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.

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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.

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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


How to Make Your Dog’s Crate More Comfortable



Your dog’s crate should be a place they want to go. It should be their personal cozy nook for napping and their safe space to escape a bustling household or loud noises. What shouldn’t it be? A place they associate with punishment or anxiety. And with the right crate training, it won’t be. Outside of proper crate training, you can also make your pal’s place more comfy and desirable with a few easy steps. Let’s take a look.

1. Find the Right Size

The size of your dog’s crate is incredibly important. It will not only determine their comfort, it will also determine how they feel about the space. Your dog’s crate should be large enough that they can sit up in it without needing to bow their head. They should also be able to turn around and stretch out. However, the crate shouldn’t be too big. A crate that is just right for your dog’s size will offer that snug den quality that a dog so desires.

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2. Add a Bed

Most crates have a hard plastic base, and while a dog won’t necessarily mind curling up on top of it, a soft bed may mean your dog ends up inside of their crate more often. Look for a bed that will cushion your dog’s joints, support their back, and be easy to clean (ideally, one that allows you to clean the cover as well as the bed itself).

3. Use a Crate Cover

Cover your dog’s crate with a blanket or sheet to create a dark, private den. Your dog will enjoy the privacy, security, and cool darkness of the space. Just remember to leave the door uncovered so that your dog can move easily in and out.

4. Provide Access to Water

This is especially important if you plan to leave your dog in their crate when you are out of the house. Purchase a bowl or water bottle that hooks onto the side of the crate, and remember to clean it and change the water regularly to avoid bacterial growth.

5. Offer Toys, If You Wish

Some trainers discourage their clients from putting toys inside their dog’s crate, as it changes the purpose of the crate from a calm resting place to one for playing and chewing. However, others say it’s just fine, and it’s ultimately up to you. If you do decide to leave your dog with toys or chews, make sure that they cannot be ripped apart, broken into little pieces, or swallowed.

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6. Supply Soothing Smells

If your dog suffers from separation anxiety when they are put inside of the crate or they just don’t seem to like it, try leaving a piece of your clothing or a blanket that smells like you. A dog’s sense of smell is incredibly powerful (10,000 to 100,000 times more acute than ours!), and a familiar smell can calm your dog and make them feel at home.

Does your dog use a crate regularly? How do you make it comfortable? Leave a comment and let us know, and sign up for PetPlus, 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.