Crate training is a must for all indoor dogs. A crate provides security and safety for puppies as well as peace of mind for owners when a dog must be left unattended. During the dog's teething phase, crating can save the owner's property from thousands of dollars in damage. But when can a dog stop staying in a crate every time it is left alone in the house? When to stop crate training depends on the individual dog and on the owner's schedule.
Your Dog's Personality and When to Stop Crate Training
Imagine you have two dogs. One is a docile Mastiff whose favorite activity is a nap on the couch. The other is an energetic Jack Russell Terrier who loves nothing more than barking at the mailman, except maybe shredding your throw pillows. The first dog could probably stop crate training as soon as he's done with the chewing phase, at around one year to 18 months of age. The second dog might need to be crated when left alone for life.
In general, if your dog does not suffer from separation anxiety, you can stop crate training by three years of age. At age three, most dogs are fully mature and understand the difference between your belongings and their toys.
Dogs with separation anxiety may never be fully trustworthy when alone. If your dog suffers from this serious behavioral condition, consider consulting an Applied Animal Behaviorist. Your dog may need behavior modification training and a mild sedative to feel more relaxed when you leave the house. It's not fair simply to crate a dog with separation anxiety and leave it alone. Sure, it's restricted from damaging your belongings, but the dog will still be miserable. Treating the condition combined with continued crate training will result in a happy dog.
Your Schedule and When to Stop Crate Training
When to stop crate training also depends on how often you leave your dog home alone and for how long. Ideally, no dog should ever be crated for more than four to six hours at a time. Puppies should never stay in a crate longer than four hours. If you must leave the house for a full eight hour workday, consider hiring a dog walking service to give your dog a bathroom break and a short walk during the day.
If you work long hours, try stopping crate training at around one year of age and instead using baby gates to confine your dog to a dog-proofed room with water and chew toys while you're gone. Leave the crate in the safe room and keep its door open so your dog can use it as a bed or hiding place.
How to Stop Crate Training
Don't throw your crate away when you stop confining your dog. Remove the door or use a bungee cord to keep it open. Your dog will enjoy sleeping in the crate or using it as a "den" to hide in during storms or when he is tired of interacting with your guests.
If you are close to your neighbors, consider informing them that you've stopped crating your dog when you leave the house. Ask them to notify you if they notice excessive barking coming from your home while you're away. Dogs that don't bark when crated sometimes start barking out the window after the owner stops crate training.