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I have a 6 month old ridgeback who has been crate trained since I got him as a puppy. His house training is going well and I am prepared to start trusting him with a bit more freedom around the house. I'd like to work up so that I don't have to crate him when I go to work.

Currently he is crated for about 4 hours when I go to work in the morning until lunch, when I take him for a walk and play for a bit, then another 4 hours till I get home at night. Though he understands being locked in the crate, when I leave him free in another room with the door closed, he begins to whine and bark (similar to what he did when he was first crate training). I've done my best to puppy proof the area but I am still afraid he will find something to destroy out of frustration.

Are there any tricks for helping bring a puppy to this next stage of house-proofing? Is it similar to crate training where I will need to start short and just continually work up to longer and longer times alone?

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Exactly. Start short, real short times away. Never ever open the door before there's total silence on the other side of the door, so he won't learn that "you will come if I bark". –  Esa Paulasto Feb 12 at 16:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 8 down vote accepted

When proofing a room, it is best to acclimate him to the room by spending time with him in it. Provide some unbreakable toys for him, ones you know he won't chew into bits or choke on. Check the room so there is nothing he can hurt himself on if he is left alone with the door closed. Watch that there is nothing he can tip over or actively damage before you leave him there.

Pay special attention to exposed cords, electrical wires, and window treatments. Make sure there are no window dressing cords he can entangle himself with; my own dog almost killed herself by getting caught in the window blinds cords while trying to get a better view when I wasn't home. I thought I resolved that by pulling the blinds up, but she went over and chewed through the window cord. I repaired both and now pull the blinds up even with the cord, so neither are in her immediate view or access.

It pays to be proactive in your maintenance of the area which he will be roaming, unsupervised, so keep the area clean of trash bins, especially plastic-lined ones, and detritus-filled containers, such as ashtrays. Keep an active eye out for things that your dog might negatively access in the environment and proactively remedy them.

Providing access to water prior to leaving, then taking it away for up to 8 hours is not cruel behavior unless the dog requires it for medical needs. It will be a learning experience for the dog to know that he needs to drink prior to your departure, and ensuring you provide water to him when you arrive is fine as long as you are diligent. If your dog is fine with water being around, put it in a very heavy, stable bowl he won't be able to tip over.

Make sure you let your dog out to relieve himself before you put him away, and let him go out again as soon as you get back. If your dog has issues with retention, you can consider using a urination "wee wee" pad in an area the dog can access while you are gone (a shower floor, for example). The pads usually have attractants in them and should contain the mess, though the cheaper urination pads tend to be flimsy and rip easily.

If your dog is especially anxious, you can try a Thundershirt, but only put it on immediately before you leave and take it off as soon as you get home. Leaving it on for longer periods can have a dog get used to the shirt and it will become less effective.

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If you plan to confine him in another room than the one where he's usually crated, you could first move the crate there.

That way that other room will feel more like "his place" when you're away, and you can then leave the door of the crate open.

When he's confortable being crated there, I suggest to just proceed in a similar way as for crate training. Try to practice on the week-ends when you leave for a much shorter duration. Leave the crate open and let him play with a toy outside the crate. You can also do the same when he's tired and will more likely go in the crate to sleep (if that's what he usually does).

Then, even if you did your best to puppy proof the room, be prepared that he might chew/destroy a few things...

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I plan to confine him in the same room as the crate. At least till he understands that and can move onto being free to move into other rooms as well. But good answer for anyone else that stumble upon this! –  EEP Feb 12 at 16:27
    
Then I'm not sure I understand the problem. –  Cedric H. Feb 12 at 16:28
    
It's not so much a problem, as looking for suggestions to best prepare him to spend time alone without destroying anything. I know that if I just left one day without locking his crate door that I would probably come back to at the least a very stressed out pup. –  EEP Feb 12 at 16:34

Love the other answer here but I think it would be good to add that 6 months might be a little to early. If your dog is comfortable with the crate then you have done great so far... don't feel you have to rush to the next stage. If you move away from relying on the crate to early your dog may learn bad habits just because it isn't out of the puppy chewing and curiosity stage yet.

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