Transition Your Dog From Crate to Free Roaming

Your dog’s crate fulfills a number of important functions. It’s an excellent house breaking tool, it can be made into a cozy den, and it can serve as a comfortable means of confinement if you need to be out of the house and don’t trust your dog to do their own thing.

However at some point, you may want to kick the crate to the curb. Maybe it’s taking up too much space (have you ever seen a crate intended for a Great Dane? Think: zoo enclosure) or maybe you just want your dog to have the freedom to curl up wherever they please, gaze out the window, and drink from their regular water bowl when you’re not home.

Of course, the prospect of giving your dog that freedom can be a daunting one if you’re used to the crate being their babysitter. And it can be daunting for your dog as well, as they are probably used to the comfort and security that the crate offers them in your absence. So how can you ensure that your dog’s transition from crate to free roaming is a smooth one? Follow these steps.

1. Create a Transition Space

One of the most common reasons people crate their dog when they leave the house is because they are worried about the dog destroying their belongs. And indeed, some dogs do chew when left alone, usually because they are feeling anxious. Set your dog up for success by creating a designated area for them to transition from the crate to free roaming. Maybe it’s the kitchen or a spacious spare room. Clear the area of any furniture you want to protect (bye-bye, Grandma’s rocker) as well as any items that could harm your dog, such as unsecure trash bins, wires, and food. Close windows to reduce outside noises that could scare your dog or send them into a barking frenzy, then put a gate up that blocks access to the rest of the house.

RELATED STORY: 5 Tips for Dog Safety Around the Home

2. Leave Your Dog With a Distraction

You know that face your dog makes when you are getting ready to leave the house? Heartbreaking, right? To reduce the chances of separation anxiety (which can lead to destructive behavior), offer your dog a distraction before you leave, such as a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or kibble. Just be sure that whatever you leave your dog can’t be chewed up into little pieces and swallowed.

RELATED STORY: The Top 10 Dog Training Tips

3. Take It Slow

A lot of owners learn this lesson the hard way. If your dog is used to staying in a crate when you leave the house, throwing them into a free-roaming situation out of nowhere is likely to result in some confusion and anxiety, which can result in a gutted living room. Start by letting your dog be alone in their designated area when you go outside to water the garden for five minutes. Over time, build up to longer outings: a quick run to the store or a visit with a neighbor. Then, start giving your dog access to different areas of the house, but take it slow. Pushing your dog too quickly will not only make the process harder in the long run, it can also undo training that you’ve taken months or years to achieve (for example, a dog who you’ve trained not to urine mark inside may return to this behavior under stress).

Have you transitioned your dog out of their crate? Leave a comment and tell us how you did it, and consider signing up for PetPlus. PetPlus is a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, vet visits, boarding, and more. Learn more at PetPlus.com.

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