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Dog Behavior Help?

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  • Dog Behavior Help?

    My DH and I adopted a German Shepherd from a Dog Warden in Kentucky. When we picked her up, she had a long, healing scar, which ran the length of her back. Since she can climb our backyard fence to leave whenever she desires, I believe that she got the tear in her back from going under some barbed wire.

    Laska was extremely shy, did not understand the concept of play, but did learn leash work easily. We started her in the crate, as if she was a puppy. Our Vet placed her as being around 2 years old.

    Laska has been with us for 2 1/2 years. Every year, she has become more confident. This year, she became a "horse show dog" and went with us to events. She was well behaved around other dogs and everyone who wanted to pet her. She stayed with us in the hotels with no issues.

    During the summer, Laska started peeing on my dining room carpet and the carpet in our basement. We found that she is afraid of birds and one was nesting in the deck that covers her doggie door. We did not notice that she was not using the doggie door, until she had begun this bad habit. Eventually, we thought that we had resolved this issue.

    Now, Laska has begun stealing stuff of ours, taking it to her crate and chewing it up. This morning, she came in from her morning constitution and proceeded to take some of my husbands' stuff down in the basement and chew it up.

    We need help. We can go downstairs and watch her every time that she needs to go outside, but this defeats the purpose of having the doggie door.

    If any of you have any suggestions on how to stop this behavior, we would greatly appreciate it! Christmas morning did not start out as quiet and peaceful as I would have liked. Laska used to be a well behaved dog. The more confident she has become, the more destructive she has become, too. What happened?
    When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

  • #2
    So the urinating is fixed, and it's just the chewing? What is she chewing up?

    I guess I've always tried to dog proof the house to my best ability and not have stuff lying around that could be "taken". Even though the dogs have typically grown out of that after a few years, I don't take chances.

    Maybe some details on what she's going after would help.
    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


    • #3
      I once had a Borzoi (adult) who would, if I left home to run an errand, grocery shop, or whatever, chew something up. She could open the bi-fold door of my closet, would steal one shoe and chew it up, she would chew up books if I left them within her reach ( and as big as she was, what wasn't within her reach?), she would knock over potted plants and chew them up. But only my stuff or stuff associated with me. I finally figured out that she was upset because I didn't take her when I went. She loved loved loved to go in the car. I finally had to confine her to the laundry room while I was gone. It was a large room with a tile floor, her big bed in the corner, and she did eventually grow out of that stage.
      "I can explain it to you, but I can't understand it for you..."


      • #4
        How much exercise is she getting (as in brisk walk/jogs, training, etc)?


        • Original Poster

          Laska will put her paws up on stuff to take things. My husband just returned from a trip to Argentina. He had unpacked his stuff downstairs on our pool table. (He was on a mountian climb, so needed a place to put his gear.) Today, Laska took his blisters, bandages bag and chewed all of them up.

          Laska has chewed up the cord to my DH's head phones. She has gotten bagels off of the counter and eaten them. (Our fault for not putting them in the microwave.) After my DH's trip, she took a bag of cough lozenges and ate some of those. My DH got them away from her, before she finished the bag. Of course, she was a bit sick after eating them, so got me up at 4am to go out and eat grass. She will take things while we are here, not just when we are gone. When we go somewhere, we always lock her in the laundry/mud room, which is where we keep her large crate. We leave her crate open, so that she can get to her water bowl.

          We have found that she does not act like a pack animal. Laska actually prefers to stay in her crate much of the time. We do understand how to work with Shepherd's and have read/own both of the Monks of New Skete's books. We just are at a loss of what to do about these behaviors.

          She started peeing on the rug, again, while my DH was on his trip. I believe that she is insecure for some reason, but I have no clue why? We have four cats. I think that there may be some jealousy there. One of our cats, Bo Jackson, fetches. Laska does not fetch. We play with Bo alot, but have tried to teach Laska how to play. She will not chew on nylabones, either. We have tried taking away the item that she stole and giving her "her toy", but that has not worked, either.
          When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Auburn View Post
            She will take things while we are here, not just when we are gone. When we go somewhere, we always lock her in the laundry/mud room, which is where we keep her large crate. We leave her crate open, so that she can get to her water bowl.

            We have found that she does not act like a pack animal. Laska actually prefers to stay in her crate much of the time. We do understand how to work with Shepherd's and have read/own both of the Monks of New Skete's books. We just are at a loss of what to do about these behaviors.
            I am sure you will get other responses to this, but drop the pack member analogy. It's not useful for this behavior.

            She started peeing on the rug, again, while my DH was on his trip. I believe that she is insecure for some reason, but I have no clue why?
            do you work outside the home? If so, it was probably that she was alone more often and that might have been un-nerving for her.

            We have four cats. I think that there may be some jealousy there. One of our cats, Bo Jackson, fetches. Laska does not fetch. We play with Bo alot, but have tried to teach Laska how to play. She will not chew on nylabones, either. We have tried taking away the item that she stole and giving her "her toy", but that has not worked, either.
            you need to teach her to fetch. If she has the opportunity to bring the stolen item to you, she will be less likely to chew or eat it. Considering she ate cough drops, eating stolen items would worry me a bit.

            To teach her to bring things to you, back chain the retrieve. Start with the finished behavior, and work backwards to what it should look like in the beginning.

            I have a foster Puggle here that (due to his breed mix) should not have a good fetch, but he does because I taught him using back chaining, AND I made it worth his while to learn it. You can see Vinnie beginning his training here in the first picture in the second row. I hold the dumbell for him and just ask him to put his mouth on it. Then you gradually lower the object to the ground and finally place it away from you so he has to go get it to bring it to you. Finished behavior is shown on the landing with both a soft toy and the dumbell (blue background).

            the downside to teaching her to bring things to you, is that she will surf the room looking for things to bring you....and if I have to have a default behavior, that is a good one to have. FAR better than stealing and destroying.
            Last edited by threedogpack; Dec. 25, 2012, 05:56 PM. Reason: forgot link


            • #7
              I feel for you. We adopted a BC from a couple of guys who kept her crated for the first year of her life while at work/school. Not the kind of dog that should be crated for any length of time, especially while a puppy. She chewed and destroyed an amazing amount of things that you would never expect one to chew. She finally got out of it, but she has a companion and time outside to run on the farm. There is a wonderful dog behavorist in our area, who is also a big GSD fan and if you could find one in your area to come over to your house and evaluate her situation, that advice could be very helpful. Please don't give up on her. Something is obviously stressing her and GSD's are so sensitive. Good luck!!


              • #8
                I agree with TKR, see if you can find a behaviorist in your area. They can help SO much, and hopefully help you get to the root of the problem. Threedogpack's idea of teaching a retrieval is a good one as well. You might end up with a lot of "stuff" around you that you have to put back, but it's a better problem to have than having everything chewed up.

                Thinking of things as a pack member, etc probably won't help much. This isn't a behavior that would be associate with that. It seems like it's a stress behavior. Is she getting a lot (and I mean LOT) of exercise? What about her diet? Does she have high-value bones and chews around to keep her busy? Try to find things that she CAN safely chew -- bully sticks are my go-to -- and make sure she has them available to keep her busy.


                • Original Poster

                  Everyone, thank you for all of your responses!

                  We have a half acre, fenced back yard. Laska will run around it. When the weather is bad, she does not stay outside for very long. My husband brushes her outside, then he will play with her. We have gotten away from taking her on walks, because we thought (I guess mistakenly) that the exercise that she gets in the backyard would be sufficient.

                  We have nylabones, but she will not chew them. We give her denta sticks, but they do not last very long. I will look for the "bully sticks" to see if she might chew them.

                  How do you find an animal behaviorist? We are in the middle of nowheresville, KY, which is about 30 min. South of Cincinatti and 45 min. North of Lexington, KY.
                  When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                  • #10
                    This website has fantastic prices on bullies. Much, much cheaper than most pet stores.


                    I'd do a google search for dog trainers and behavioralists in your area. Also, I've found the forums at dogster.com extremely useful for getting advice and finding resources. Someone on there might know where you can start searching for a behavioralist.


                    • #11
                      Auburn, I'll send you a PM with Charlene's phone #. I would suggest you call her and ask for a referral or some advice. You could also google dog behaviorists or check with some vets that might have some connections. Maybe one in Lexington would know someone that would travel. I wish you luck and God Bless for trying to work it out with her. Your friend, Susan O is a friend of mine -- I recently boarded her new mare who is very nice! For chewing and being "busy" there are some toys you can load with treats that have to be worked with by the dog to get them out and they are pretty indestructible. Charlene might have suggestions regarding that, too. I don't think backyard free exercise would get it done for a GSD -- they need more interaction and maybe a job. Good luck and Happy New Year!
                      Perny G


                      • #12
                        if you have a veterinary teaching school near you, they may have a behavioral clinic.


                        • #13
                          My dog Colt is a 2 year old Dutch Shepherd (very similar to a GSD but black & gold brindle), and since we moved from a house with ample walking options to a house we have to drive to take walks he has chewed one of my shoes and a glove, which he had not done in at least a year... but we used to walk him pretty much every day after work, and with hunting season and the lack of safe areas to walk he got bored! I would think if you moved away from walking to just playing in the yard she is acting out like my Colt decided to. I would plan as many walks/hikes in different places as you can to keep her smart Shepherd mind busy.

                          Do you have a friend with a lab who LOVES fetching? My mom's dog taught Colt to fetch and he now thinks it is his "job"! Or if you have a huge yard and she doesn't like fetch (even when shown how fun it is by another dog), maybe she would like agility? My fiancee made Colt an agility course for us to train on but you can buy them online and train yourself if there are no group training classes near you (or you do not like the local trainers!).

                          Regarding the peeing on the carpet, you mentioned birds nested above the door she likes to use? My dog was terrified of birds and until the geese migrated when we were walking with my mom's lab (who instinctively looked up)... Colt had no idea where the noise was coming from until his buddy showed him how to look up for weird noises (Shepherds must not be programmed to think strange noises can come from above them sometimes). If the birds are still there can you get her to look up, or if they are gone take the old nest down while she is watching and let her sniff it?

                          Sorry this is getting a bit long, but Colt was a real pill (and still can be sometimes) so I learned a few tricks! I had a trainer recommend that we do obedience work twice per day for at least 5 minutes to keep his mind busy yet respecting me... start with what she knows then build up to new things to give her something good to think about (rather than looking for her own - most likely destructive - job).


                          • #14
                            We have found that she does not act like a pack animal. Laska actually prefers to stay in her crate much of the time. We do understand how to work with Shepherd's and have read/own both of the Monks of New Skete's books. We just are at a loss of what to do about these behaviors.
                            well, dogs AREN'T pack animals, and the Monks books are so out of date that you really shouldn't bother with them. If you want to read some really helpful books about dogs, try Karen Pryor's "Don't Shoot the Dog", and anything by Patricia McConnell, especially her "The other end of the leash".

                            the first rule about dogs: A Tired Dog is a Good Dog. Dogs need far more exercise than most people like to think about, and many working-type dogs, like shepherds, really really need to actually work every single day- if dogs don't get exercise and work, they start acting up and doing odd things. So if a dog has a behavior problem, that is the FIRST thing to look at- you'd be amazed how many weird and diverse dog behavior problems just vanish once the dog is turned into a Tired Dog. Just going out in a yard is NOT exercise- a robust dog like a young shepherd needs to be taken for good hard runs, off a bicycle or by a jogger would be ideal. Most dogs need a good hard hour of exercise every morning and every evening. Then you need to address the work- shepherds respond very well to advanced obedience work, or schutzhund is the best (designed specifically for shepherds). Look for a class in your area, and once you know what you are doing, you'll want to do your weekly class + about 15 minutes of practice per day.
                            I'll address the other things later, but this is a starting point.
                            Last edited by wendy; Dec. 27, 2012, 12:32 PM.


                            • Original Poster

                              We spent time with a dog trainer when we lived in MD who taught us how to do obedience training. When Laska came home with us, we started doing it immediately. We slacked off, because we thought the backyard play would be enough. Thank you for letting us know of the "Tired Dog" concept.

                              Hi Penny,
                              I know that S. O'K. is still learning about PP. I will not use her barn name for her cute mare. She needs to call her pretty perfect, so that she will become so. Have a wonderful New Year!

                              Thank you for the website for the bully sticks. I had found that one last night. Since those are the brand that you use, I will order from there.

                              Gotta go google dog behaviorist.
                              When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                              • #16
                                you'll need to keep working at it- the idea is to work the dog's mind, not just run through endless numbers of boring sit-down-stay drills, nor are wild games of chase and retrieve going to work the dog's mind. Advanced obedience exercises, such as complicated directed retrieving exercises, or advanced schutzhund work like tracking or bitework is what shepherds need. Alternatives include trick-training or one of the many new dog sports- treiball, nosework, rally, agility.

                                I harp on this because the dog's behavior of fetching things from the house to its crate to chew sounds kind of like the sort of misbehavior a bored dog would get up to. Most working-type dogs like shepherds act out because of boredom- many an under-worked working dog has developed all kinds of bizarre neurotic behaviors that just went away when the dog's exercise and working needs were met.
                                It's possible the dog has some other kind of behavioral problem, but getting someone in to actually see the dog will help you with that.