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How to Transition Your Dog Out of the Crate

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!

Brown coated dog in crate with open door.

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.

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 without being interrupted by the need to pee.

Small dog in crate.

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 was 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 thing 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.

Johanna

Sunday 15th of May 2022

When my dog Rosie was a year old she was still sleeping in the crate, but she would wake up crazy early every morning with mad zoomies. It was so annoying to have to get up at 6 am every morning and play fetch for an hour. When she turned 1, I was just like “screw it, let’s see what happens if she doesn’t sleep in the crate.” The first night out of the crate, she slept on my bed at the foot, made not one noise, and didn’t wake up until 10 am, calm and peaceful. It was magical. We never looked back.

Danielle

Thursday 19th of May 2022

Hi Johanna, sounds similar to my experience. It's not like my Rottie got up at 6 am and wanted to play fetch for an hour but she's definitely calmer outside the crate.

For others, a crate is a great tool, especially during the day but for me, ditching the crate worked perfectly too.

Cheers, Danielle

Lee

Monday 9th of May 2022

Hi there. Yeah trying to transition my lab female 3yr old. At first very good. Except coming in and she'd be on settee. Instead of being on her dog bed. Then I tried to leave her on her own while I went to work. Came back to a couple of things being ripped up. My fault, I left the things out. But I couldn't understand why she didn't chew her toys instead. I would like her to be able to stop out of crate but..... Behaviour and commands are being ignored. I suppose slowly slowly.

Danielle

Tuesday 10th of May 2022

Hey Lee, it's best to set your dog up for success (i.e. not leaving things out as you said) and go slowly. However, if your dog feels anxious when left alone, you may need to read up about separation anxiety.

Hope the transition will go smoothly soon, Danielle

Cheryl

Wednesday 16th of March 2022

Tonight is my first night transitioning my girl from her crate to her bed. I put a gate around the crate with her bed just outside the crate. I left the crate inside the gated area so she can go back in if she feels more comfortable. She is a two year old pom and has had a few potty issues so I am trying this slowly before I allow her full run or sleeping with me, I have a multi poo who sleeps with me he has never been crated and always been great with his potty training he is 6 yrs old. I know my pom will catch on I just want to take it slow so I don’t overwhelm her. Thanks for the great advice.

Nicole H.

Wednesday 19th of January 2022

Hi Danielle,

I have 2 pups that I’d like to transition out of their crates. Fenrir a husky Shepard wolf mix and Floki a husky malamute wolf mix. Fenrir is 1yr and Floki is 7 months. Fenrir has gone through fear training as he was neglected by the breeder and is still learning to cope and trust people. He has learned “place” and has a bed to “place”in to feel safe. Do you recommend using the place command in the bedroom where I’d like him to sleep? Also when he is not placed and playing with Floki he will have an accident if something has made him too nervous to ask to go out. Any suggestions on how to prevent this when he’s out during the day alone? Floki dislikes his crate and will actually go into the crate to potty 😩. So I’d like to leave him out as well. But he is still chewing a lot. Also him and Fenrir ruff house soo much the furniture is everywhere. Any suggestions on calming them? Any suggestions are appreciated!

Danielle

Saturday 29th of January 2022

Hi Nicole,

it might be hard to transition both dogs at the same time. Since one dog seems to need to pee after playing, you could try to restrict playing right before bed inside the house, assuming that's what you mean with the accidents. Could be difficult at night if you do both at the same time though. Might need a couple of nights to establish a calm routine.

If your other dog is actually seeking out the crate to pee, it seems that it hasn't really been established for him as a sleeping spot since most dogs avoid this, even if they need to go potty until they absolutely can't hold it.

Would maybe suggest starting with the night to see how they handle it since chewing during the day can be a serious issue.

Michelle

Wednesday 12th of January 2022

Can you offer more help than this? My pup, 6 months, has been house-trained for 2 months. She is comfortable and used to being around the apartment during the day - I just use the crate for sleeping at night, and for when I leave her alone. She is calm in her crate, but it is getting small, and I want to transition her to a dog bed (beside mine) so that she has more room to stretch out. Despite putting her favorite bed beside mine and closing the bedroom door so that she would stay in my room, my pup has been anxious both times I tried the new arrangement. I don't understand why, or how else to help her -- I tried chew toys, leaving the bedroom light on while I read for a bit and talk to her, etc. She just roams the room, and doesn't settle down to sleep.

Danielle

Saturday 29th of January 2022

Hi Michelle, sounds like training went well so far, congrats on that! I'd just suggest you keep positively reinforcing her every time she's in the bedroom and especially in the bed itself and give her some time. If you close the door, she'll probably settle down in the bed sooner or later.

Roaming can be a sign that she's anxious, yes, but it might just be that she's not yet accepted the new sleeping spot. Took some time for my dog too even when I'm just switching beds. It'll eventually click in most cases.