Recently, I read an article about dog-proofing your home. It was interesting and may very well work for some dogs. However, I’m not sure it’s possible to actually dog-proof anything if you own a large dog possessed with a strong desire to “express himself.”
Crating a dog is really the only way to be certain your pet and home are protected when you aren’t in sight. But there are situations where crating isn’t possible.
My dog, Gator, is crate-phobic. In previous years, I had always trained my Great Danes to crates without incidents. However, this over-sized, neurotic Weimaraner was terrified of the steel-wire box.
Gator was 10 weeks old when my daughter-in-law and I “rescued” him from a backyard breeder. We found him in a large pen with both of his parents. The rest of the litter had been adopted. Every time Gator tried to get close to his mama, the male dog attacked him. It was clearly time for this boy to “leave the nest.” I had no intention of getting another dog so soon after losing my last Dane, buthe couldn’t be left in that situation.
What I witnessed may well have been a clue about the origin of Gator’s strange psyche. It was several days before I got him home, during which time he slept with me and stayed in my son’s garage when I had to leave him.
At home, he was immediately introduced to the crate – in brief increments at first. Gator broke many of his baby teeth trying to escape that wire box. We would return home to a crying puppy standing in a “lake” of sweat, saliva and urine. Thus ended crate-training for my Weimaraner.
Next we cleared the garage to create a safe environment for a partially house-broken puppy. This seemed to work well at first – until we came home one day to a basketball-sized hole in the garage wall.
We blocked that hole with a cabinet and tried once again. Gator was never left alone longer than 2 hours at a time, but there came a day when we arrived home to a 4-foot tall piece of wood frame missing from the door leading into the house. We replaced that and he chewed the new piece so badly that it looked like a team of beavers had been at work.
So much for the garage! By now, our boy was housebroken and about 8 months old. We decided to try leaving him loose in the house with our small Schnauzer. Since Gator never misbehaved in the house when we were home, it seemed like a reasonable plan.
In the beginning, he was a really good boy. Armed with a peanut-butter-laced Kong® toy and a Nylabone® each time, Gator was the perfect pup. Jack, the Schnauzer, didn’t care for this plan, but it seemed to work. But all good things must end and eventually, we returned home to find remains of paper in Gator’s living room bed.
The dog was stealing items from my desk. This went on for a few weeks, with me hiding anything of value made of paper and always finding something in his bed upon return. He never touched my husband’s belongings – just mine. Our boy had full-blown separation anxiety.
Because the main part of our home is an open-plan design, it was difficult to block off areas that would deter a 95-lb, determined dog. The existing doors were pocket doors and Gator quickly learned to open them.
We dog-proofed the house as much as possible – rather like protecting a toddler child. But a strong-willed dog will find trouble if he wants it.
Today, Gator is 9-years-old and still needs to be with me as much as possible. The house is as clear as possible of any temptations, but he still finds occasional goodies. We tried all of the suggestions recommended for dogs with separation anxiety, but nothing worked with Gator. Sometimes, you just have to accept that your beloved pet is like a small child who cannot be trusted alone.