Dog Crates

All about Dog Crates

When Can I Start Leaving My Dog Out of the Crate?


Dog in open crate ImageMany people want to start leaving their dogs loose in the house just after teething at about 7-9 months of age. For most dogs, this is too early. Way too early.

At that age most dogs are still looking for ways to pass the time such as climbing on the kitchen table, unstuffing a pillow (or the couch), romping with a shoe (or three) and releasing other behavioral genies you may never be able to stuff entirely back into the bottle.

Prevention is the name of the game. Get a dog to adulthood never learning such unwanted behaviors and with plenty of practice focusing on appropriate toys and your dog will have the rest of his life to happily nap in the sun and greet you at the door.

Allow bad habits to form and you may, completely unintentionally, destine your dog to a lifetime of crating. Hardly a crisis but clearly not your goal if you are reading this blog.

I  think the earliest I ever gave a dog access to the house when I was away was Xia, one of my German Shepherds, and that was at 11 months (and I remember being really surprised). Milo, my from-a-food-testing-laboratory rescued beagle, was the longest at over 3 years of age.

The average age that most dogs are ready is between 18-24 months though some active, goofy, chewing dogs may take longer. It doesn’t really matter as, by that time, most dogs consider their crate their bed and have no issue napping happily or chewing on a good crate toy while you’re gone.

We are the ones that feel uncomfortable about it.

If you have a few more months of confinement ahead consider getting a larger crate – if your home and budget can afford it. Let your dog really stretch out. Once housebroken, dogs can stay in as large a crate as you wish. Use the smaller crate for car travel or a bedroom crate.

You’ll know your dog is ready when you don’t have to supervise them constantly when they are loose when you aren’t constantly managing their choices or being at all concerned when you leave them for a few minutes to put the laundry in the dryer or shower or get the mail.

When you are there, you can – slowly – start leaving them out of the crate for short periods. How to do that is for another blog. For now, be patient a bit longer. Investing time in preventing problems is time well spent.

Now you know.


  1. This is great advice and something I will follow when I get a puppy. I remember our dog as a kid would just wimper until my dad let her out of her crate and he would wonder why she would chew up everything.

    • Great observation, Jeff. Your dog may have been one who just preferred her crate when alone. Some do. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Wow. Can’t imagine how I have avoided issues. The oldest any of my dogs were when allowed loose in the house with crate open and available was 19 months..1 month after I got him. The youngest was 3 months…2 weeks after he joined me. No potty accidents. No property damage. Was it because there were 5 dogs in residence to teach them the ropes? Only the last two were puppies but they learned the dog door in 2 days and that was that. The last puppy still sleeps in her crate..door open all night, she is now 3 yrs . She was dog #7, not counting all the fosters (24) over the years. Just lucky?

    • Hi Cynthia – you have a system that works for you – a fenced yard, a doggy door, multiple dogs. Most people don’t have all of those things (or even any). So different strokes for different folks. For the majority of pet people in the US today, a crate is a sensible and necessary tool.

    • I also noticed that the younger dogs learned from my 3 year old dog. House broken in two months and has had no issues with property damage.

  3. Thanks for sharing this article. We have a couple dogs and use the crate on our youngest one while out of the house. This helps protect the pup against any household items and also safely lets the older one interact without our supervision.

  4. Thanks, Sarah, for an excellent post.

    We finally did it. We adopted our 10-month old Beagle/treeing walker coonhound mix from the Mo. Humane Society one month ago. He is adorable and mostly very well behaved. He sleeps through the entire night in his crate. Tonight, for the 1st time, he walked into his crate w/o being told to. I put in a couple toys and an extra blanket as he likes to nest. I wasn’t sure when I should let him stop using his crate so this post helped me a lot.

    Take care!

    • Sounds like you’re doing great, Dana! It would be too soon for a dog who had grown up in a single household, for rescue dogs, giving them time to really settle in can make a huge difference to long-term behavior. So… GOOD FOR YOU!

  5. This is great advice, I have been trying to tell my boyfriend about this for a while but he wants our 7 month old Bernese Mountain Dog to be free-range. I said that he would be crated for at least a year and now that we realize he is a challenging dog I think it may be longer. Definitely passing this on for my boyfriend to read.

    • Glad to be of help. Your BF is not alone. MANY people think that after teething and housebreaking, a dog is reading to be free. Nope. Not yet. Bad habits avoided and the best kind of bad habit. 😉

  6. Thank you providing my wife and I honest answers to the question of letting our dog out of his crate.

  7. I found this helpful, thanks. I have a toy sized dog who hasn’t had an accident in the house in 2 months. He’s 1 year exactly, and isn’t a big chewer. He’s been crated, but I’m wondering if moving his crate into the spare bedroom and then working toward leaving the crate door open might be a good transition to eventually having run of the whole house. I’m more worried about him developing anxiety than anything. I’m wondering if going from crate to one room to eventually the whole floor might aid the transition. Any thoughts?

  8. I have a 5 month old goldendoodle, Gunner. He is left out of his crate during day. We crate at night and when we are gone. I really want to be able to leave him out overnight but he is trained to ring a bell at the front door when he needs to go outside. I fear is we won’t hear him ring the bell. Do you think it would be confusing to keep him in our bedroom and put up another bell for him to ring?

    • Hi Sonya – You are rushing things. Try the nighttime leave outs after Groundhog Day, 2016, when he will have matured a bit more physically. By then, he won’t need a bell break in the middle of the night.

  9. I try all the time to leave my 9 month old Shepard out for 5 hours at a time and then I worry what is she doing 🙁 For five days she will be amazing and then HER BRAIN FALLS OUT! She hasn’t done too much damage except eat her bed and tore up some paper and kindling for our wood stove. Then I say “this is you, NOT HER” – she is not ready. I put her back in her crate with a deer antler or a kong filled with cookies and she is in HEAVEN! The problem is I don’t want her in there – but she personally can care less. I’ve also noticed that when I’m home for the day she does better with a little nap in there to calm her mind. I generally sit on the floor next to the crate with the door open and read but make her lay down and relax – sometimes I read too her 😉 Just love my babies to pieces. Proud Shepard and Chesapeake Bay Retriever momma 🙂

    • Well, you know the problem. You are ahead of her schedule. My guess is you’ll need to crate her for another year before you can leave her unsupervised. Get her as big a crate as you like! So far, you’ve been lucky, and she has not hurt herself. She could. Easily. I’ve known too many dogs who died young chewing on or swallowing the wrong things. So, love her and keep her safe. You CAN do it! 😀 (Think of it like a carseat for a kid-not optional.)

  10. Thank you so much for this article! We just got our 6-month old Basset Hound this week and I am a first-time dog owner. He came already crate trained and sleeps in his crate at night, but we haven’t left him home alone yet. I have to go to a meeting today and will be gone for 5 hours, and have been stressing about whether to crate him or not. I’m relieved to know that dogs don’t see crating as a “bad” thing like I do! As he gets older, we will try leaving him out when we have to leave the house. But for now I don’t feel as guilty anymore about crating him. Thank you!

  11. Reading this article and replies is so interesting to me, because I feel like I’m the opposite of everyone. Bf wants our two corgis (year and a half and six months) to eventually have the house while we’re gone, but the idea of them being free makes me anxious! There’s so many things that could go wrong! As it stands, little one has a large crate he status in, and big one has a walk in closet with a kennel in it, and a baby gate. The most I see giving them is our bedroom. Is it terrible for them to never graduate to being left alone?

    • Hi Danika –

      Keeping them safe while you’re gone is an excellent idea. No reason not to. The older dog can be left out for brief periods when you go out on errands and such, when you feel ready. Your pup is still too young. Or, they can stay as they are and be happy. When both are old enough, the bedroom would be fine, too. You really have no bad options here. – Sarah

  12. Crates are just such safe places for young or anxious dogs. It’s protects them from eating foam cushions that may require surgery, poisonous plants and destroying human possessions. I just started letting my 2.5yr labAmerican bulldog out while I’m gone. He rearranges some couch pillows but otherwise has been great. It has to be when it’s safe and comfortable experience for THEM.

  13. I have a shorkie who went back into the crate about a month ago, due to house training issues. She’s 2 1/2, but still will urinate on area rugs when we are gone (and on the floor if we take the rugs up). She will urinate in her crate overnight one or two times a week. Also, she will go outside for 5-10 minutes, then come in and defecate. I feel terrible leaving her in the crate all the time, but I don’t know how to get her house trained. I have taken her out, praised her, tried treats. I think she may be untrainable. I hate to think of her urinating in the crate and having to stay in there, but she doesn’t bark or whine at night to go outside. I’m at wit’s end with her. Any advice?

    • That is frustrating for everyone concerned. No quick answer here except crate or keep her on leash at home with you so you can monitor her very closely. Give her plenty of exercise outside and she’ll adjust.

      Also, removing all bedding and feeding her in the crate can help encourage her to keep it clean but that all depends on her diet and water, too. If those are wrong it makes things harder for her to be right. I do cyber-coaching, BTW. – Good luck, Sarah

    • Have you considered that your dog may have a bladder infection or stones? Our chi mix had bladder stones which caused her to go in the house. I had no idea until I asked the vet and he told me it is very common. If left untreated it can become life threatening for them. Best of luck to you!

  14. We have a husky/Shepard mix that we adopted about a month and a half ago and he just turned 1. We crate him at night and any time we leave the house. He hasn’t had accidents in the house in a couple of weeks, but he doesn’t let us know when he has to go either…he just holds it. Also he doesn’t go in his crate willingly, even though we feed him in there and give him his Kong and treats in there and he will still whine and wimper when we put him in. Any suggestions on getting him more used to the crate and making sure he knows to go to the door when he has to go out?

    • Being a husky/shepherd mix makes for a vocal dog so I would not stress about a little whining. As long as he settles in a few minutes I’d just keep with that program. Think about leaving him out in another 6 months or so. Let him really settle in first. 🙂

  15. I recently started leaving my 3 year old pittie out of the crate in the day while I’m at work. Everything is going well, I come home nothing is destroyed, she doesn’t do her business in the house while I’m gone etc. But since I have been leaving her out she has peed on her bed twice overnight while I am asleep. Before she use to always wake me up. She is also whining to go up on the couches (she is not allowed) which is also something she did not do in the past.. I’m wondering if these 2 things have anything to do with her new found freedom…

    • Well… if she is peeing in her sleep then it is a medical issue. Sometimes females for that when they sleep really deeply and being more active in the day may be leading to that. I don’t know but I would start there. If she’s healthy. they I’d crate her again and see if the peeing stops. If it does, she may like being crated.

  16. I just adopted a 5 year old shih tzu mix about 5 days ago. She is doing pretty well with going potty outside. We have only had one accident. My question is, since she is an older dog when can I trust her to be out by herself? When we are gone, we left her in a small bathroom, but she chewed the baby gate and tried to escape. She did not have an accident while in the bathroom. She gets into a crate easily when we ask her and sleeps in it at night in our bedroom. So, we have started to leave her in the crate when we are gone. She seems to do fine. I just feel guilty leaving her in the crate, but I am still anxious about giving her so much freedom just yet.

    • Ask me again in 6 months. 😉 She’s happy with the crate. She’s safe and calm in the crate. Think of it as giving her safety, not as “jail” and that will make things easier for you both.

      You have an easy answer that works. Those are rare in life. Enjoy it!

  17. Hi Sarah, thanks so much for your post and replies. My German Shepherd boy is 11 months old, has been in the crate during the day when I am at work–longer than I’d like at 5-6 hours. He enters it willingly (loves his kong!) He sleeps on a bed at night. We have virtually no problems (knock wood) with accidents, chewing. etc. He’s a very good dog. I wonder if he would be happier with the opportunity to stretch his legs more during the day? I check on him with a monitor and he is almost always sleeping, but he shifts a lot as the day gets longer. My house has a very open plan, so I don’t have a way to give him one room. Should I try him with his freedom? Thanks!

    • IMO, you’re still just a bit early for long periods alone. Do some short errands with him out and see how he does. Progress slowly and if you have a set back, back to the crate.

      Only one of my shepherds was ready at 11 months for freedom. The rest were ready at more like 18 months or so. Good luck – Sarah

  18. We adopted a 7 month old Keehond puppy in November. I work from home, so he is crated only when we go out. He has free roam of the house at night, and sleeps in our room with us. He likes his crate well enough, goes in there to sleep during the day sometimes with the door open if we’re in the room with him, but generally prefers to be with us. He is hesitant to go in the crate when he knows we’re leaving, and the door will be closed behind him. He’s now just over a year old, and we’re thinking of starting to leave him out of the crate when we’re on short errands, like the grocery store or something. He has his chew chew (a Himalayan yak milk chew thing), and toys, and doesn’t generally get into any trouble. We’re wondering if this is a good time to start trusting him when we’re out for a little while, or if it’s too soon. He’s never had an accident in our house.

    • You’re doing this so well and thoughtfully. I’d go slowly during the day though generally going out in the evening/night is a good bet as most unstressed dogs just go to sleep when it is dark. So how about adding longer times out on those occasions? In a few months, I’d probably figure he was done and set to be uncrated when you leave as long as things continue to go well. Good luck!

  19. We have a 17 month old full bred lab and I’m sad to say has to be crated all the time or he is peeing in the house, chewing things he shouldn’t be (he destroys all toys we give him even kongs) and has tried going after our cat in a rough play manner. He’s is simply a bull in a china shop. Has no awareness of where he flings his body and is constantly knocking things over due to his hyper bouncing anytime we try to give him time in the house with us out of his cage. He’s just so hyper and I don’t know how to handle him. He gives me so much anxiety. He also behaves differently with different members of the family. I’m at my wits end. I just don’t trust him. What do I do?

    • Hi Katie – I know exactly the sort of Lab you are talking about and they can be scary to be around. Continue to crate him when you are out. Change his food to a good quality, low protein level food. Find a local, well-run daycare where he can go play a few times a week. Institute a training program. Have him work for EVERYTHING he loves in life and find someone who will play ball with him and/or run him. Good luck! MANY such dogs aren’t ready to be free in the house until they are over two so don’t feel too bad. – Sarah

  20. When can I leave my 5 month old puppy out of the crate at night? She only has accidents if I or my husband isn’t paying attention or if time gets away from us. Should i just try it once and see how it goes? Take water away at a certain time?

    • You’re about a year or two early. Some pups can sleep out of the crate in your room with you sooner but there is no rush. Take your time and bad habits won’t happen.

  21. Hello! My dog is 12 months old, she’s an australian shepherd boxer mix and my husband would like to start keeping her out of the crate while we’re gone at work during the day (8 hours). She’s completely house broken but I’m still nervous to leave her… is it just me? Should we leave her for a day and see what happens? Should we put things she could get to up and out of her way and put her toys on the floor to play with? My biggest fear is her relieving herself on the couch (she’s done that before on accident)… do I just put things on teh couch so she can’t jump up there while we’re gone?

    • Hi Meghan –

      I tend to start dogs out in stages. Say, leaving her out for an hour when you both head out to the market. Do that a few times. That goes well, leave her out for a longer period. I would not jump straight to 8 hours alone. Now, did she squat on the couch or pee while sleeping on the couch?

  22. I have a very young shiba inu puppy (3.5 months) that I initially crated with access to puppy pads/ grass patch in a small section of the kitchen for 2.5-3 hr blocks between Dog walker visits. She took to using the pads and grass patch immediately when she couldn’t go outside, and didn’t have any accidents for a week, so I stopped crating her too soon. (She would cry loudly and disturb my apartment neighbors any time she was left so I was all too willing to stop crating). But this week, I forgot to close my bedroom door twice while I left her out (only carpeted room) and she had two accidents in one day. How can I re-introduce her to a crate that she has always detested (despite treats, feeding, etc) after she’s gotten use to being out in the apartment? Especially when I need to leave her for a few hours at time during the day?

    • Hi Ashley –

      Step-by-step. Make it part of her routine. Feed her in there. Crate her when you are home. Cover the crate if seeing out makes it harder (as it does for many pups), up her walks and exercise, give her good chews in there. She needs crating when you are gone for at least another 1 or more so glad you caught this now before teething starts. Best – Sarah

  23. Hello-We adopted a lab/hound mix rescue 2 months ago. He is approx 7 months old, 33 lbs. He is house trained, sleeps well in the crate (in our bedroom) at night, goes in by himself at bedtime, no issues. My husband is home during the day so it is not often that he needs to be crated. When we do leave and crate him he is not happy. He will go into the crate willingly with his special crate antler, kong, etc. but when we return he is fully amped – crate floor is wet (from panting, not pee) and he is wild with barking, etc. We have had to leave the crate free of blankets, etc because we were coming home to find them shredded. He calms immediately when he is let out and will even go directly back in the crate to get his bone. Separation anxiety. We are 2 weeks shy of completing an obedience class, he is doing well. Yesterday we were gone for approx 3 hours. When we returned he had managed to get out of the crate. Crate was not damaged at all – he was just out. Calm when he greeted us, not amped up, nothing chewed, no accidents in the house. Went right outside to bathroom (#1 & #2). Do you think it is possible he is ready to be left alone outside of his crate?

    • I understand your reasoning but I would say no. Too young. Instead, I’d work on getting him happier in his crate so crating for short periods when you are home so it doesn’t always mean you are leaving and being uber calm when you return and let him out of the crate. Big celebrations after being let out of the crate can help build this sort of behavior.

  24. Sarah, I have 7 month old Malshi ( maltese Shitzu). We have a large kitchen area with hardwood. We use a gate to keep her in that area. We can leave her in the kitchen area to roam while we are gone and she is good for 6/7 hours. We have continued to crate her to sleep at night. Lately since she was spayed 2 week ago, she gets up several times in the middle of the night to go outside. She seems to still like sleeping in her kennel, but she will go 6 or 7 hours during the day without going and now at night she only goes 2-4 hours. She was a good sleeper before the surgery. Do we try leaving the crate door open at night? She does sleep in there during the day with the door open? We just want her to sleep! Do you have any suggestions?

    • I would assume this has resolved with a bit of time. If not, then make sure you are ONLY transportation for such trips. No cuddling or conversation. Nothing that might be mistaken for “reward”. Best – Sarah

  25. Hi Sara,
    We have 15 month old yellow lab who has been created since we got him @ 8 weeks. He goes to Doggie Day care 3 times a week, and is a great dog, he is very mellow by Lab standards. He lets us know when he needs to go out, and has not ever showed destructive tendencies. We always give him his special “crate” treat when it’s bed time, but last week we just started leaving his crate open at night and giving him free reign of the house. He’s done wonderfully, most of the time he sleeps in his crate or will take a walk up to sleep in our room or in the hall etc.. Yesterday we decided to go out for a few 4-5 hours and try leaving him out and aging he did wonderfully with no issues. My question is my wife is interested in leaving him out during the day 2x a week for 5-6 hours. I was wondering what your thoughts are?

    • Sounds like he is progressing nicely, you are taking things step-by-step and that he is doing well so give it a try. Sounds like a reasonable next step. Sarah

  26. I read your article and it’s very helpful although I was a bit disappointed in how long I will have to leave my baby girl crated. I do know it’s for her safety. I have a 19 1/2 week old Rottie puppy and she is crated during the day. She’s good for almost 6 hrs and I let her out in the afternoon for a potty break and then back in the crate until hubby comes home. She is also crated at night and does amazing. I keep her out of the crate whenever I am home. I just feel so bad that she has to stay in the crate. She is a chewer and I use the bell at the door for potty training and she does great, but has had very few accidents.

    • That is a lot of crate time, you are correct. But the answer to that isn’t to give her freedom when she is alone before she is ready for that. The answer is making more time for her somehow. Getting up earlier, planning time in the afternoon, finding a midday walker for her.

      Also, if she is clean in her crate, she can be in as large a crate as you want. Give her tons of room to stretch out. She’ll like that.

  27. Hi Sarah.

    My wife and I just got a 18 week old Vizsla. I will be crate training him and was wondering if I should let him out of the crate every few hours during the night to go potty? Also what about during the day since I work from home? Should I let him out every few hours to go potty?

    • Congrats on your new pup! At 18 weeks, you pup “should” be able to hold it all night, once he settles in but he will tell you what he can handle and what he can’t. If you do take him out, you are just transportation. No praise. No treats. No play. (No reason to wake you up for some fun.)

      During the day, yes, he’ll need to be taken out for exercise, time with you and play time. Vizsla’s are an active breed. The basic pattern is crate – outside to potty – play outside or a walk after he potties – inside for training and hang out with you – recrate. Have fun! Sarah

  28. Hi Sarah. I surprised the kiddos with a 7 week old mut. He’s a black lab/cocker spaniel & chihuahua mix. I purchased a crate which I leave him in the majority of the day because I work full time. He’s been good at not pooping in the crate. He actually holds it until we let him outside. I have a pad in his crate on one side with his blanket and toy on the other. He pees on the pad and has had a few accident on the floor and rugs while he’s out playing with the kids. I know he is super young and I have a long way to go, but I want to know how long I should leave him out to play with the kids. My fear is accidents, so I don’t leave him out longer than 30 minutes to an hour. He wines to come out of the crate and I feel bad. Am I hindering his training by leaving him in the crate and not letting him out longer than a few hours a day?

    • Hi Bridget – after 30 minutes you can take him back outside to potty then keep him out longer. He is an infant so more outside trips are better. You must go with him, even in January, to applaud his efforts, see what he did and prevent mishaps. – Sarah

  29. Hi Sarah. My boyfriend and I rescued a 1 year old mutt (Australian cattle dog/greyhound cross among others) about a month ago. We started with a crate, but he’s very anxious and clearly hates it’s, it’s a struggle to get him in it. He doesn’t go to the bathroom at all when he’s in it, and I personally feel that’s where he should stay when my boyfriend and I are not home. However, my boyfriend feels the longer he’s in there, the more he longer he will take to learn what he can touch in the house and what he can’t. Our pup has been getting progressively more difficult while we are away and as we hide more things in the house, he seems to looks for the next thing to chew apart, even though he has a ton of toys. Is putting him back in the crate the best option for now or are there other suggestions you have for combatting the excessive chewing while we aren’t home?

    • He absolutely MUST be crated. At a month in after adoption, he is still in transition and settling in. If you correct him AT ALL after the fact for chewing, you will make matters much worse. What he needs for the first few months is confinement when you cannot watch him, positively-focused training, positively-focused routine, exercise and sleep.

      When he is alone, all he can learn is what he can chew when he is alone. Don’ let him learn that. And he isn’t getting more “difficult”, he just enjoys chewing and, now, may be stressed about you coming home and scolding him, and stress will make him chew more.

      Hit the reset button by crating. For at least 6-9 months and then, if he’s ready, starting again slowly.

      Even if you had him from a pup, it would still be way too early to leave him uncrated when alone.

      Good luck –


  30. Hi Sarah I have a 6 month old chihuahua who I keep in an ExPen with a potty pad on one side of the pen. I’m afraid to leave him loose unsupervised but was thinking about transitioning him to be free all the time and also to start to train him to potty outside. What are your thoughts? Should I transition him to a traditional crate? Is it too early to transition him totally away from the potty pads?

    • Why not keep him on papers? Easier for everyone at this point. If you want him to potty outside, you will have a long task ahead of you and I would not suggest it. Enjoy the easy win. And I’d also keep him safely confined when you are away for a year or more, depending on the dog.

  31. Hi Sarah,
    I am a first time dog owner so appreciate any advice. My husband and I adopted an 11 year old Shih Tzu less than a week ago who was surrendered by his long time owner due to her poor health. He has been well trained and cared for and in good health (lucky us)! The previous owner crated him at night (wire crate) which the dog automatically went to and just gated the kitchen when alone during the day. He has “marked” occasionally in the house but overall good at going outside. Days are going great; however, bedtime a bit tricky. Put a wire crate in our room so he could be nearby and first night, he barked and scratched for a good hour – settled down after we laid down next to crate. Second night more of the same but about a half hour, so that was a plus. Third night, was awful – he barked, scratched until wee hours and I finally just let him out just to get some sleep which I needed since I work. Once out, he laid on couch and slept great and no messes. Decided to try a plastic crate and move in another room, he was hesitant to get in but I got him in there and after a bit of whimpering there was silence! Great, right? Well, turns out he got out (guess I didn’t latch good enough) went straight to couch – no messes (we always take him outside to potty beforehand). So…next couple of nights I just let him on couch so I could get some sleep but thinking I should keep the consistency he had with the crate. How do I get back on track with crating? Where is best room to place crate? Wondering also if it’s even necessary? I am a little overwhelmed with the bedtime routine and just want what’s best for him – any advice is welcomed.
    Thank you!

    • Hi Suzanne – Congrats on your new friend. At 11 years old and a Shih Tzu, you may just have adopted what I think of as an “Insta-dog” meaning he walks in and is an easy companion. I’d probably just keep working on transitioning him to the crate in the daytime and sleep as you are at night. As he gets to know the new rules and regs of your home, he will settle in.

      If a behavior problem crops up, then crate at night. Sometimes with new dogs, I move the crate RIGHT next to my bed so I can rest my hand on it if the dog starts to stress. Also, give him bedding. At his age, chewing is much less likely than with a younger dog. No guarantee but much less likely. My guess is that in a few weeks, he’ll be all settled in. Good luck – Sarah

  32. Hi Sarah, I read your article and it makes perfect sense! I’ve been testing the water however with my lab/collie mix, he’s 4 months and I work. So I feel bad obviously even though I have someone going in during the day twice.
    This week I left him out of his crate for four Hours, never ever any potty accidents, chewed up his bed (which he done in the crate anyway..) then they put him back into his crate for four hours, then they are back for usual walk, food, potty and l3ave him out until I get home which is about 2 hours. But recently he’s started chewing the unit’s in my kitchen and knocking over the bin to chew the lid… have I given him too much too soon? I just feel bad as he’s great during the night 7 hours crated in the kitchen not a peep then work.. what do you think? He’s very clever and knows it’s just like boredom. He’s plenty of chew toys and I always fill his Kong etc help!

    • In my experience, you are way, WAY too soon. He is JUST starting to teeth now so chewing hasn’t really started yet. Maybe it will work okay, maybe not but habits learned when alone are MUCH harder to change later.

      Get a bigger crate if that will make you feel better. Hire a walker. But leaving him out at this age can lead to long term problems. Might not but after 30 years and thousands of dogs, I would never, ever leave a puppy out of safe confinement.

  33. I have a 6 1/2 month schnoodle. She is crate trained. Whines a little in crate but calms down. Never has an accident. Chews her own toys. Have been very diligent and she knows her toys. My main issue is that She wakes up very early in the morning. 5:39/6!! I’ve been gradually moving back dinner hoping it will get me a little later in morning. Ideally I’d like to take her out at night for the last time at 10:30/11p and at 7:30/8a in the morning. Is this realistic? I haven’t had a puppy in over a decade. When should I feed her and at what time should I restrict water?

    • At her age, she should be able to make it so I’d a) delay the first “out” a few minutes and b) put her right back in her crate after she goes then get her out at the time you would prefer. Such early walks I generally do in silence, no rewards of any kind – not words, not smiles, not freedom. She gets all those when you both “wake up” at 7:30. Good luck!

  34. I recently started letting my 1 year old dog stay out of his crate while I’m at work. He’s been very good about it so far but today I found he had pooped inside. It’s only happened one time but I’m worried about whether it was an accident or if it will become a trend. Any thoughts or advice?

    • Take it slow. For a few weeks: crated Mon, Wed, Friday. Out Tues and Thursday. If that goes well, reverse it – again for a few weeks. And if that goes well. Mon/Tues out, Wed crated, Thursday/Friday.

      So, slow things down, take things slowly, and he will probably do fine. If he has an issue, step back to leaving him out for a few hours on the weekend when you are away. There is no rush. This isn’t a “failure”. He’s just telling you what he needs and you are adjusting to his input. Dogs aren’t always ready when we thought/hoped they would be. I’ve only had one dog who was ready at a year. Most needed confinement until 1.5 years or longer. No matter. It’s not a race.

  35. Hello! We adopted a 2 year old lab whippet mix a week ago from a shelter. We have no information about his history. He is an extremely sweet dog. This past week we had him crated for 3-4 hour stints at a time while we were at work with neighbors and friends walking him throughout the day. we only had a couple days to work up to long stints in the crate. We know about making the crate a happy place with treats, etc. and have worked at it in the evenings and when we’re home. The first day he was fine and then the rest of the days he started destroying his bed, stuffed animals, etc. in his crate. He now whines, barks, and is extremely anxious and won’t go after treats in his kong, etc when in his crate. This weekend we did an experiment and left him in the house free for 1 hour and then 2 hours and he was completely fine, just laying on his dog bed. No whining or anything when we left. Do you think it’s safe to leave him for 3 hours stints throughout a full work day now? He is potty trained.

    • After having him for a week? I wouldn’t leave him out. I’d expect all to be calm for a bit then all not to be so calm. But, there are always exceptions and I hope he was one of them.

  36. Hi Sarah,
    I have a 3 year old boxer, he has done very well with being crated. When he was about 1 year and I was living in an apartment I tried leaving him out for a short bit while I took the garbage out and he had a fit, barking whining and running circles around the couches. We moved into our new home just over two weeks ago and he now seems to hate his crate. I figured this is part of his transition into a new home but I always said when we got our own home, I was no longer going to crate him. I am not sure when a good time would be to start attempting leaving him out of his crate. When we simply step into the garage and leave him in the house he starts to scratch at the door and whine.
    Am I stuck having to crate him or is there hope to possibly leave him out?

    • Good question. In general, I’d give him 8 weeks or so in a new home before making that sort of change. Hope everything settled for you.

  37. Hi Sarah,

    I have a siberian husky. She is 1 year and 2 months. She has been crated since she was four months old. We got her at 3 months. I have tried everything to get her to get her to like her crate. We go for a 2 hour walk before I put her in the crate and I put her in with a Kong and other treats. I used to leave classical music/tv but have given up. She doesn’t seem to notice the noise. She does well with the crate for a month or two and then she cries and I don’t know why. I would like to confine her to a room but our place is pretty small so it would likely be the bedroom. She goes for a 2 hour walk every day and the dog park 2 hours every night. I think she is getting enough exercise. Should I try moving her to the bedroom at 2? My boyfriend thinks she will destroy things because she is a husky.

    • Huskies can be vocal, for sure. Is it bothering the neighbors? If not, then I would not fret it too much. Be sure to be calm when you leave her and return and I’d up her training because self-control tends to tire out many a dog more than physical exercise. So, in your case, combining the two might do the trick! Good luck.

  38. We just rescued what we think is a 10-12 week old Lab/Cattle dog mix…I get putting her in the crate at night, which so far is working out, but on average how long should she stay in the crate during the day? How long should her PLAY breaks be? we take he rout every 1-2 hours, after she eats/drinks/plays vigorously, and then we play a bit more as a treat for her going potty, but then should we put her back in the crate? Im always afraid shell be sleeping too much during the day and be up all night. we dont leave her unsupervised outside the crate but sometimes we let her roam our fenced off dining room while we’re there. should she be in the crate at this time?
    Most articles on crate training talk about night time but what about during the day?

    • For the first four months or so pups sleep a LOT. 18+ hours a day, depending on their size. It’s all about growth. They get to HALF their adult size by 4-5 months of age, which is pretty amazing and takes a LOT of energy. So they sleep and sleep. Your schedule sounds great. Keep it up.

  39. I have a German Shepherd, female, who just turned 1 year.
    I’ve been leaving her out of her crate at night when I’m with her, for about 5 months now. She had a couple chewing behavior at first and a few accidents but has been doing well for the last 3 months or so. I’ve now been giving her full access to the house overnight (instead of baby gating her in my room) she hasn’t had any accidents and hasn’t chewed anything, she hasn’t even chased the cat.
    My dilemma: I moved about 6 weeks ago and again 2 weeks ago (for a job, and better life for her – she now has a giant yard to play in) but she has destroyed 2 kennels (1 a Kong one I just bought) she has always loved her crate and I’ve provided her with special treats, Kongs, etc. now she screams. I want to see how she will do alone in the house… She does have pretty severe separation anxiety though. Any tips?
    I am lucky in that I have a job where I can work from home, and only have to spend a few hours in the office when needed so it won’t be all the time but I’m worried of what she will do. Any advice?

    • Hi – anytime you have a major life change, up the structure, exercise and training for your dog. All those things help to keep her as calm as possible. It’s not unusual for dogs to react during transitions. Generally they settle down in a few weeks.

  40. Hi Sarah just adopted a 3 year old mountain feist from animal shelter. He is a runner we have to keep him on a leash. We have had 2 episodes where he has gotten out and took off. We were able to get him back. I have a fulltime job and my husband will be getting a part time job soon. We left him for an hour alone to go to church, came home he knocked over trash and had eaten some of it and shredded it all over living room. Is it a good idea to get a crate and keep him in it while we are at work ? Any help would be appreciated….

    • Yes, I would suggest crate training him. Chances are he’s never been a house dog so will take a while to fully domesticate. 🙂 And most dogs will pilfer the trash if given a chance, so it’s either keep him away from the trash or the trash away from him. Hope that helps. – Sarah

  41. This is great. I have a lab mix that is coming up on a year. He has always been fabulous in the home since we got him, and easy to train. He has never so much as chewed a shoe or damaged a thing and was potty trained within a week. Even when he was sick with diarrhoea a few weeks ago, he woke me up in the middle of the night to let him out, no accidents. We don’t crate him to sleep anymore – he sleeps in our room, and like you said in your article, we can trust him alone upstairs while we are downstairs, or for leaving him for short periods to go do some gardening outside etc, but I think I will continue to crate him during the day for a few more months until he matures more. There is no sense in rushing it.

  42. We have a 9 month old Springer Spaniel. When we got him at 8 weeks old, we immediately started crate training. He finally quieted and did great at night once we put his crate in our room. I think he just wanted to be with us. During the day, we assumed he was happy in his downstairs crate while we were at work. No accidents or problems that we knew of. On a few occasions, we crated him to go to work but had a sick kid still in bed- and we learned he was a howler and barker! He is usually very quiet! My husband and I are both teachers so he will have been out of his crate during the day for about 3 months when we return to work. I’m worried!! He had to go in for about an hour last week and he BARKED HIS HEAD OFF from what we can tell. He stank and was all stressed out when I got him out. He sleeps every night in his crate without a peep or problem. I’d like to start testing him so we can hopefully let him be out while we are at work this fall. We don’t have to watch him constantly at this point. He is pretty well behaved. But he prefers to be with someone. He interrupts his naps to follow me around the house as I cook, do laundry, etc. He hasn’t had any accidents in several months. If I leave him downstairs to go upstairs, he sits and waits on me and will eventually lie down if I take too long! He has several toys he chews on and hasn’t attempted to chew on furniture or pillows. If we leave a shoe or sock- he will help himself -so we keep those unavailable to him. Any advice?

    • Might work. Luckily you have the summer to give it a try. Not my fav option but I understand why you want to see. Good luck – Sarah

  43. I adopted a lab mix a little short of 2 months ago. The said he is about 1 1/2 yrs old. I crate him at night and he has no problems. I crate him when I leave, he goes in no problem with his Kong. Shortly after he does bark and whine a lot. But I tried leaving him uncreated for 5 min and in that short time chewed up a couple of socks. I go back to work in September and will have to be crated bout 6 hrs a day . I feel very guilty . He definitely suffers from a bit of separation anxiety as he follows me to every room. I guess since I have been home for the summer. He has basically kept me under house arrest for the entire summer. Any advice would be appreciated

    • Hi Dee — Following you around is not SA, it’s D.O.G. Perfectly normal. Eating socks isn’t a sign of SA either. Again, D.O.G. (for some dogs).

      Crate him when you leave. Get up early so he can get a good long walk/play period before you go. Start that routine this month, early rise and long walk then long crate period. That way, when he start back, it won’t be a shock to his system.

  44. Thank you so much for your advice . Just want to clarify, should I be crating him for a few hours right after walk while we are all still home for the summer. I have 3 grown children they are also home for about the next month. Just trying to reduce the stress for both him and I once everyone is back to school.

  45. I have a wonderful Pointador (i think) rescue dog who is around three years old. I hate the big bulky crate and wanted to get rid of it. He actually loves his crate though. After reading here about perhaps a possible injury someday and having to retrain him to a crate I have decided to keep it. Thank you!

    • Glad it was helpful, Peggy. I get emails every week from people desperate to know what to do with a crate-hating injured dog. There is no magic cure. Keeping your dog crate accepting (at the very least) is simply good dog care. I applaud you!

  46. My staffy is 10 months old but chews everything including hoes in plaster board . We’ve only had him for 2 or 3 months, can we still use a cage for him, he isn’t house trained at all

    • Absolutely – for his safety and your sanity. Get a sturdy one – a well-made plastic one – but staffy’s can be hard to contain when they aren’t in the mood to be contained. So, introduce him to it thoughtfully. Good luck!

  47. My golden retriever was considered the good child. Never got into anything never left the yard . He past away a year ago. and we have Labrador retriever That is 13 months. More like a 2 year old child..he can’t be left alone with out the training collar on him. Have a new puppy coming in 2 weeks..hoping he goes as good as my other golden did

    • Well… I’d say you’re first golden was “abnormally” good and your Lab is more typical. Your next pup will probably be unlike both of your previous two dogs – at least, that’s my experience. Best – Sarah

  48. This post and reading all your comments have been so helpful! We have an 18 week old beagle that we’ve had for 2 weeks. I was feeling discouraged thinking he’ll have to be crated for a few weeks (because he chews everything and I’ve read that they are notoriously hard to house train) and now I’m realizing he’ll need to be crated for years and that’s ok! Right now he’s crated every couple hours for a bit. Is this ok?

    • Absolutely! Outside, potty, inside, hang out, maybe train a bit, play a bit, chew a bit and then crate time so you can live the rest of your life. That also teaches him that he isn’t crated ONLY when you leave, which can create some stress about being crated. Hope this is helpful – Sarah

  49. I have a 6 month old cavapoo. She has a crate but won’t nap in it or hang out in it if I’m home so I use it when I leave the house and at night. She’s always been great in it overnight since I brought her home at 9 weeks. After sleeping on my bed for a week when we were away (with no accidents) is it okay to let her sleep out of the crate or should I keep using the crate at night and for how long?

    • Hi Llana – Give it a try. It’s quite early but some dogs are exceptions. Do, however, crate her when you leave the house for quite a while longer and re-crate her at night if she starts to chew things. She’s right in the middle of teething. Enjoy! -Sarah

  50. Thank you for the helpful article! We adopted a 2 year old Australian cattle dog/plott hound mix about a week ago. My husband and I both work during the day so he is crated for about 8 hours. At night we have been letting him sleep on his bed on the floor in our room rather than crating him since he is crated all day. Is this freedom too soon? I feel bad crating him all night and day. He has had one accident in the house. My husband wants to gradually begin letting him have freedom in one room during the day and then eventually the whole house, but we have no idea how long to wait to begin doing that since he is 2 but adopted.

    • Hi Sidney – Congrats on your new companion. Sleeping in your room is great – no problems? Then not a problem. 😀
      Since he is fine in the crate during the day, there’s no rush there. A nice roomy crate is a plus, so ask some friends if anyone has a large one – if the one you have isn’t. Make time in the AM and PM to give him a good walk, some training and playtime and then, in a month or so, after he’s settled in completely, you can start that gradual freedom program. Good luck! Sarah

  51. Hi Sarah,

    I have a 4 yo lab who is very anxious (including a lot of separation anxiety). While I did crate her from 8 months – 3.5 years, she never liked it. The vet told me at her annual check up last year that he didn’t think she needed the crate anymore, and for the first 6-8 months, she was totally fine, but now she is getting into the trash, I can tell that she’s explored the countertops, etc. I don’t know whether to re-introduce crate training to her, and if so, how do I go about doing that?

    Thank you!

  52. We have a 7 month old Husky + Alaskan Kee Klai mix. I take him for a walk in the morning from his crate. Then between 8am – 6pm a dog walker comes and let’s him out walk at 11am and 4pm. When we get home around 6 we let him out for food walk and then try to have him roam around the house under our supervision till 8. He is clearly not ready to be left alone because in this time he is always trying to either play with son’s toys or nipp my son or grab kitchen towels or these days it’s Halloween pumpkins. So the question I have is, should I not even let him out when we are supervising from 6-8pm or is this the way to get them used to being in the house. When he plays with things that he isn’t supposed to or nips my son then we are sure to tell him “NO” and he gets it but he is back to doing it again.

    Also any advice on nipping? He doesn’t bite hard but definitely play bites us and I don’t like it when he does that to our 5 year old son. And he is a good sport about it but I was hoping it would stop at 6 months!?

    • Hi – Sure, training helps with this and, for that mix, a lot more exercise — dogrun time, dog daycare time, some serious romping with other dog time would probably help with this. You’ve got an extremely active mix, so add more activity there, start some training so you can communicate with him easily. Good luck!

  53. We adopted a very sweet 1 year old terrier mix 2 weeks ago. He was initially terrified of everything, but now jumps on our laps for hugs and is very affectionate. He now now relieves himself outside consistently. When we were at a friend’s house he actually peed on her dog’s pad. Now the issue—we were told he was crate trained. The first 2 nights were fine, the third night he was crying and barking for long periods of time. We let him sleep in my 10 year old son’s room at night on his bed with him—absolutely no problems. However, he hates the crate during the daytime. No problem going in, but he managed to grab a bag into the crate and shredded it, ripped tags off toys, saturated his blanket with saliva. There were 2 times that he got out of his crate—-maybe I didn’t close it properly? He was home alone for several hours out of the crate and all was fine. No destruction, no damage, no accidents. Just sitting calmly in his dog bed. Calm when we got home.
    Am I crazy to leave him out if the crate for 4 – 5 hours? Maybe leave him in my son’s room?

    • No way to know but you can try it. At the same time, work to change his opinion about the crate. If he’s ever injured or, for some reason, must be confined, you’ll be glad you helped him over his concerns. Good luck!

  54. We have 2 tiny toy 14 week old poodles that are being raised in a large crate inside our living area. I let them outside of the cage several times a day to run free in part of the house. We are elderly and stay here most of the time. At what age should we be able to let them out of the cage?

    Although we have always let our poodles sleep with us, we’ve never had ones this small, 4-5 lbs when grown. Can we safely let them sleep with us in your opinion?

    Any comments or recommendations would certainly be appreciated.

    • Hello – the challenge you face is that your pups are likely to start holding it in the crate to go outside the crate. The trick is to crate them and then take them to papers and, once they potty, they get freedom. With two, this is tricky and time-consuming but can be done.

      My hope is that the crate is a metal one with one area for sleeping and eating and another for papers so they are keeping their living area tidy. Then, hopefully, by putting papers outside the crate near the inside-the-crate papers, they would start running back there to potty.

      As for sleeping. You are right to be concerned. Falling off or jumping off a tall bed at that age can lead to injury so be patient and wait for them to be a bit older to begin that mutually happy habit. Enjoy!

  55. Hi Sarah,
    I’ve searched high and low for some tips on crate training and I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I am to have finally found your website!

    I have a 5 month old mini goldendoodle who is house trained and I’ve been crate training him since he was 9 weeks old. My husband and I work full time but have been lucky enough to have my mother watch him for a couple hours a day. We started with crate training him for 2 hours when he was 9 weeks old. I start every morning with a 30 minute walk and ensure he does his business before heading out for work. He currently stays in his crate for 5 hours, my mother then comes by and stays with him for 2-3 hours and then he is back in the crate for 2 hours.

    He has done really well and has not had any accidents in his crate. My question is when do you think he will be ready to be left in the crate for 7-8 hours straight? I’m afraid to leave him in a small room to roam free as he has had a couple of accidents outside of his crate and is currently teething pretty hard!

    Any advice would be super helpful!:)

    • Hi! Sounds like you’re doing just great with your pup (and thank you to your Mom). Most doodles aren’t ready to be out of their crates for that long until 1.5 years or so, though each pup varies. Stay the course for now then, after a year of age, start leaving him for short periods to see how he does. Taking things slowly in this area pays off for many years to come. Good luck!

  56. I have a blue heeler/rott/shepherd mix. I was leaving him out 4-5 hours at 7 months but now at 8 months he went to chewing up things again so he is back in his crate. He is great when I am there but when left alone he likes to chew on thing. How long should I continue to keep him in his crate?

    • Hi Jazmine – That is a typical scenario: the dog is fine for a bit and then starts to chew. I’d wait at least a year since I would have waited for 1.5 years to even try it. The crate can be as large as you like. Good luck!

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