Teaching Your Dog to Sleep Outside His Crate

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Many dog owners love having a crate for their dogs to relax in, and continue to use the crate well after the housebreaking period ends, but others are anxious to get their dogs out of that crate and into the real world. One of the easiest ways to begin the dog’s transition from the crate to having the run of the house is to teach him to sleep outside his crate overnight. He’s already trained to sleep though the night without going potty, so this should be the easiest time for him to be out of the crate for an extended period of time without having an accident.

This training can usually be started with calm, non-destructive dogs when they’re around 6 months of age. Active or destructive dogs should be at least a year old before starting this training. Your dog has to have 2 solid months of sleeping through the night in his crate peacefully before you consider having him sleep outside the crate. Once he’s used to sleeping through the night in his crate, he’ll have a much easier time just settling down to go to sleep once the lights go off, since you’ve taught him that “lights out” means it’s time to go to sleep.

In preparation for this training, avoid rough or active playtime in the area where you want your dog to sleep (especially if it’s up on your bed). We want the dog to associate the area where he’ll be sleeping overnight only with sleep, if possible.

This training will work best if your dog has been sleeping in his crate in your bedroom and you intend to have him stay in your room overnight. You’ll have an easier time preventing destruction or accidents if he’s in your room with you, since you’ll hear him if he starts moving around or causing trouble. Another option is to leave him in his puppy-proofed room with nothing to get into during the night. If you have a bathroom or laundry room attached to your bedroom, you might consider puppy-proofing it and putting up a baby gate. This way you’ll hear your puppy but he won’t be able to wander around where he might get into trouble.

The first couple of nights that you try this, do your best to wear your dog out during the evening. Give him an extra-long walk or a long, active play session and don’t let him nap too much in the evening before bedtime. Be sure he has no food or water for at least 3 hours before bedtime (unless he needs food or water frequently due to a medical condition). Take him out a couple of times before bed to be sure he pees and poos. We want to set him up to succeed, and he’ll do better if he’s tired and empty!

There are three ways of doing this training. The first is to put a dog bed in your room and tether the dog to the foot of your bed or dresser (as long as it’s too heavy for him to move!) with just enough slack that he can move around in the dog bed, but can’t get out of it to cause any trouble. Do this until he’s comfortably sleeping in the bed overnight for a few weeks, then try it without the tether.

The second way of teaching your dog to be out of his crate overnight is having him sleep in YOUR bed. You should do this ONLY if you want him to sleep in your bed long-term. Just bring him up on the bed and go right to sleep. No playing or excitement, as that will get him in the habit of expecting attention and activity when he’s in the bed.

The third training method is to allow your dog to have the run of your whole room. Prop your dog’s crate door open so he can go in if he wants to and let him have access to the whole room overnight. Have the bedroom door closed so he has access to only the one room. Be sure there are no delicious, expensive shoes or other items on the floor for him to snack on. Once he’s doing well, you can replace his crate with a dog bed.

With any of these methods, if your puppy has an accident or if he paces, cries or seems stressed out overnight, try one of the other methods or go back to the crate training for another month or so, then try again.

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