Your puppy’s crate isn’t a cage or a place to keep him separated from the family. It’s a den, a safe haven where he can relax and leave all of his stresses behind. At some point, you may want to stop using the crate -- after all, it’s a big bulky unattractive piece of furniture. But you might find that your pup prefers to spend his time there.
Purpose of Crating
Keeping your furry friend confined is essential for many reasons. It’s a tool for housebreaking for starters. He’s less likely to soil in his “house,” so he’ll hold it until you let him out -- which is why it’s important to let him out a couple times during the night. That crate also separates him from all of the dangers in your home. If you haven’t noticed, Cooper likes to explore his new environment by chewing on just about everything. By keeping him crated when you can’t watch him, he won’t be able to destroy your stuff or get into anything that can harm him.
Giving Him Some Freedom
If you want to start weaning your puppy off the crate and give him free roam of the house, begin with small areas for minimal amounts of time. You don’t want to let him have free run of the house while you’re at work for the day. Close the bedroom and bathroom doors and confine him to the first floor, for example. Go upstairs, put away your laundry, check your email or go outside and work in the yard for a few minutes. If Cooper decided to gnaw on anything while you were away or if he had an accident, you know it’s too soon to leave him unattended. Every dog is unique and yours may behave without the crate right away or you may need to work on it for a few weeks.
After a few days, leave Cooper alone again while you’re home or in the yard. Once he shows he’s trained well enough to be on his own, leave him out while you go for short errands. He should learn that when he’s out of the crate and you leave, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be gone all day. You don’t want him to stress out and panic, causing him to chew on the furniture. Patience is key. Eventually, you’ll be able to leave him alone for a full work day, once he proves that he can be alone without having accidents or chewing on your belongings.
Set Him Up for Success
Each time you leave your pup alone -- whether you’re home or away -- set him up for success. Anything that is within paw’s reach could wind up in his mouth. It’s always safest to keep him away from the kitchen, bathroom and laundry rooms -- areas where he could get into chemicals. You’ll also need to close the doors for any rooms you don’t want him to go into. If you don’t want him digging through your dirty clothes hamper, for example, shut your bedroom door. Lastly, give him something to do. Sure you’re giving him a privilege by letting him lounge around on the sofa all day, but he still needs something to feed his curiosity. Give him sturdy rubber treat balls or durable plastic-based chew bones to play with. You might want to leave on the television or radio station to block any outside noises and help him stay calm.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.