Many 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.