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My dog Jordan is a black lab mix, almost 9 months old. I've been leaving him out of the crate for progressively longer periods of time while I'm at class during the day. I'm a veterinary student, so I'm usually gone from about 8 to 3 or 4, and I typically come home on my lunch break to let Jordan out. He had been doing very well staying home in the living room area for 4-5 hours at a time. All he would really do was sleep on the couch. I wanted to be able to leave him out of the crate all day so he would have access to his water dish, because every time I left the water dish inside his crate, he would tip it over. I tried that today. I was gone from 8 until 3 because I went to a lunch meeting, and when I came home there was a huge mess. He had chewed up the foam padding in his bed, he had taken my scarf off of the kitchen table and chewed that, and he had destroyed various other items that he could reach. I wasn't mad about it so much as disappointed. I thought he had been making good progress. I feel like we took 2 steps forward and 3 steps back. I left his rawhide and his toys out for him to chew on, but apparently he found those other items more enticing. How can he go for long periods of time without destroying anything, but then sometimes he does chew things up? How will I be able to trust him? This is the first time I've been the sole caretaker of a puppy, and I kind of feel like I never want to have a young dog again. He certainly looked like he knew I was upset with him when I came home. I told him to get in the crate so I could clean up, and he jumped in there so fast you would think I lit his tail on fire.

I guess I'm just frustrated. It's probably all my fault and I should have taken more precautions or come home during lunch or something. I guess we have to go back to the crate for a while.
 

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The logic of a pup to chew is hardwired, plus, if they miss you they are often drawn to your clothes or anything with your smell, and end up chewing it as sort of a self-medicating thing.

The crate is not a bad solution, just leave some toys in there and maybe the radio on low. There are things you can do to minimize separation anxiety, as well.
 

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Maybe this will help to look at the situation from a different perspective: Chewing is a stress reliever (so is running, which dogs will choose to do first if they can).
So, why is Jordan so stressed out when you leave? Which by the way, you added to when you got home. What training have you done to build his confidence to be alone?
 

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It sounded like the main reason you want to leave him out is such that he can access his water dish. Why don't you get a water bottle for his crate? The kind with a stainless steal ball point tube.

If you still want to leave him out, living room is not such a good idea. Try the bathroom or kitchen or laundry room or any room with no "interesting" things to destroy.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I didn't really think he had separation anxiety since he hasn't done something like this before. Previously, the only times he has chewed up things has been when my husband and I were home but weren't keeping an eye on him.

I haven't really done anything specific to train him to have confidence about being home alone. When we first got him he stayed in the crate whenever we weren't home. He behaves well when he's in the crate. Then I started to leave him out of the crate for short periods, like 15 minutes at a time. We live in a trailer, so I would leave him in the living room and shut all the other doors so he couldn't go into any other room. I would pick up things off the floor that I thought he might chew on, and I would put them somewhere he couldn't go. When I would come back after those brief periods, he would be lying on his bed or on the couch, and I would praise him. I would also leave his chewies and toys out so he could chew those if he wanted to. Then I started leaving him for longer and longer periods, until I got to where I could leave him when I went to class at 8 AM until I came home for lunch at noon. He would typically just sleep on the couch.

I have thought about getting some kind of water container that I could attach to his crate, but I thought he was doing so well that I didn't need to do that. I think I just tried too much too quickly. I think I should go back to shorter periods of time and make sure that I come home for lunch.

By the way, normally he gets plenty of exercise. We either run or walk every day. I've had a sinus infection for the past few days, though, so I guess he hasn't gotten out as much as normal. I can understand that it was a long time for him to be alone, and he was probably bored and had pent-up energy. Like I said, I wasn't really angry with him, just disappointed that things weren't going as well as I thought.
 

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They make water bottles for crates (basically giant versions of what you put in hamster cages), and dogs can be taught to use them. Maybe that would be a good solution.
 

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The first thing is that you should consider yourself quite blessed with a 9 month old Lab mix who does so well left out of his crate all day. With most dogs, I wouldn't even consider that until after 1 year, and probably 1.5 years of age. Seriously, he's a very good boy.

I can easily go 8 hours without a drink of water (it's the caffeine I require, not the liquids), so a dog should have no problem unless he is working hard. That you come home at lunchtime means that you shouldn't worry about it. Leave him crated and don't push the envelope too fast. If he eats the foam stuffing from a pillow, there could be a painful and expensive surgery in his near future. My dog was not given the run of the house until around his second birthday, and he still gets crated when he's to be left alone for extended periods (rarely). It's not a race.
 

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What is it about being 1-2 years old that makes dogs behave better than when they were puppies? Does it take that long for them to understand all the boundaries and rules and things you've been trying to train into them? Is it something like humans where the brain isn't completely developed until a person is about 20? Does something finally click in a dog's mind at that age so that he realizes what is acceptable and what isn't?
 

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What is it about being 1-2 years old that makes dogs behave better than when they were puppies? Does it take that long for them to understand all the boundaries and rules and things you've been trying to train into them? Is it something like humans where the brain isn't completely developed until a person is about 20? Does something finally click in a dog's mind at that age so that he realizes what is acceptable and what isn't?
That's pretty much the deal. It depends on the breed and the individual dog, but that's about the age that dogs mature into adulthood. No matter how smart and honorable your 14 year old child is, you are playing with fire if you leave him/her without adult supervision for long periods. Knowing the rules is one thing, having the mental maturity to control your impulses enough to make the right choices is another.
 
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