When should you let a dog stay home alone?

When I leave the apartment, I pretty much consider Eko a piece of furniture. 9.1

Wherever he was when I left is exactly where he’ll be when I return

Of course that wasn’t always the case. Like Penny, Eko was crate trained as a pup and loved his den. When we traveled around the country, I brought Eko’s crate so he would always feel right at home. Between our time on the road and Eko’s minor separation anxiety, I didn’t feel comfortable leaving him home alone until he was over a year old.

With Penny now six-months old, I find myself revisiting the topic of leaving a puppy uncrated while out of the house. I’m working to discover the right balance between the safety/security of the crate and the freedom of a maturing pup.

9.2

It would be great for Penny to spend time sunbathing rather than being crated

I’ve scoured the web, and not surprisingly there is no consensus on an age-appropriate time to begin leaving a dog home alone. Circumstance, timing, personality and temperament are just a few of the variables to consider.

Here in Chicago I have a small apartment, a steady schedule and a puppy who is much more mature and independent than Eko was at that age. With that in mind I’ve started to transition Penny away from her crate.

9.3

My concern of course is that while I’m gone Penny will get bored, and slink off the couch looking for mischief

9.4

Sure, it’s a small apartment, but Penny’s got an imagination when it comes to dreaming up fun things to do

9.5

However, she and I happen to differ on the definition of “fun”

The key to this endeavor (as with all pup-endeavors) is that I need to set Penny up for success. If I leave slippers around on the floor or leave a closet door open, I’m just asking for trouble. My first rule is that I always try to make sure Penny is tired/well-fed before I go. I also give her a treat and use the familiar “be right back” phrase she knows. Lastly, I strategically deploy toys of varying size/texture around the apartment.

9.6

Need to bite something? Go for one of these!

The process is essentially an extension of crate training. In the past week I have left Penny stay out of her crate for increasing lengths of time. Training has progressed nicely and I’m happy to report there have been no major issues so far (fingers crossed).

I attribute part of Penny’s success to my use of a “failsafe.” Penny loves the $10 kitchen mat we have. I know if she gets an itch, she’ll go right for it. I could remove the mat when I leave, but then where would Penny direct those chompers? Better the devil you know, I say. Out of the ten or so times I’ve left Penny alone, three times she’s taken a bite out of the mat. Not a bad average, and I’m happy to sacrifice the mat for a good cause.

9.7

Anywhere but the molding Pen, we have a security deposit to think about

I’m cautiously optimistic about Penny’s progress. She’s still very young and likely prone to random-acts-of-punkness once she hits her “teenage” phase in the next few months. We’ll keep working on it, but I’m really interested to hear your story and get as much insight as I can.

When did you start leaving your dog home alone? How did you do it and is there anything you would have done differently?

34 Comments

It has been different with everyone Will. Oskar loved his crate and since his brother Jester came to me at 4months and we started from scratch, they were about 1 1/2 yrs before I left the door open all the time. They abandon their crates totally at just over 2yrs. I had a samoyed cross rescue that I got when the boys were about 6yrs. Riley couldn’t be crated at all even though he was around 3 months when I got him. Terrified of the crate. House had minor damage thank goodness. Abbe’s crate time was fairly short since I potty pad trained her due to my hours and small dog/small bladder concerns. Anne’s crate training was a disaster because Miss Confused Brain thinks that crates are what you go INTO to potty…..go figure, something is wired wrong in there…she is not destructive at all but is 90/10 on potty pad/throw rug….again…wiring and not predictable even when she is treat motivated and always rewarded 🙂

I still crate gambler and glory and gambler is 3.5 yrs and glory just undue three. I think I can trust glory being left out but no way gambler he would destroy the whole place so if one is crated so is the other one. I don’t think Nellie was crated very long, she was a good pup

I was left alone uncrated from the start, they thought it would be easier to let me get used to it straight away. They shut the doors of the rooms they didn’t want me to get into and that was it. And I was fine. But my peeps are noobs and there are probably better ways of doing it

Awesome to hear your progress with Penny 🙂

Kasper has severe separation anxiety, so the crate acts as a safe place for him. As a result he will probably always be left in his crate. He just feels so much more comfortable in there 🙂

As for Zoey, she is a little hooligan! She will destroy anything she can get her teeth on, haha, so she will be crated for a while yet – despite being almost 2 years old already! Maybe one day we will trust her out of the crate, but not yet 😉

However if we were to work on leaving Zoey out of the crate, it would be in the way you mentioned: start off with leaving her for a short amount and gradually build it up…with plenty of chew toys left around, of course 😀

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