It's a question parents have pondered for years: At what age is it OK to leave your child home alone unsupervised? Unfortunately, there really is no cut-and-dried answer, and it's no different for puppies. When is a puppy old enough to be left unsupervised or out of their crate when no one is home?
Just like children, all puppies mature at different rates. For example, our first dog was two years old before we felt we could trust her out of her crate when we weren't home. Her adopted sister, however, was able to be left alone at the age of nine months. Our latest addition, Kady (you read about her in one of my previous blog posts), is now seven months old. She's been sleeping outside of her crate for three months now (although she often will put herself to bed in the crate), and there have been no chewing incidents or bathroom accidents in the house. So, is it time to let Kady have her freedom while we're away from the house during the day?
We decided to test her. We made a quick trip to the grocery just a mile away. We were gone less than 20 minutes, and Kady passed the test with flying colors.
So, we kept trying. We added a little time to our outings each instance and still no problems. I have to admit, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised. She always seemed like a wise "old soul" behind those puppy eyes and crazy ears, but I didn't expect her to be this quick to adapt. We felt truly lucky.
A few weeks into our crate-free trials we left for a dinner outing, planning on being away for about two hours.
I should have known our initial success was too good to be true. What did we come home to? A hole chewed out of the middle of the bedroom carpet.
So, just like a child, Kady was punished for her bad behavior. Her crate-free privileges were taken away for a while. We thought she was one of only a few dogs to ever chew up carpet. We found out, however, it is quite a common problem, and there are a lot of ways to fix a hole in the middle of a carpet without replacing the entire floor covering. To find out how, all you have to do is Google "what to do when your dog chews your carpet."
Through this experience, we learned that holes in carpets are fixable and that Kady isn't quite ready to be crate-free while we're away. Kady learned that chewing the carpet leads to a trip back to her crate. I have a feeling it won't be long before this old soul will behave on her own, no crate required.
This post contributed by guest blogger, Laurie Miller. Laurie is a practice consultant for AAHA and lives in Phoenix, Arizona with her three dogs and husband (who she describes as the best dog-dad ever). Although it requires extensive travel, Laurie finds her job extremely rewarding because she is able to impact the lives of pets by helping veterinary practices to meet the AAHA standards of excellence.
Edited by Sarah Rumple.