Q: I rescued a 4 yr old Beagle on two months ago. He is very sweet and gentle but has destructive habits when I am not home. He tears up dog beds, pillows, blankets, stuffed toys, the garbage, and even a book once. What can I do besides crate him when I am gone?
A: Your Beagle probably never learned to spend time alone inside a house before you got him. Leaving him alone all day is clearly too long for him at this point, and you’re right, crating your dog all day while you work is too much time for him to spend locked up. I recommend getting a portable folding exercise pen for him instead of a crate. The pen will allow him more space to stretch and move around than a crate does, plus room for water, food, and a resting spot.
Start by teaching him to handle time alone in his pen for short periods. It’s best to start this training when you’ll have 3 days off in a row. Begin by giving him a food-stuffed puzzle toy and leaving him by himself in the pen for five minutes. Then go back, take the toy away and give him a treat reward for “letting” you leave him in his pen with it for ten minutes, then return, take the toy away, give a treat reward, and release him. Do all this with as little excitement and fanfare as possible, so he doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Don’t apologize to him or go through a long explanation, just give him the puzzle toy, tell him he’s good, and walk away. Be as matter-of-fact as possible about it.
The next day, do this again a few times, extending the time you leave him by another five to ten minutes. On the third day, at the time you would normally leave on a workday, give him two food puzzle toys in his pen and leave the house for an hour. Return without fanfare, take the toys, release him from the pen, and take him out to potty if he seems to need that.
Later that same day, give him two food puzzle toys and leave him penned with them for two hours. Return without fanfare, take back the toys, release and potty him.
Three days of gradually increased times alone, with yummy, interesting, chew puzzle toys to keep him busy, should help him get used to his pen. The pen will keep him and your furnishings safe while you’re away. Your lack of emotional hellos and goodbyes will help him realize it’s not such a big deal after all.
See our Dog Behavior Center for more dog training and behavior concerns.