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10 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
My husband and I adopted an 8-month-old German Shepherd mix from a local SPCA. He's really a great dog. We've only had him for three days, and he's already done most of his business outside. He had two accidents inside, but they were my fault for not paying close enough attention to him. He hasn't established a way to ask to go out yet, so I have to keep an eye on him and take him out regularly, but he seems to know where he's supposed to go. I don't expect him to be perfect at this point. He's extremely well-mannered on the leash, and knows basic commands. It's clear someone has worked with him. He's fairly low-energy and is content to just lay around in whatever room you're in.

Our only issue is a severe separation anxiety. He's been through a lot. He was surrendered to a shelter in Mississippi and transported to a shelter in Pennsylvania, where we adopted him after being there for 5 days, so I imagine he's stressed. It's not his fault at all, and I really want to help him.

This is my first time owning a dog on my own, but I have experience with them. I participated in the housebreaking of 4 puppies while I still lived with my parents and I worked for a vet during summer vacations in college, handling dogs of all types, but I've never dealt with anything quite this severe. Kuzco (the dog) is an unholy terror in the house when he's alone.

It was clear he was not crate trained when we brought him home. He was reluctant to go in the crate, so we started feeding him his meals in the crate, and luring him in with treats and such without closing the door. It worked. He willingly went in the crate on the first night. I locked him in, and slept on the couch in the living room so he wouldn't associate being in the crate with being alone. He was okay, but he did whine a bit and paw at the door, but quickly settled down when I ignored him.

We continued to feed him his meals in the crate and I got him a peanut-butter filled bone that he only gets when going in the crate. I periodically shut him in during the day while I was around, and he was pretty good. When it came time to go to bed, I went into my bedroom, within ear shot of the living room but not within sight. He went berzerk. He started whining loudly and violently digging at the door. Within ten minutes he had busted the door open and came running into the bedroom. I immediately put him back in, with his bone, and clipped the door shut with snaps. I stuck to my guns and remained in the bedroom until the racket subsided nearly an hour later, and then went back on the couch to keep him company for the rest of the night. He was fine after I came back into the room.

I tried again today, feeding him in the crate, luring him in with treats, never forcing him in, and I gave him a few sessions in the crate while I was elsewhere in the house. He protested a little, but was otherwise okay. My husband and I left to go pick up a few things at the store. We made sure to run him around in the yard beforehand, and stuff his bone with fresh peanut butter. We were gone for only about 30 minutes. When we came home, he had bent the wire, broken the side of his crate and gotten out. I don't think he had been out long because nothing in the house was amiss, but he was clearly distraught.

I had a long weekend this week, so I've been off work, but I have to go to work tomorrow. My husband and I work different shifts so the dog should only be alone for about an hour from the time I leave until my husband gets home, but I doubt he can handle it. I have no idea how I'm going to keep him in the crate. Not only is he extremely destructive when he's alone, but he's likely to hurt himself if this continues.

Please help!

531 Posts
First off, welcome to the forum!

Congratulations on your pup!

Here are a couple of great links that you can check out.

Then I am going to advise you to get a good behaviorist if at all possible.
It's very important that you do not get one that believes in dominance and that uses punishment.
Here is a great link with tips on what you should look for -

It sounds like you are well on your way with crate training but I'll give you the link to it anyway if you want to read it over -

Here are a couple of great videos from Kikopup that I try to link as often as possible as they have worked wonders for me. - capturing calmness - positive interrupter noise. - building attention, game 1. - you can't reinforce fear.

All that being said - as you probably know, he hasn't settled in yet either.
No wonder this pup doesn't want to be left alone.
Have you tried to keep the radio on low with him?
Does he see out the window? Maybe it would be better to shut the curtains?
These are little things that can differ between each dog that might help him.
Is it possible for the crate to go in your room?

Even if he has low energy, you will definitely want to give his brain some work because he is undoubtedly smart. Smart puppies tend to get bored and when they get bored or under stimulated, they sometimes get destructive, even anxious.

I recommend you to look into clicker training and look up Kikopup on youtube.
Teach the 3 cup game, teach "find it", buy a hula hoop from the dollar store and teach him to walk through it, get a 2x10 and have him walk the plank, etc.

You can also get great puzzle toys for him that hide treats/food.

Now to one of the most important thing to keep in mind!
Breathe, don't be too hard on yourself and remember that this will take some time, you just have to be consistent and kind. :)

Come on here to vent, ask questions and most definitely post updates with pictures! :D

I wish you the best of luck with Kuzco! Love his name by the way!
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10 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for all the great advice and the helpful links. I've been working my way through them and learning loads.

Since he managed to get out of the crate twice, I was worried the fighting to get out might be becoming a learned behavior. Last night I put him in the crate again, and reinforced the sides of his crate with twine so he couldn't force it open at the seams. I then went to bed and stayed there all night. I ignored the racket he was making. He was loud for most of the night, but he did stop trying to force his way out of the crate by morning. I put some rawhide chews in his crate to keep him occupied. In his struggles, he managed to push the tray on the bottom of the crate out of the crate, along with his chews, and one of his toys, so by morning he had nothing to keep him occupied and was standing on the bare wire bottom. I'll admit, I laughed at him a little.

I had a good training session with him this afternoon before I left for work. We reviewed "down", and then started learning "roll over", "sit up", and "back up". We're chunking these commands, and working on small bits of each for a short amount of time each day. I've heard from multiple sources that a dog like him, who is intelligent, but not hyperactive, would do best with some mental exercise to wear him out before going in the crate, instead of just physical exercise alone.

I also decided to put a sweat shirt that I had worn to bed for a few nights on top of the crate for him to smell. And my husband and I have been making a point to put him in the crate a few minutes before we leave and let him out a few minutes after we come home so him going in, and us coming home is not a huge ordeal for him. I put a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs, and I have not been letting him come upstairs when I need to go up there for whatever reason, just to get him used to not following me into every room. It's been working!

I had a friend come over this afternoon to dog-sit, just in case. I asked her to hang out upstairs, out of his sight. He didn't whine at all when I went upstairs to get ready. My friend said he whined on and off for the hour and a half he was locked in the crate without us home, but she didn't hear him trying to get out at all. He did try to pull my sweatshirt into the crate with him. He was in the crate again after my husband went to bed, until I came home. When I came home he was quiet. I made a point to go upstairs and change and prepare his treats before letting him out, and he was super good. He remained quiet and sitting until I came to let him out. I made sure to make him wait at the door and not rush out.

I think this may be a combination of anxiety, lack of respect, and his new routine. I think by settling into and sticking to a routine, and expecting him to respect us in all aspects of his behavior will help him learn to cooperate. Structure, and time to adjust should build his confidence as well, and hopefully ease his anxiety. I am pleased with the improvement I've seen in just 24 hours. I hope the improvement continues like this!

I did make a few phone calls and hire a professional dog trainer. The trainer we chose took the time to talk to me over the phone for about 45 minutes, and give me tips to use until our session on Sunday morning.

I was feeling pretty hopeless yesterday evening, but now I feel like there might be hope for Kuzco becoming a trustworthy house dog yet.


10 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
Well, things have improved a bit but we are still having trouble...

The professional dog trainer came out and assured us that establishing a routine and a hierarchy with the dog would help. It has, in many aspects of Kuzco's behavior, but has not helped very much with the separation anxiety.

Kuzco is fine with his crate now. He calmly enters, and is quiet most of the night. He still whines on and off, but he seems to have given up on trying to get out of it.

I have been working on training and commands when we are together. He's to the point now, where he will sit and say, and I can walk into another room. He will stay for about 30 seconds before I call him over to me. I haven't asked him for more than that yet. I'm gradually increasing the time and distance to set him up for success.

We spend a lot of time working on respect and boundaries. We have a zero tolerance policy for licking, mouthing, leaning and jumping on people. He is expected to sit like a gentleman and wait before eating and going outside. When walking, he stays beside or behind me, and it not allowed to run ahead, or create tension in the leash. He's taking to all of these things well, and is becoming very respectful and mannerly in all of these areas.

Unfortunately, he is still extremely anxious when left alone. He almost immediately wets himself when he's left alone. When someone's around, he's very good about eliminating outside. Even if he just peed outside, he will anxious pee in small amounts. Yesterday, I went into the attic and did not allow him to come along. I could hear him running around and whining on the floor below and found that he had dribbled urine all over the upstairs hall in the 5 minutes I was in the attic. He urinates in small amounts in his crate when left alone as well.

At one point over the weekend I went outside for something. I left the dog inside with my husband and my husband said Kuzco was pacing, and jumping at the door, clearly distressed, the moment I walked outside without him. Kuzco saw me leave and seemed to forget someone was still home with him.

I have a baby gate at the bottom of the stairs because we've been feeding our cats upstairs and don't want the dog to eat their food. If I ever go upstairs for a moment and don't let Kuzco follow, he circles at the bottom of the stairs and throws himself at the gate until I return. He is pulling the trim off the door frame at the bottom of the stairs and will soon break the baby gate.

I'm running out of ideas for what to do with this dog. I really need help! I've been doing everything I can think of, and everything I've read about and discussed with the trainer for easing him into being left alone, working on sit and stay at increasing distances, giving him special toys that he only gets when alone, gaining his respect through training etc. and none of it seems to be making a difference! D:
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