Too much time alone in home
by Victoria Elmendorf
(Charleston, WV U.S.A.)
In this family, both the husband and wife are Air Force Military: she is out of the house up to 14 hours a day with work and school. The husband is currently deployed for the next four months, but even before, was required to work 12 to 14 hours a day.
With all this going on, there was no time or desire to properly exercise and discipline the now nearly 90 pound year-old male pure-bred German Shepherd - which, by the way, is not neutered.
In the past, the dog has been trained to a great extent with basic wait-for-food, sit/stay, down, come (unless there is a distraction) and a trick - high five. He still tries to pull on a walk, which the wife is trying to go on at least once a day.
Problem? BIG one! The dog stays crated all those hours that the family is gone, because there is no fenced yard and because to leave him in the house un-crated he will chew and destroy anything.
He has more than once chewed through his plastic crate, and has destroyed valuables. Other than this behavior, he is a very obedient dog when he has his family around; is playful, lovable, submissive and gentle.
Thanks for sharing with us! I really feel for you in your situation. I think what you and your husband are doing for your country is amazing!
German Shepherds were bred as working dogs (which I'm sure you're very well aware of), and as such, need to work. Or, in the case of being a family pet, have a high need to be exercised physically and mentally.
I have clients with German Shepherds who can run their dogs a couple times a day, and the dog is still raring to go!
Obedience training is a perfect outlet for mentally stimulating the dog, as would be agility or even fetch (mix obedience in with it - make the dog sit and stay, throw the ball, wait 5 seconds, tell him to fetch, make him bring it back and drop it, etc.).
I want to point out that whether the dog is neutered or not will not have an effect on his behavior in the crate. A wire crate would in this case be stronger than the plastic one, perhaps.
In this situation, something has to give, unfortunately. Either the work, or the dog. Being in the crate that long is making your dog go crazy.
It isn't healthy for him to have to hold his bladder that long, first of all. And the lack of mental and physical exercise (only one walk a day) makes him destructive. This is how a dog with the drive that he has will display boredom and how they will burn excess energy.
I guarantee that he would be fine in the crate if you were able to give sufficient exercise and if the crate time didn't exceed 8 hours.
A couple other options would be to pay for someone to come and let your dog out after 8 hours or so, exercise him for you and let him relieve himself. Or maybe you could put up an outdoor kennel and run. That way he could relieve himself if needed, and have some room to move around still.
I'm sure you love your dog, and would hate to give him up. I can understand that completely. But it doesn't sound like this is the best time for you to have a dog in the family.
I wish you all the best, and thanks again for your participation.
Shannon Pennings, Certfied Master Dog Trainer