I have to currently keep my beloved 2 year old Shepherd/Retriever mix in a cage whenever my wife and I leave the house for any period of time over ~20mins. This was not however the case from about the time he was 6 months old to about 12 months.

Out of nowhere, he started to destroy random things (leg of brand new dining table, pillow on bed in guest room, etc) when left alone. It upsets me to keep him in the cage and we have done our best to avoid successive days of being in the cage but I really, really want to get back to being able to let him be on the free.

He is responsive to the word 'NO' (as suggested in a similar question) and I mean this truthfully. He stopped dead while chasing a rabbit this past summer (his favorite) when I said it. There have been some big changes in his life with the introduction of our now 1 y/o daughter (she ADORES the dog) along with some decrease in attention from my wife and I due to the baby and our jobs.

I am almost certain that it is separation anxiety as he wails when we leave the house and I don't want him to be under that type of stress. I would obviously prefer to take on the task of correcting this behavior by training.

Luckily the weather here in the Northeast is taking a turn for the better and I am hoping to be able to get him a walk in the morning. What else can I do to get my dude back on the free when we are away from home?

1 Answer 1


The trick is to slowly build him up to being able to be alone for longer and longer periods of time. It Leave him alone at first for only 30 seconds, then 1 minute, then 2 minutes, 5 minutes, then 10 and so on. Once he's successful at a given interval consistently you can increase the time you leave him alone. This should also help with separation anxiety as he'll learn that you always come back when you leave. If he messes something up while you're gone, then you need to back up a step or 2 and leave him alone for less time before increasing the time he's alone again.

Another thing you can do is provide him with things to exercise his mind while you're away. Some people hide dog biscuits around the house for their dogs to hunt for while they're gone...or you can fill interactive food toys (like kongs, bobbles, puzzles, etc). There's even an auto fetch toy that will throw a tennis ball for your dog.

  • Veg - thanks so much for the insight, I completely forgot about the puzzle toys. I'm really hoping for both him and I to get into a better walking routine to bring down some of his energy in the morning and will definitely start with the smaller intervals of being alone. Thanks!
    – Steve Mac
    Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 13:18
  • Puzzle toys are wonderful. :) Good luck
    – Veg
    Commented Mar 12, 2015 at 1:05

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