Dogcharmer: Building ‘den instinct’

Housebreaking and separation anxiety can be alleviated with this quick trick.

Ace the Alaskan Klee Kai puppy sometimes has trouble with housetraining. — Tom Shelby

Hi Tom,

We’d love some help with our adorable Alaskan Klee Kai puppy (about 7 months old), Ace. He’s very sweet with our children. However, he can be quite anxious, chewing up clothes, shoes, and even our window blinds, and he often urinates around the house (mostly when we leave him at home alone).

Any suggestions?



Dear Tiffany,

Congrats on your new four-legged family addition. He’s cute as can be, but even the cutest need proper parenting. First things first is the housebreaking. Even if Ace did the laundry, made breakfast and lunch, and paid the bills, it would still be no good if he continued to pee in the house. You need to bring out his “den instinct,” and that starts with a crate. It’s not to be thought of as a jail, but rather his own little house, or den, so teach him to love it by feeding him his meals in it and tossing treats into it several times a day after you tell him, “Go to your house.” Put a comfortable bed in it, and make sure the crate is just big enough for him to be comfortable in it, but not a lot bigger than that. Dogs don’t like to make in their den; that’s their “den instinct.” And that’s why you don’t want a crate that’s so big he can go to one end and pee and get away from the pee by sleeping at the other end of the crate. If he pees, the crate is too small for him to get away from it, and that’s what’s going to get him to hold it till you let him out to go outside. The moment he finishes peeing outside, he should get a treat coupled with your praise. 

The fact that Ace seems to be most destructive and pee the most when you’re not at home is probably due to separation anxiety. He’s really anxious when left all alone, and relieves his anxiety by chewing and peeing. And since dogs are serious creatures of habit, you need to change or break his behavior pattern by crating him when you leave him home alone. Tell him to go to his house by tossing a few treats in it, with a Kong with peanut butter in it, or a hollow marrow bone with a piece of hot dog wedged in the middle. The only time he gets these “special toys” is when he’s left alone in the crate. The only time, period. When you come home, the “special toys” are removed. This will go a long way to breaking his pattern of chewing what he shouldn’t. Also, de-emotionalize leaving and coming home. No long, sad goodbyes just because you’re going out for a few hours, and when you come home, no “big deal reunion.” Just, “Hey, Ace, how you doin’?” and take him outside to relieve himself. I think getting my book, “Dog Training Diaries,” and reading the sections on housebreaking and separation anxiety would be quite helpful.

Good luck, and give Ace a kiss for me …
Dogcharmer Tom

Have a question for the Dogcharmer? Write him at Find him on Instagram @DogTrainerDiaries.