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October 9, 2014

When should you let a dog stay home alone?

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


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.


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


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


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.


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.


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?

Comments for When should you let a dog stay home alone?

  1. Victoria says:

    leaving the dogs alone requires preparation for sure – getting all the things off of ground level (or counter level) that might look like the ideal thing to chew to get my attention when i get back. Things that have suffered are the molding, the kitchen table legs, mail -usually tax bills and more often than not papertowels and kleenexes but with the exception of the last two (for some reason both my dogs love papertowels and kleenexes – i have no idea why) they outgrew most of that rambunctiousness – i think maturity helps a lot but they also have occassional lapses too – your two will probably be much better than mine as we don’t leave ours alone very often

  2. I can’t remember, it just happened that he had to wait at home :o) we fortunately are mostly at home, but sometimes unexpected things can happen … I remember that our fox terrier was alone at home as she was around 9 months old. There was no mischief till the first one of our family came home, then she acted like crazy… probably as an punishment :o)

  3. meANXIETYme says:

    I love the idea of setting them up for success. And I think you’re right, you need to know your dog and his/her temperament before making your decision. It took us over a year with Butthead, but she was destructive and had house-breaking issues (even though she was 18mos old when we adopted her). Le Moo we adopted at 3 and we never had to crate her.

  4. Elyse says:

    I started leaving Goliath home alone the day after I got him, and gave him the run of a very small townhouse. I had no choice. My roommate, Keily, had beautiful, expensive furniture that I could not possibly have afforded to replace. He was about 4-1/2 months old. He never chewed any furniture, a fact I still marvel at. He got into the garbage regularly, though.

    And when he was about 11 years old, we had to contain him in our large finished basement when a fence was replaced while we were at work. He completely destroyed the basement, doors were shredded, boxes of papers strewn around and torn up. He found my sealed wedding dress and ate it. I think he was annoyed, but I could be wrong.

  5. raisingdaisy says:

    We did crate training too; in fact, Daisy still stays in her crate when we go out, and she’s 4 years old! She was very uncomfortable when we tried leaving her out, we think it might have been too much big space for a small dog. She loves being in small spaces. We’d always find her in her crate when we came home, and now, when she hears keys jangling, she goes into her crate before we’re even ready to leave, as if to say, “Don’t forget, I want to be in HERE!” It actually works to our benefit when we travel because Daisy isn’t a dog who acclimates well to new environments. Even though we’re all in the same hotel room (we don’t ever leave her alone when we travel), she’s very nervous in new surroundings and heads straight into her crate for comfort at night. So I guess our experiences are of no help to you….but I have to say I LOVE that picture of Penny half-on half-off the sofa!!

  6. For me it always depends on how long I’m going to be gone, if it’s a long time and I think something might happen it’s into a crate.

    When we owned our home we started letting Boomer out when he was about a year old. Once we got Dottie we did the same thing and then they could spend the day together. Since we’ve sold our house though and are renting they are both crated whenever we leave, we don’t want to take the chance that something might happen.

  7. fredrieka says:

    momwithoutpaws has slowly transitioned, her biggest concern is getting on the furniture. At night she no longer locks my crate and for the past month I have stayed in the crate with the door open. I have my toys and such. Now leaving the house is another story, I think momwithoutpaws and I are ready for the transition, but dadwithoutpaws is not ready. WHen they leave us on the porch unattended I no longer get on the chairs and nothing is destroyed not even the cat. Moms ready dad is not.

  8. We have not transitioned Sammie out of her crate except for small doses at night, the main reason being our cats and her penchant for “kitty candy.” Until we get a house where we can install a cat door (so only they can get to their litterbox), I don’t think we’ll be letting Sammie have free rein over the place…

  9. Emmadog says:

    I was home alone without being contained at 9 months, but Bailie…different beast. She was alone from 10 months until 14 months, then she went backwards and has taken up bed shredding. Mom leaves her alone for up to a couple hours, but longer than that during the day is still risky. She needs to give up bed shredding first 😉

  10. mk22llewis says:

    you have the most beautiful dogs!

  11. Kyla says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the only acceptable reason to leave me is to get more food. I was six months old when They left me the first time. It was to see how I’d do-they visited the next door neighbors and when They returned, I had pulled out the door stop completely out of the wall. I was pretty proud of myself. I was young and I’m not that big of a dog.

  12. dashlilly says:

    Second puppy definitely took longer!!

  13. I’ve never had a young pup to worry about – most of my fosters were above the age of 1, so I usually gauged them by how they acted when we were home. Penny does seem like a mature lady, and I’m sure having her companion around will help as well. Baby steps. 🙂

  14. It’s been so long since I had a puppy I hardly remember. We tried crating Sally and then building he an enclosure – that lasted about 2 months and then she just busted out of it. Luckily Steve worked from home at the time, so she was an adult before we had to leave her for extended periods. The rest of our dogs have all been seniors, so we haven’t worried about it. I did crate Jack for awhile when we first got him, but he’s never destroyed anything but a couple of stuffies.

  15. OhMelvin says:

    The question where the #1 answer is: every dog is different. Melvin earned run of the house after I lost Max. I had crated Melvin so that Max could have some peace while I was gone, but when Max left us, there was no reason to crate Melvin. After some separation anxiety training, he has ha the run of the house for seven years. Jake… well he has wonky hind legs so he stays in the mudroom while I’m gone so that they don’t get into a situation where Jake gets hurt (Melvin sometimes doesn’t see Jake when he is running to bark at the brown truck man). I now have a Dropcam and I love it! I can check in on live video (and even talk to them!) and I can rewind to see how the day went (or when/why something went wrong). Highly recommend!

  16. Whee have no advice but whee hope it all goes well and she gets the hang of behaving soon!

  17. scarlybobs says:

    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 😀

  18. Misaki says:

    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

  19. 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

  20. 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 🙂

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