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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Graduating Your Dog To House Freedom

Graduating your dog to house freedom

PetSmart Debbie McKnight, Accredited PetSmart Trainer

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So… you’ve used a crate to manage your puppy and now you’re wondering how to start giving him more freedom. Well, if you’ve done your foundation work and haven’t let your dog pick up bad habits, transitioning to full freedom in the house should go pretty smoothly.
 
  • Ideally, your dog should be past the puppy and juvenile stage. For small dogs, this probably occurs at 1-1/2 to 2 years of age. For larger dogs, they may still be an “adolescent” up until 2 to 2-1/2 years of age. In addition, you should have managed your puppy carefully so he knows what items are his to play with, which furniture he is allowed on (or not), and what is off limits. 
  • Set him up to succeed! Pick up everything on the floors (like shoes), remove everything from the counter tops (we don’t want to tempt him), make sure your trash is secured, and shut all the doors to the extra rooms (and toilet paper!) 
  • Make sure your dog is exercised before you leave. Watch to make sure he relieves himself before you leave. You should also take him for a walk or play a game of fetch so you don’t leave him with pent up energy. 
  • Leave him with fun toys to play with. A food-stuffed Kong is always a great choice. Many people pack their Kong with something extra special that the dog only gets when they leave. 
  • The first few times you’re gone should be very short. Just run down the street to the convenience store or out for ice cream. You don’t want to leave him alone long enough to get bored. 
  • As he gets used to you being gone for short amounts of time, gradually extend it. Remember, you can always use the crate for part of the day and leave him loose the rest of the time. 
  • Use baby gates and closed doors to limit his freedom in the house. As you see that he can handle the freedom, you can gradually allow him access to more of the house. 
By gradually allowing more freedom and setting your dog up to succeed, you should be able to allow your dog to have run of the house in a matter of a month or two. If you have a setback, take a hard look at the circumstances to determine who was at fault. Did you leave your dog unexercised, bored, or with too many temptations? If so, rectify that and try again. Don’t let your dog make a mistake more than two or three times, because it will quickly become a habit. You may need to go back to using the crate and keep working on training your dog’s house manners. Always remember: you cannot punish bad behavior after the fact!! If your dog gets in trouble while you are gone, scolding him when you get home won’t help. Just set it up so your dog cannot get in trouble next time.
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