When can a puppies be allowed free reign of the house?
November 8, 2013 8:21 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are getting a puppy mid January. Questions about house breaking and crate training.

We plan to crate train our dog. My partner will be home with our dog during the day and I will be home with our dog at night. We plan on crate training our dog.

Do you need some sort of indoor potty area for pups, or why would you choose to use one? Or is it better to just take them outside often?

How do we know when our dog is ready to just roam around the house instead of being crated while we are gone? At what age are dogs typically ready for this?

How old are dogs before they can be left safely for eight hours?

What is the most amount of time a dog should ever spend in his crate (besides overnight for sleep)?
posted by skjønn to Pets & Animals (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't had a puppy in a long time, but the answer to your final question is going to vary a lot based on personal opinion and also financial means. There are people who think you shouldn't leave your dog all day in a crate. Those are generally people who can pay for doggie day care or dog walkers and think it's a good way to spend their money. My personal feeling is that my dogs are just fine all day in the crate. Yes I wish I could get home earlier, but I have to work to afford their food and care. And when I was unemployed and at home all day, they pretty much slept all day long.

posted by radioamy at 8:57 PM on November 8, 2013

I have never crated a dog so when we went out we simply put puppies in a small easily cleaned room like a Landry or bathroom. Puppy proofed the heck out of it and left them in there with a bed, some safe toys and water. Most of our dogs were free to roam the house as soon as they were pretty solidly house trained, though we closed doors on any rooms we could not safely or easily dog proof until they had passed the puppy chewing stage. Now I know this is not how things are done in the US, you will most likely want to keep the dog crated until the housetraining is pretty much fault proof and past the crazy puppy chewing everything stage.

The easiest way to house train a puppy is to take it outside often, every 1.5 to 2 hours if not more, wait for them to pee or poop and then praise them like they pooped gold nuggets. They really need a walk pretty much straight after eating as that is a guaranteed bathroom break time.

The general rule I've heard is you can leave a dog alone one hour for each month of their age up 8 hours or so. Whatever you do though build up to it slowly, starting with your dog used to say 2 hourly pee breaks and then expecting them to last eight hours is setting yourself up for failure. The main thing is to make changes gradually and to have a routine. Dogs can handle most things if they are part of their routine.

I am not a big fan of indoor potty training for dogs, if it is possible to regularly take them outside as it can make house training in general so much harder. If you are planning on a smaller dog and on eventually leaving your dog for eight hour stretches though then training to use an indoor area would probably be a good idea. Having said that my 17lb Rat Terrier will often go 15 hours if their is snow around, without going out to pee even though I let them out every couple of hours (I work from home) but I think he is part camel.
posted by wwax at 9:06 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a 11-month-old dog, so I'm reaching the tail end of the puppy phase with him (I think ...). He still doesn't get free reign of the house - he used to stay in his crate, but for the past few months I've been keeping him in the bathroom when I'm out as a sort of first step towards free reign. However, I think I'm actually going to start using his crate again because he seemed happier with that.

As for pee pads inside, I never saw the point of that - it seemed overly confusing, and why not just train the dog to pee outside from the beginning?

When I first brought my puppy home (at 10 weeks), I followed the advice to bring him outside every hour for the first few days, and then every two hours for a few weeks after that. This worked well - he had very few accidents and potty training was really effortless that way.

This means at night, too, which really sucks. However, once he's comfortable and settled in, he should be able to sleep through the night. Mine started sleeping through the night about a week in - lots of exercise and mental stimulation (training, games) will help with this.
posted by lunasol at 9:29 PM on November 8, 2013

How do we know when our dog is ready to just roam around the house instead of being crated while we are gone? At what age are dogs typically ready for this?

We just crate our dogs all the time. Far less dog proofing is required and they seem happier, too - instead of fretting and trying to defend the house from every strange noise, they just sleep.

Personally, I think it is better to always take the dog out to pee. You don't want them thinking it's OK in the house, ever. Dogs can be pretty smart, but they do better with simple bright line rules - in my experience at least.

Our dogs will spend 9-10 hours in a crate at a go; which is about the maximum. I'd prefer if it were a bit less, but work is what work is. They get two walks a day, plus a frozen peanut butter kong in the mornings. It's been 6-7 years without any problem - I'm sitting here typing this and the dog is snoozing in his crate now.

Opinions will vary - and really, the solution that works for you is a working solution.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:04 PM on November 8, 2013

When depends on your dog's breed. Some dogs, like my Great Pyr are considered puppies until age two. There was lots of chewing on things between 1 and 2. Crates are fine for any age if they can not be outside safely.
posted by 101cats at 10:33 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just came back to this thread, and I was thinking about my rescue terrier. He was about a year when we found him, and we've had him about two years. Fortunately he was housebroken but he was super destructive. It was at least a year before we could trust him. We were living in a long shotgun-style house that didn't have a lot of doors (doorways, no doors, weird) so we had to get a baby gate in order to keep him from running off and destroying something. Even now occasionally if we leave something in his reach (say, headphones on the nightstand) he decides it's a chew toy.

OTOH, my Corgi has pretty much always been okay unsupervised. Being a herding dog she actually prefers to be crated when alone, but I don't have to worry about her having an accident or chewing on my shoes or anything.

Most dogs like crates as it's their safe spot. Corgis especially (you had a previous post about getting a Corgi so I'm assuming we're talking about the same hypothetical puppy) since they're herding dogs. They are more relaxed in their kennel because they don't feel like they have to be watching the house and their humans. You probably won't have trouble getting the dog used to the crate. That said, I highly recommend feeding the dog in the crate, and also giving the dog a treat every time you put it in the crate. My dogs know that when I say "kennel!" it's their cue to run to their crates for a treat.

I have never had to housebreak a puppy myself but I agree that the whole puppy pad thing is really confusing for them. It sounds like you have a schedule that allows you to be with the dog a lot, so if you can take it out super regularly that is the best option.
posted by radioamy at 10:48 PM on November 8, 2013

It all depends on the dog, and you will be the best judge of that when the time comes. Our dog is crate trained, and by the time she was nine months old, we pretty much stopped crating her during the day. It helped that she knew to potty outside (we gave up on indoor potty training very quickly after getting her) and wasn't particularly a destructive puppy after she finished teething. We began leaving her home alone and uncrated for short periods of time around that age--we confined her to the living room and kitchen, and set up a computer to auto answer on Skype while we were gone to see what she'd get up to. Pretty soon after, we felt confident enough to let her have free rein of the house for several hours. Now that she's two and a half years old, she is able to stay home unsupervised for up to eight hours, though I'd rather not do that at all. We do take precautions though: we put our shoes away even though she's not a chewer, make sure the trash cans are secured, and close the doors to our bedrooms and bathrooms.
posted by peripathetic at 12:18 AM on November 9, 2013

Housetraining is basically a matter of rewarding the pup when he does his business outside and keeping the number of times it happens indoors to an absolute minimum (because relieving oneself is... uh... relieving, so it's self-reinforcing no matter where one does it). Both parts are important, and of the two, preventing indoor mistakes is the harder part. You'll have to take the pup out very frequently at first, especially whenever there's a change in activity (waking up, having a meal, etc.), and you'll just generally have to be paying close attention to what the pup is doing so you can whisk him outside the moment he starts to make one of those inevitable mistakes, and reward him for finishing up out there. Crates are useful for housetraining because dogs generally won't soil inside their crate if it's the right size for them, so the crate is a way of substituting for direct supervision.

After the housetraining is taken care of, whether you keep using the crate when you're away really does depend on the dog. Similar to Pogo_Fuzzybutt's experience, our dog seems happier in her crate when we're away. She's never been in there longer than 8 hours or so, and that only a few times, but it hasn't seemed to have any ill effect on her.
posted by jon1270 at 3:22 AM on November 9, 2013

I have a puppy -- a sweet little yellow lab. It took about a week to housetrain him using crate training. Yes -- we still do have to get up with him in the middle of the night to let him out so he can do his business, but he doesn't go in the house. You shouldn't need an indoor potty area as long as you are consistent with letting him out. Put his crate near your bed and be prepared to be sleep deprived for a little while -- but you only have to do this once. It will go by fast.

Some breeds are more "mouthy" than others. Our lab loves to pick things up in his mouth and bring them to us. I'm guessing it will probably be a couple of years before we can just let him have free reign. Any retriever is probably going to be mouthy. Another breed may not have that characteristic -- kind of depends on what your dog was bred to do.
posted by Ostara at 7:06 AM on November 9, 2013

My puppy is 7 months today (happy birthday, sweety!) He's never been in a crate, when he is home alone, he is in the kitchen, where the floors can be easily washed and he can't open the drawers and cupboards. He chews anything he can get a hold of, including anything I forget on the kitchen table, so I'm learning not to forget things..
He is almost completely house trained, though there will be accidents, as described below. He's been able to hold himself for 8-9 hours since he was very little, we've observed, because he wouldn't go anywhere he didn't know, so when we were traveling, he'd just wait. The main factor for him being alone longer hours was going from 4 to 3 and then 2 meals a day.

In our summer house, which has drafty, cold stone floors, he has a bed and uses it. But here in the city, he prefers to be where we are, so we have washable blankets and pillows placed strategically in the places we know he likes. I think it's true that dogs enjoy their crates and their beds, but we are a family who move around a lot, and he goes with us many places. So it's a condition of his life that he has to be able to find peace anywhere. (I suspect him of thinking the car is his real home). Dogs, and humans, adapt to their reality.

For now, the longest time he has been alone is about 6 hours, which I felt was dragging it, but all was OK when I got home. Normal days, last trip on the street is about 10 PM, first in the morning can be anything between 5 and 7:30 AM. We live on a busy street, and sometimes he can be very disturbed by the noise from people returning from parties or bars at weekend nights, and insist on going down to see what it is. This drives me crazy, but one time I refused to go down, he peed all over the floor, even though he normally would be able to sleep till morning. I suppose it's a "once you wake up, you have to go"-thing. I really hope he grows out of this.
Also, when my daughter comes home before me, she will sometimes sit a while in the kitchen for a snack before taking him down. That goes badly a lot. Like everyone says: routines are good, and taking it slowly is good.
posted by mumimor at 10:42 AM on November 9, 2013

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