Crates are very good training tools. Not everyone needs to use a crate for their dog, but everyone who has trained their dog to use the crate should also, at some point in time, wean their dog from his crate. This does not mean that your dog will never be able to use his crate again, many dogs find their crates to be a secure refuge and if that is the case with your dog you should always have his crate accessible for him. Other dogs never miss being in their crate, they soon never step foot in their crate again after being weaned. If your dog doesn’t miss being in his crate, feel free to give it to a friend or donate it to your local humane society after your dog has demonstrated no need for the crate.
How do you wean a dog from his crate?
A dog can begin the weaning process between 6 months and 18 months of age depending on how much time you are able to spend with your dog (to teach him proper behavior) and your dog’s emotional maturity. If your dog is still emotionally immature do not despair, many very smart, very good dogs take longer than others to “grow up” emotionally. Some Dalmatians and Golden Retrievers, among other breeds, are known to mature more slowly. This does not mean they are “slow learners” it only means that they enjoy puppyhood a little longer. The joy of simply being alive, experiencing the love in a master/dog bond, and inquisitive mischievousness overwhelm some dogs until they are two or three years old. Therefore you must treat each dog as an individual. Some dogs may be ready to begin crate-weaning at 6-12 months of age, while most dogs can begin around 12-18 months of age, and still, others may need to wait until they are over 2 years old.
Crate weaning is a slow and gradual process.
It may take you one month or one year to wean your dog from its crate. There is no ideal time frame. The right time frame for you is the one that works best for your dog. Don’t push your dog beyond the amount of freedom he can reasonably handle. A very gradual transition will provide the least amount of stress for your dog.
How To Begin Weaning.
Begin weaning by not putting him in his crate when you leave the house for very small periods of time. Give him a good chew-toy when you leave to keep him occupied. Leave the house for only 5 to10 minutes at first. When you get back, if no damage has been done, then PRAISE your dog! If damage has been done, say hello to your dog nicely, but without a lot of praise. Put your dog in his crate, and clean up the mess without him being able to see you. It is important that your dog does not see you clean up his mess as he may associate your cleaning with his mess-making and begin to see it as normal behavior. If your dog did damage, then cut your time in half the next time you leave him uncrated. It is not unusual to begin leaving your dog for 1-3 minutes if need be. If your dog was fine and did not do any damage, keep repeating the same time increment for the next few days or a week. Then, after your dog is used to it, extend your time to 15 minutes for a few days, then 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, etc. Anytime your dog does damage, cut your time in half the next time you leave him alone uncrated.