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How to Transition Your Dog Out of the Crate

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The crate has served you well at night or during your working hours but now you’re looking to transition your dog out of the crate and into his comfy dog bed.

But why?

The crate is a perfect way to keep your dog confined and safe when unsupervised. Most puppies get into all kinds of stuff like chewing on the furniture or swallowing little objects.

Well, that’s easy. Once your dog has reached a certain age and is fully potty trained, you probably want him or her to be able to roam around the house freely.

But a dog that has been confined for several months or even years will get overwhelmed with sudden freedom. Transitioning your dog out of the crate will take a bit of time and adjustment.

Is it actually the right time to get rid of the crate and what exactly are the best steps for a smooth transition from crate to dog bed?

I actually have a couple of stories to tell about the process and benefits (or disadvantages) from firsthand experience.

Let’s dive in!

When Can I Start Leaving My Dog Out of the Crate?

Generally, you will want use the crate until your dog’s at least one year old.

But it largely depends on your dog’s behavior and characteristics.

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I started leaving my dog home alone without a crate pretty early and she never had a problem with it.

She actually preferred being able to roam around the apartment to have a better overview.

Your dog’s behavior should be stable and he needs to clearly understand what his toys are and what he is not allowed to do.

If he’s getting into trouble while you’re at home, don’t let him out of the crate yet.

Let’s go into more detail of crating during the day vs. night.

When Is My Puppy Ready to Sleep Out of the Crate?

Letting your pup sleep in a dog bed at night instead of the crate should only happen once he’s fully housebroken for several weeks or months.

Some owners are letting their dog sleep in the crate until he or she reaches one year of age, just to be sure you don’t have any setbacks.

Personally, I’ve transitioned my Rottweiler to her bed when she was around 4 to 5 months old and it worked wonderfully (even though she wasn’t the quickest to be potty trained).

For a successful transition, you should pay attention to your dog’s destructive inclinations and see how he generally behaves around the house.

He should also understand the difference between bedtime and playtime. So don’t engage your dog in any play right before bed or in the bedroom.

Introduce the appropriate behavior patterns first.

If his dog bed will be placed beside your bed and you don’t want your dog to jump up your own bed during the night then you will have to establish that rule first to avoid annoying disturbances.

Leaving Your Dog Out of the Crate During the Day

You don’t want your dog to get to all the rooms of your house at once.

Start with a single room your dog is already very familiar with like the living room. Restrict access to all the other rooms by either closing doors or setting up baby gates.

  1. Completely puppy proof this room which means removing chewable objects, wires, cleaners, and medications.
  2. Close up any trash cans or cabinets you don’t want your dog to reach.
  3. You can hinder your dog from chewing on the furniture by spraying the legs with a deterrent.
  4. Provide your dog with lots of chewing toys like a stuffed Kong to prevent boredom.

Important: Any time you leave your dog at home, make sure that he is physically and mentally exercised beforehand.

This way, he’ll sleep most of the time and give him a chance to eliminate himself.

When leaving your dog outside of his crate for the first time, start in your room of choice and only leave for a couple of minutes.

If he seems to be fine after a few tries, you can gradually increase the duration. Take a step back if your dog fails and try to determine what caused him to fail.

After he graduated one room, you may want to give him access to more rooms in the house.

If you are uncomfortable with your dog being in certain rooms then you can still restrict access to those.

Some dog owners keep their adult dog crated during the day until 2 years of age.

Personally, I got rid of the crate when my puppy was 6 months and never looked back. Not a single thing destroyed in the house because she already knew the rules.

Transition Your Dog from a Crate to a Bed at Night

Whether you’ve started with transitioning your dog out of the crate during the day or you’ve started at night, the right place to rest is key.

You don’t have to use a conventional dog bed and your dog may just prefer the couch anyway (if he’s allowed – make sure he doesn’t get on anything he’s not supposed to otherwise) but having a high-quality dog bed makes things so much easier.

When choosing a dog bed you should take your dog’s size, health, and age into consideration. Think about the position your dog likes to sleep in.

Small and toy breeds obviously prefer smaller beds to snuggle up. My Rottweiler loves to sleep with her head resting on a large pillow, for example.

Here’s an article that covers the best chew-proof dog beds to avoid you having to run to the store after a couple of months because the bed is torn apart.

If you want the quick answer, pillow-style beds like the K9 Ballistics Tough Orthopedic Dog Bed are a great choice. If you’re looking for something with edges, I’d recommend this bed.

Whatever bed you choose, make sure that it is big enough for your dog to lay completely stretched out without hanging off of the bed.

It should be able to keep him warm and comfortable with washable covers.

Right after the bed had arrived, I introduced it to my dog in the living room (she usually sleeps in the bedroom) so she could get accustomed to it.

You should let your dog sleep in the bed during the day at least for a week before transitioning it at night so he has enough time to claim it as his favorite napping spot.

Amalia loved her bed right away and would sleep in it for every nap.

One evening I carried it to the exact same spot where her crate used to be and waited for her to settle down.

She was very happy with it and was able to sleep through the night as usual.

It may happen that your dog will be getting up and maybe walking to the couch or another sleeping spot for a couple of nights.

Where to place the bed?

In my opinion, it’s always best if the dog sleeps right next to you in the bedroom because bonding is the foundation for a good relationship and training routine.

Troubleshooting

No matter how you’re going about this and what you start with, there will nearly always be some troubleshooting you’ll need to do.

Fortunately, my dog transitioned very smoothly even though she didn’t like the crate at all during the day and reluctantly slept in it at night – maybe that’s just the reason why she so happy when we finally ditched it.

Jumping on the Bed

Now that your dog has the freedom to do whatever he wants at night, he may be tempted to wake you up by jumping up and down on the bed.

If this happens, it would be a good choice to establish a command for settling down in the bed rather than walking around all over the place.

To teach this command, simply lure your dog into the bed with a treat and give him the verbal cue of your choice like “go settle”. It doesn’t matter if he is standing or lying down yet.

Repeat this a couple of times and then ask your dog to lie down o the bed.

After a couple of successful tries, you can wait a few seconds before giving your dog the treat.

Slowly increase the duration to establish a builtin stay so your dog won’t be tempted to get off the bed right away.

Increase the distance between you and the dog and try to leave the room without your dog getting up.

Now that your dog knows the command to settle, you can use it at night to redirect your dog back to his place.

If your dog is way too annoying at night and keeps waking you up, you may want to consider putting him in another room at night.

Destructive Chewing

If you rush the transition period with your dog, you may come home to a few surprises like chewed up cushions on the couch.

A change in a dog’s routine can be overwhelming and if you give him too much space too early chances are that boredom and anxiety kick in.

The most important thin to remember here is to never punish your dog for something he did while you were out of the house.

You can only correct behavior if you catch your dog in the act.

There is a three-second rule in which you should reward or punish, outside this period your dog won’t be able to connect it.

He will only connect that every time you get home, he will be scolded for no reason. He will actually start to fear you arriving home.

Destructive chewing can be caused by boredom, lack of mental and physical exercise, stress and separation anxiety.

What are your experiences with transitioning a dog out of his crate? Let me know in the comments.

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About Danielle
I am the founder of PawLeaks where I share weekly tips on dog training and behavior. Sharing a passion for dogs and helping owners to solve problems through understanding canine behavior and modification is my number one goal.

Claire sanders

Sunday 16th of May 2021

Hi we have a 6month old English bull terrier and we want to start transitioning her to our living room (she is crate trained which is in the kitchen and sleeps/ naps during day and night) she is excellent during night 8pm - 7am with a toilet let out around 11pm. During day we have a good routine of out of crate and in crate with a long sleep after walk and lunch but as our kitchen has a door and baby gate to living room we want to bring her in living room. We are thinking of getting an additional crate and putting in living room where we would like her day bed to be. And introduce this during day in small steps. As she is used to settling almost immediately in the crate it’s been tough to do this in a bed as it’s all too exciting/ overwhelming. We most evenings open the crate door around 10pm and she hops into her other bed for between 20mins-2hours before she goes back in her crate. What are your thoughts ?

Danielle

Sunday 16th of May 2021

Hi Claire,

so if the problem is just that she can't settle immediately, I'd say keep trying with positive reinforcement and see where it goes. If she doesn't have access to you during the day from the kitchen, getting something into the living room is definitely a good idea.

If you're going ahead, she has two things to adjust to at once (new bed & new spot) but that's the way to go if you want to try the bed. It should only get better because she probably loves being near you so it's just the usual transition. If you want to go slowly - instead of buying a second crate, you could just set the one you have in the living room during the day, couldn't you?

Cheers, Danielle

Beth

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

Hi! We took our pup’s (7 months) bed out the crate and removed it for the first time last night! As he’s getting bigger and is toilet trained we thought it would be better for him plus he’s quite reluctant to get in it most nights.. sadly he cried and wouldn’t settle at all. Do you think he actually preferred the crate or will it take some time? The bed/crate was in the kitchen downstairs and we placed the bed exactly where the crate use to be. Thank you, Beth

Danielle

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

Hey Beth, if your pup is crying despite the bed coming from the crate (so it's familiar) and standing in the exact same spot as the crate did, yes that could mean your pup is not ready yet. But it could 1) be an isolated incident meaning he did have to go potty or whatnot or 2) it just takes a couple of days to settle.

From what you're describing, he didn't love the crate before so even though we might think it should be a relief now, it still takes time getting used to :). Just FYI: I'm usually recommending people place their dog's crate/bed in their bedroom, but you might not want that for various reasons. I've just found it helps tremendously with overall anxiety and bonding.

Cheers, Danielle

Brenda

Tuesday 27th of April 2021

Our 5 month kavapoo naps and sleeps at night well in her crate because I put the house on lock down and want absolute quiet so we won't wake her up. My husband wants her to get used to the noises around her and sleep through them. I tried letting her nap outside the crate but she wakes up when she hears us and our 12yr old dog moving around and gets up. This makes her overtired. Do I continue trying to let her sleep outside the crate hoping she will sleep through any noise? Help, my marriage may depend on this answer!

Danielle

Wednesday 28th of April 2021

Hi Brenda, so I've had the same issue with my puppy at night. During the day it wasn't as bad but once it was bedtime, you could only breathe and everything else had to be quiet. I'd say it was the right decision to do it that way because otherwise, you wouldn't get any sleep at all, even if it's just for a couple of days. With all the potty training, socialization, etc. fresh puppy owners have enough going on.

Everything being quiet is also a good sign for your dog to settle down. That being said, you definitely want to be able to live during the day and when we're talking about naps, just try to accommodate your pup so that you're not vacuuming next to his ear immediately after he fell asleep. He definitely should get used to the regular noises, especially during the day.

Tire your pup out with proper physical exercise and especially mental exercise and he'll fall asleep sooner or later. If not, you still have the night to let him regenerate. Would only change one thing at a time because sleep is essential for puppies.

Cheers, Danielle

Shannon Lowrie

Sunday 11th of April 2021

Hi We adopted a small mixed dog who was crate trained but we are not able to have a crate . His previous owner passed away and he was moved from house to house for a few weeks. We’ve had him for about a month now and he’s slept on all our beds every night (as does our bigger dog every now and then . We I first tried to pick him up and put him in a new bed he tried to bite me . Lately he’s been peeing on my bed when I try to get him down . I am now getting him into his bed on top of our bed with treats . He’s obviously anxious ! I’m trying to be sensitive and was wondering if you had any advice !?

Danielle

Monday 12th of April 2021

Hey Shannon,

crates can provide a safe space for dogs and the lack of security can cause the peeing. Apart from that, there are other reasons like separation anxiety (maybe a certain ritual like setting him down before you go?), submissive peeing, not yet potty trained (or rather, still getting used to house rules in the new home) and, of course, possible medical issues.

The fact that he bit you when you tried to pick him up also points towards a lack of confidence. Although not all dogs like being picked up, biting is not the desired response but it's not yours or your dog's fault, you just need to build up the confidence and the bond. It's generally not advised to invade the space of dogs that are no totally confident.

Instead of using force and getting bitten/pee on the bed, luring your dog with treats probably the better idea. Keep training and stay patient, just clean up accidents and make sure you use a lot of positive reinforcement when he does well.

Let me know how it goes, Danielle

Lisa

Tuesday 6th of April 2021

Hi Danielle this has been good reading wish I had seen it before doing although it’s not that bad. Louie is 16wks he was crate trained at night no accidents I would get up middle of night and take him out I’ve gradually made this longer he doesn’t soil anywhere during day or night goes outside. A couple of wks ago he started to not go into his crate as he would, more protest which I had never had so we decided to transition him to a bed, he sleeps ok in bed during the day. In my head I thought putting him in our bedroom in his own bed would be better than in the kitchen where he's been sleeping. However he gets out of his bed and wakes me every hour to two hourly. He doesn’t need a wee as I indicate him to go back to bed and he does but again couple of hours later wakes me, no barking just sits by my bed or stands up to wake me. I’m shattered and about 3 am do take him out in case he needs a wee and then put him back. Should I put him back downstairs in the kitchen where he has slept at night from 8wks I feel I’ve confused him and worried I have caused more separation anxiety as I’m struggling with leaving the house at the moment, he doesn’t settle although ok to be in another room.

Thank you,

Danielle

Saturday 10th of April 2021

Hey Lisa,

first of all, you can definitely keep your pup in your bedroom. My dog was whining a lot as a puppy, especially when separated in another room in the crate during the day. But at night, she always slept in the bedroom, first in the crate and then the bed and she has absolutely zero separation anxiety. Of course, every dog is different but there are other things that'll help far more with preventing separation anxiety.

With 4 months, your pup's still pretty young and he might not be ready for this freedom. I'd suggest changing one variable at a time, meaning you let him sleep in the bedroom but try the crate again if he's wandering around too much otherwise. Usually, one should transition the dog when the dog is ready, not when he wants it :). Sounds like you gave in to your pup refusing to go in the crate and now he thinks he can take it further, he might just want to be entertained if he went potty and everything.

Cheers, Danielle