Canine Behavior/Pit dog


Hi Jill...I have asked you a question before. I have a new problem which has escalated. Zaiden plays with the cats now and he is great at "leave it" but when we are not home he is destructive.  At first he would knock everything off the tables and make shambles of it. I clean it up, and we have resorted to tying him up in a restricted area with a mesh muzzle on him..water nearby. At times we forgot to put his muzzle on and he was tearing wall paper off the wall. He has chewed up things in the van (parts of the van). He always has toys with him within reach and usually a meaty bone to chew on when he is in the living room with the family. We play together (fetch) and he chases a laser light, and like to pop balloons which I grab the debris immediately if not sooner. I put my robotic floor sweeper down on the floor and turn it on. He will get his barker going while trying to attack it. What Im getting at he has plently of activity but he still destroys a lot. I need more help with how to teach myself to train him.

You've got a case of severe separation anxiety.  You CANNOT TIE THIS DOG UP.  This is absolutely forbidden.  And you cannot leave him with a muzzle.  The anxiety both these things cause is tripling his reaction to be left alone.  Tearing wall paper or eating doors and windows is barrier frustration. The additional frustration of leash restraint is eventually going to generalize to leash restraint EVERYWHERE, including outdoors.  It erodes the dog's trust in you as this sort of confinement is, in the dog culture, totally psychologically destructive.


I suggest you find a veterinary behaviorist.  Call the veterinary college in your area, they should be able to refer you, or consult the sites posted below.  Eyes on, this specialist will advise you whether or not short term medication will help the dog as you put him through the behavior modification protocol I will paste after the links:

Warning: restraining a dog on leash can increase aggression.  Your cats are well aware the dog is restrained.  Should they provoke him, he will rapidly develop a very serious aggression problem toward them.  He must be confined in an area that is not punishing but where minimal damage can be done:  laundry room with very strong baby gate (although my guess is he will figure a way through it).  This is why I'd like to see some medication introduced here.  The protocol must be slowly put into place and kept there for at least a couple of months:

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1.  You can create an emotional independence in the dog by conditioning a "time out" article.
Simply place the chosen article (something you don’t use for any other purpose, like an odd garden statue) in full view of the dog every day for thirty minutes to one hour and call a "time out", during which you actively ignore the dog.  When you remove the article, reward the dog with praise, but don’t overdo it.  Over the course of two weeks, your dog will begin to recognize the article and begin to acknowledge your unavailability (many dogs go to a corner to lie down, or their favorite couch spot, etc.)  Once you observe your dog’s recognition of the article, put it in plain sight about ten minutes before leaving the house (but NOT in the room the dog is confined to, the dog will lose its conditioned response.)  In other words, use the article as a CUE to the dog that you are not available.

2.  Make your dog earn everything for about one month, including pats, entering/leaving the home, etc.  (This is called “Nothing in life is free”.)  You will be promoting yourself psychologically, which will help the dog to feel calmer.

3.  Purchase Turid Rugaas' book, “On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming signals” or go to her web site  Observe the dog’s behaviors before you depart to determine if your departure rituals are creating anxiety.  Use calming signals just before leaving the house WITHOUT saying “goodbye” to the dog (which can set the dog up for emotional distress.)  Dogs instantly respond to these signals and you’ll begin to see that response immediately.

4.  Change your departure rituals so you do not inadvertently "cue" your dog.  This means doing things differently EVERY day during treatment (which should last about two to four weeks.)  If you put your coat on last, put your coat on five minutes before you actually leave the house; if you pick up your keys last, put them in your pocket ten minutes before leaving the house, etc.  Again, given two weeks (at least) of this treatment, along with the others, your dog’s extreme sensitivity to your departure rituals should diminish and/or extinguish.  When you RETURN home, ignore the dog for a few seconds, and then ask the dog to “sit” and acknowledge him/her; keep your homecoming attention short and sweet.  If there is any destruction around (torn objects, etc.) IGNORE IT.  What you don’t want is the dog to fear your RETURN as much as s/he fears your leave taking.  

5.  Do not allow the dog free “run” of the house when you are gone; this places a heavy emotional burden to “protect” on the dog, and might increase stress (which accounts for excessive barking!) Put the dog in a protected space (kitchen, well ventilated and spacious laundry area,  etc., NOT the basement or the garage).  Keep “special” toys there the dog doesn’t have at any other time, like a “kong” with a ½ teaspoon of peanut butter, a Buster Cube which holds a portion of the dog's daily food and which the dog will roll around to obtain it, a squeaky toy, etc. The dog will begin to anticipate this treat and associate it with your leaving the house.  Leave a radio playing (on soft music or calm talk shows) and a light on when you are not home, and if possible move your answering machine (at full volume) into the room with the dog and leave your dog "messages" during the day.

Dogs that have been rehomed often develop separation anxiety; dogs that have been heavily bonded to a person that is then “lost” (not seen again for whatever reason) can suffer serious anxiety at the leave taking of the “new” human caregiver; dogs that have moved with their human family to a totally foreign environment are emotionally “lost” and may develop separation problems.  Some dogs are generally anxious or high strung and have a greater tendency toward emotional distress.  Ask your veterinarian if your dog may benefit from a course of medication while you are using behavior modification to change his/her separation related problem behaviors.

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A dog this size can do an enormous amount of damage and this will absolutely worsen without immediate intervention.  

Canine Behavior

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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