In some instances using a dog crate for training can be useful - but if your pup is all grown up, dog beds are far the far more preferable place to sleep. Switching from one to the other can be challenging - so to help here’s a guide on how to transition from a crate to dog bed with ease.
When Can I Start Leaving My Puppy Out of the Crate?
Although they’re pack animals, dogs are individuals too - so the time frame for their transition from crate to bed could vary depending on their characteristics and behaviour.
In general, here are some indicators that your puppy or dog may be ready to sleep outside their crate:
- If they are six months to a year old: again, this depends on things like behaviour and temperament: if your dog is exhibiting destructive or problematic behaviour, a longer wait may be required.
- If they are already housebroken and able to sleep through the night without any “accidents”.
- If your dog has slept peacefully through the night for two consecutive months.
- If they seem happy to be outside of their crate.
Training To Transition
If you still find they’re getting into scrapes while you’re there, it’s a telling sign of what could happen if you leave your pet unsupervised.
Ensure you have a solid training routine in place: your dog will be more aware of what behaviours are appropriate (and which are not) - making the transition easier to manage.
Here’s how to transition from crate to dog bed, step-by-step, using positive reinforcement:
- If your dog or pup is still young with limited experience of the rest of the house, avoid allowing them into every room at first, as this could be overstimulating or stressful for them.
- Start with a single room that your dog is familiar with and bar access to the others by closing doors or setting up pet or baby gates.
- When you first allow your dog out, start with one room and leave them only for a few minutes. Leave the door to the dog crate open - so that they have the option to return if they start to feel uncomfortable.
- If they seem to do well the first few times, gradually increase the duration of time left outside their crate - but if your dog seems upset, dial things back a couple of steps and try to assess why. If in doubt, ask your vet or your local pet charity for advice.
- Never shout at or punish your dog - this will only teach them to be wary of you and isn’t conducive to building a positive, trusting relationship.
- If you see them doing something you don’t approve of, either ignore them or gently lead them away from the situation. On the other hand, if they “get it right” - make a big fuss of them - they’ll soon learn which behaviours elicit a positive response - and which ones don’t.
- Another training tip for good behaviour is to respond quickly: although there is an interesting theory that dogs experience time differently to us (due to their age being in “dog years”, they generally won’t make a connection between a reward and something they did five minutes ago. This means your “teachable moment” is limited to three seconds only - so if you see them being “good” - act fast!
Something to Chew Over
You should by now have allocated one room to place the crate in - ideally somewhere not too hot (or too cold - garages are not the best choice for dogs to sleep in as they can get cold at night) - and this should be thoroughly puppy-proofed.
In general, this involves the removal of anything that could shock, poison or otherwise harm your puppy or dog if chewed - so puppy-proofing your house should include the removal of all dangerous “chewables” including:
- Any fabrics your puppy could accidentally ingest
- Electrical wiring - chewing this could result in injury or even a fatality.
- Anything with sharp edges including breakables such as glass coffee rables or ornaments which could injure your dog.
- Nothing poisonous or toxic - as well as the obvious culprits such as household chemicals this includes any foods or plants that could be toxic to your dog if chewed.
- One tip to deter your puppy from chewing absolutely everything is to invest in some dog toys - ideally sturdy ones that can withstand a good amount of gnawing and biting!
Dogs need to chew for a variety of reasons: it could be that they’re still young and - much like human babies - they need to chew to relieve pain. Alternatively, it could be dietary or even behavoural issues - in which case consult your vet.
Another reason may be that your dog is experiencing a degree of separation anxiety. If your dog is still quite young or pining for you at night, consider placing their bed in the same room as you and gradually transition it out of your room over a series of nights.
This can help you to be aware of your dog’s movements if you’re not in the same room as them - and if you want to keep an eye on them while you’re in the other room (or anywhere else) - you could always install a baby or video camera to keep an eye on them.
While training your dog to get used to their bed, some advise tethering (on a harness rather than a collar, as the latter can be dangerous to your dog).
However: leads attached to harnesses can still present a strangulation risk - while falling objects (such as any furniture they may be tethered to - however “stable”) are also a danger - so if you’re considering tethering, ask whether it’s really necessary and exercise caution.
And So …To Bed
Like dogs, dog beds also come in all shapes and sizes, so pick a comfortable (ideally chew-proof) one that’s suitable for their needs. Of course - even if you’ve bought a dog bed your pup may still be experiencing some confusion over who sleeps where - and unless you’re a happy canine co-sleeper, you might end up with an unwanted guest!
Address this early on by instigating some commands - if your dog seems not to know where to settle down, gently lure them to the bed with a treat and a verbal cue, such as “go to your bed” or “settle” - after a few tries phase out the treat so that they are now familiar with the command and know exactly what to do. You can even include a clicker if you wish.
Letting Off Some Steam
If you’re leaving your dog home alone for the first time, allay boredom by givin them plenty of exercise before you leave, such as an early morning walk before you head off to work to allow them to run off some of that canine energy.
This isn’t limited to physical exercise, either: you might not think there’s much going on between those floppy ears, but the truth is, dogs can be pretty smart - so try to work in some “brain-training” such as a food puzzle or teaching them simple commands.
When it comes to exercise, be careful of your timing: overexiciting your dog close to bedtime could leave them in a playful, rather than sleepy mood.
It’s also advisable to time meals so that they aren’t eating close to bedtime (potentially resulting in the need for a toilet break in the middle of the night) - the limit for mealtimes should be around three hours before bed-time.
Establishing a night time routine (lowering the lights, switching off screens, etc.) is useful for humans - but for dogs it also creates a visual cue and a sense of routine: by doing the same things each night they’ll begin to associate this with a sense of winding things down for the day.