DESTRUCTIVE puppy behavior
(Florence, MS USA)
Wow! Where do I start? We have had our 7 month old male Rottweiler pup, Gus for about a month. We took him from a friend who had gotten him as a "gift" but due to their work schedule did not feel they could care for him properly. That being said, he spent a lot of his first 6 months in a kennel.
We have a huge backyard that we thought would be great for him. It was a beautiful backyard, but not anymore! We have been leaving him outside while we are at work with plenty of toys and chews to keep his interest. My husband runs 3 miles every morning and Gus goes with him, so I think he is getting plenty of exercise. Also, either me, my son or husband play with him several times a day by throwing his toys or playing tug with his rope.
Everyday I come home to a disaster in the backyard. He has knocked the lattice out from under the stairs several times. Dug up under the lattice when we fixed it. Eaten A LOT of plants. Dug up an entire flower bed. Eaten my grandmother's rocker that was on the back porch. Chewed the door facing and several stairs. I could go on but I am sure you get the point.
He does not do this when we are outside with him only when he is alone. He is pretty well behaved while inside. We bring him inside in the evenings and he sleeps inside in his kennel each night. He did chew up the corner of a table and started on a bench. But stopped when we corrected him and gave him something appropriate to chew instead.
What can we do to correct this behavior? I feel it would be cruel to keep him in his crate all day while we are working, that is why we took him in the first place. I don't mean to make him sound like a monster, he is a sweet, good natured pup who is very loving. I am a tad bit upset writing this because today was the day her ate my grandma's rocker and that pretty much sent me over the edge. I guess removing everything not nailed down or rooted in the backyard is an option, but I think correcting his behavior would be more beneficial to us all.
Someone suggested a smaller pen within the fenced backyard because he is having too much freedom with the run of about a half acre yard. Another friend said maybe he is getting overly tired and acting out like a child who doesn't have a nap. I have read lots of things on the web in search of an answer but nothing specific to this breed.
Should I just give up and let him wreak havoc until he grows up? I hate dreading walking into my backyard everyday when it used to feel like a sanctuary to me.
Can you give me suggestions? I am really at a loss and want to be able to both love my pup and enjoy my home.
I'm sorry that you're feeling so upset and stressed by your pup's behavior. It's always frustrating when puppies destroy your belongings or home, especially special or expensive items!
But it's actually a very normal and expected part of puppy ownership and one of the reasons why it's so important to puppy proof your home carefully and thoroughly (and that includes your yard).
Large breed puppies like Rottweilers grow physically very quickly, but they mature slowly - much more slowly in fact than small or medium sized breeds. That means that the inevitable 'puppy behavior' lasts for longer than you might expect. At 7 months of age your pup is still young, not a 'baby' but more like a pre-teen or middle-school child.
Plus a large or giant breed puppy can do a LOT more damage than a small breed puppy, and within a much shorter time frame!
From what you describe I would say he's bored and lonely rather than lacking in daily exercise. A pup left alone, even with the best toys in the world, is naturally going to feel this way. Dogs are pack animals and they live to be with their 'pack', which right now is you and your family.
However, in most families where everyone is either working or at school, the dog has to be alone for hours at a time. This isn't ideal, but as long as he gets plenty of love, attention, exercise and training during the times when his people are home he can adjust and do just fine.
As you can't change the amount of time your pup is alone during the day, then in order to protect your yard (and you don't have to forfeit your right to a nice yard that you enjoy just because you own a dog), you need to contain him and prevent him having unsupervised access to your entire yard.
Personally I would do both of the following and use both options regularly - switching them around according to weather or just to keep the degree of 'sameness' from becoming overwhelming:
1. Set up a smaller fenced area within your yard that is specifically for your Gus to play in when you're not supervising him. You can buy chainlink dog kennels that work well for this, I'd recommend the 10' x 10' size if he's going to be in there for 6 - 8 hours at a time.
You can buy shade covers to fit over the top and would need to also make sure he has an insulated dog house and plenty of water when he's out there... plus sturdy chew toys and even a paddling pool with 6" or so of water for him to play in. If you can set it up under a tree/s even better.
If you don't want to buy a kennel, you can fence in an area yourself, just make sure the fencing is sturdy and at least 5' tall. Rottweilers aren't usually 'jumpers' but I have owned a male who could clear a 5 ft. fence with no problem, so 6ft. is optimum.
2. Set up a dog crate in a living area where you can leave the TV or radio on while you're gone.
Make sure he can't get out of it, and put a couple of his favorite (I often buy a couple of new 'special' toys for this crate) toys in there for company.
You can use both of these options to confine Gus while you're at work. It's not cruel to crate him during the day as long as he gets lots of love and attention when you're at home!
Rottweilers are pretty low-energy dogs once they outgrow that little puppy stage and chances are he'll simply sleep most of the day when he's crated. Occasionally chewing on his toys when he's not napping. By leaving the TV or radio on he'll have something to listen to and it helps him to feel less alone.
Confining him to a smaller area outdoors isn't unkind either. Again, he doesn't NEED a lot of space to run around in when he's getting a long walk (and actually personally I'd say be careful with the 3 mile jog at this stage... Rottie pups shouldn't run on hard surfaces until they're at least 18 months old as it can cause damage to developing joints/ligaments. A long walk is better), and play sessions plus training sessions daily. He'll be just as happy in a smaller area with his toys and dog house.
This way you can keep your yard nice and your pup happy and healthy. It's actually dangerous to leave him alone unsupervised if he's prone to chewing on plants and other 'stuff' (and what puppy isn't?). Some plants are toxic, and ingesting wood, rocks, dirt etc. can cause digestive issues, even poisoning and at the very least tummy upsets.
It sounds as though Gus is a lucky boy to have found a loving home and family, and you will be doing the best for him by keeping him safe this way. Once he's fully mature (anywhere between 2 and 3 years most likely), then he will be much less likely to destroy things and you should be able to give him free access to your home and yard without it looking like a one-man demolition team was there!
Hope this helps. I wish you and Gus lots of luck :)