Natural Behavioral Outlets Essential to Well-Being

Question:
I am a new mom to two wonderful shelter dogs, including Moxie, a 15 month old pit bull/heeler.  She has never urinated or defecated in the crate at night, but has consistently urinated in the crate during the day.  I have tried making the crate smaller, coming home in three hour intervals, putting the crate away from my other dog, covering the crate, taking all bedding out of the crate, feeding her in the crate. Nothing has worked.  I have let her roam in the house, and while she does not have any peeing or pooping accidents, she also has a vicious destructive streak with chewing (plants, remotes, baskets, blankets).

Dr. Nichol:
Research into normal canine behavior has taught us what highly social scavengers they are, spending most of their waking hours exploring and foraging. They are not hermits programmed to eat from a bowl and sleep day and night in a box. Moxie has serious unmet canine behavioral needs. She’s going stir crazy.

Knowing that you’re home at night this girl feels secure in her “den” but her needs are different during the day. When she’s loose in your house she chews stuff up in part because she lacks natural canine-specific outlets for her unspent energy.

Moxie’s well-being would improve dramatically if you dropped her off at doggy daycare every morning and picked her up on your way home. Running free with other dogs she would engage in normal canine cavorting and rear end sniffing. When she is home alone she can focus her survival instincts on extracting her sustenance from a food toy or puzzle. She’ll be motivated if you lose her food bowl and stuff her full daily ration into these clever little contraptions. If there is an anxiety component to Moxie’s sacking of your home you can ask her doctor to dispense a twice daily antianxiety supplement called Anxitane.

Moxie may need more of your leadership. Independence training can teach her to relax while you are away. Any fear that’s triggered by your morning pre-departure habits can be reduced with carefully structured desensitization. Do whatever it takes but avoid the crate. Many dogs struggle desperately to escape, fracturing teeth and breaking nails.