the local vet & the vet-behaviorist on results / progress / unexpected side-FX / setbacks, etc. The owner is also the one who gives any Rx- or OTC meds or calmatives.

I hope U find someone who can tell U what's going on, & devise a plan to help Ur dog. :(
Please let us know what happens? - I know i'm worried about him, & i'm sure others are, too, plus we've all had the experience of a dog trashing something we valued very highly, at least once, i think.
Having that happen on a daily basis is a horrible prospect, & knowing that the dog is very distressed is even worse.

- terry

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