When transitioning your dog out of the crate, the best thing you can do is make it a gradual process instead of giving them complete freedom of the house right away. Use a playpen or baby gate to control which rooms your dog has access to. As they get comfortable with their new freedom, slowly expose them to new rooms.
Fido has been crate trained for just over four months. You notice he is now holding his bladder longer and has been accident-free for a few days. You think to yourself, “maybe he’s ready for a little more freedom.”.
Transitioning your dog out of the crate is a huge step. Here are five helpful tips to keep in mind that will make the process much easier.
1. Make Sure They’re Ready
When exactly is the correct age you should start giving your dog their freedom?
Many factors play into when the right time is. It can depend on age, maturity, and training level.
If you notice your dog has been quick to learn basic commands such as sit and stay, he might be ready to understand the concept of freedom quicker than other dogs if trained correctly.
Maturity plays a role in timing as well. If your dog constantly finds themselves in trouble and roaming around where they shouldn’t, they may need a little more time before you allow them to roam your home freely.
Although the timing can vary, most dogs are ready within six to eight months.
2. Baby Steps
When transitioning your dog out of the crate, You’ll need to understand the concept of baby steps. You can’t just open the crate door and pray that your dog will not wreak havoc in your home.
The crate is your dog’s personal safe space. In most cases, they will not use the restroom in their crate or create any messes.
If you introduce them to too much space in such a short time, they will have more room to take a potty break away from their crate. Instead of giving them access to the entire house right away, it’s better to slowly extend their freedom over time. Here are a few great ways to do that.
You can start by introducing a small amount of space to them with a playpen.
Playpens come in various heights, sizes, and materials suited to your dog’s breed and size.
The typical playpen is metal wired and can connect to your dog’s crate. Start by adjusting the playpen to a size that will give your dog a little more room than what they are accustomed to.
If your dog does well and has no accidents in the space for a week, you can begin increasing the size by a small amount each week.
If your playpen has reached max capacity, continue with the training by gradually increasing the size they are free to roam around in. Depending on the room’s size, this could mean limiting the space to half a room or the full room.
By using a baby gate, you can limit your dog’s environment by exposing him to one room at a time. If your dog remains accident-free in one room for a few days, extend it to another room. Slowly exposing your dog to additional rooms will help them adjust to their new freedom.
Use a Leash
A leash is a great training tool as you introduce your dog to new spaces.
By attaching a leash to your dog, you will be in control of your dog and they will follow you without wandering off.
For example, if you are cooking and want your dog to be with you in the kitchen, you can expose your dog to the kitchen and supervise them without worrying about him getting into any trouble.
This isn’t a long-term fix. You’ll eventually want your dog to have the freedom to roam around within a leash…but until you reach that level of trust with your dog, a leash is a great alternative.
3. Puppy Proof The Space
Be sure that you “puppy proof” the space your dog will be occupying. This means cleaning the area and removing any items that can be a hazard to your dog.
You must remove any wires and cords or cover them with a protective covering. Most importantly, you must keep your dog busy.
You can do this by placing your dog’s favorite toys or chews around the house to keep him occupied. Many interactive toys on the market will keep your dog entertained for an extended period of time. If you don’t keep your dog occupied, you’ll quickly learn that boredom will usually result in destructive behavior.
During this time of transition, you may want to consider placing pee pads in your house just in case your dog has any accidents. If you do not use pee pads, it is important to establish a bathroom schedule for your dog.
The typical rule of thumb for puppies is that however many months they are, that’s the most hours they should be left alone. For example, if your dog is four months old, they should only be alone for 4 hours. Make sure you develop a schedule accordingly.
Before introducing a little freedom into your dog’s world, it is important to establish the relationship between you and your dog.
Make sure your dog listens to you and respects you. Using basic commands within the gradual space increases is crucial to the training process.
Eventually, once your dog has the full range of the home, he will continue to listen and follow your commands.
This may be more difficult for dominant dogs if they believe they are the leader of the pack.
You have “Puppy proofed” the area and threw your dog’s favorite toys in their space, but they seem uncomfortable with their new environment.
Although in the beginning it is recommended that you are fully involved with your dog’s first steps into unfamiliar territory, you cannot attach your dog to your hip and take him everywhere you go.
If your dog is having separation anxiety or seems uncomfortable at any part of the transition, we recommended playing calming music or white noise to ease their nerves.
Patience is Crucial
We know it’s exciting to think about your furry friend having an immense amount of freedom and joy to roam around your home compared to his crate.
Understand that this transition period will take a lot of effort, patience, and time to get to that point. Trust us, there will be accidents along the way. We hope that these tips can help you become more prepared for the process.
If your dog is still having trouble with training, we suggest contacting your vet to see if any underlying issues may be hindering the process. After all, the end goal is for you and your best friend to happily coexist in the same space.
Recommended For You