Leo is on the loose

During Leo’s puppyhood, one of our biggest challenges was encouraging Leo to love his crate. Crate training him was difficult, but doing so in a way to let him know it was his safe space was even more difficult. We always followed 1 rule: never use the crate as a punishment, and I think that’s why we were successful. Leo really does love his crate. Between the bed, couch, floor, and the crate, the crate will always reign supreme as the best sleeping spot for Leo.

When he was younger, he would go in the crate for bedtime as well as for a few hours in the evening when we couldn’t fully watch him. He would also be crated if we were leaving the house for a few hours after work or on the weekends. As he got older, we started crating him less, only crating him at bedtime and when he was left alone.

This past weekend we decided to leave him out when we went to dinner. When we got home, everything was perfectly fine and he was waking up from a nap. Since he was so good, we decided to leave him out all night. He started on our bed but soon after left. In the middle of the night, we found him sound asleep in his crate. The next morning, he was still in his crate and didn’t get up until we grabbed his food bowl to feed him. Again, nothing in the house was amiss. It was a great feeling. However, later that day, we needed to go to the grocery store and left him loose again. After only an hour trip, we came back to an anxious dog and a very ruffled and slightly chewed rug.

I know we could’ve come home to much worse, I’m still nervous leaving him loose in the house. This is going to be a long road of building trust: Leo trusting us that we will always come back to him and us trusting that Leo will be a good boy while we are gone.  Should we continue doing what we’re doing? Please share any suggestions or experiences. I would love some advice!

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  1. Just keep making progress, even slowly, with Leo. If he can’t handle the freedom, back up to the step before that…maybe giving him partial run of the house and making the run unavailable this time. Also, play with him ahead of time so he will be sleepy, or give him a treat ball to occupy his time. You can do practice runs, by pretending to leave, but watching him via camera or spying on him through a corner of the window, coming back to calmly reward him for being good. Then when you trust him for a short time, you can gradually extend it. 🙂


  3. We got our puppy about the same time you started posting about leo. We didn’t crate train, and have come home to some interesting destruction. It’s only been the last month or so that our pup has stopped remodeling the house. It just takes time, short trips and lots of praise. Our pup likes pens and firewood, and is a bit of a counter surfer. I give him a peanutbutter filled kong and he has a food ball that we fill up for longer days inside. I love the posts about leo, it has been fun to see his journey side by side with our puppy.

  4. Leo is adorable. Keep praising him and it will all work out. I should have crate trained Jeff he still can’t be left alone.

  5. i think Leo is doing great. he is still really a puppy. my girls are 8 and 9 and i still come home to a mess sometimes. as soon as i walk in the door, they know they did something bad. just make sure there in nothing on the counters he can get into, or the trash. i always check things, unplug things i dont need, before i leave to make sure there is nothing they can get into. my girls are too small to get on the counter. my vet said her standard poodle went counter surfing and ate a whole bag of M&M’s. he is far from a puppy. he just looked at her and he husband who is also a vet, when they walked into the house and vomited everywhere. so i really think if they want to get into something, they will no matter the age. maybe you were gone longer than normal. i usually hide treats to keep the busy.

  6. I had success with SonnieBoy over his separation anxiety when I would leave him alone. As a puppy he would act out and chew on something or I would come home to find my bed all a mess or bath towels pulled down from where they were hanging and left in another room…some of them with corners missing.
    So I tested him by leaving for short intervals with a treat before I left and telling him to wait here for Mommy…then giving him another treat for being a good boy when I returned. Starting with 15 minutes and building up to hours at a time. He associated the words “wait here for Mommy” and giving him a treat with understanding that I would be back to give him another treat for being a good boy…always with praise and affection. It didn’t take long for him to catch on that I would return and reward his good behavior.

  7. Haha “interesting destruction” I can only imagine! Leo can also be a counter surfer when he thinks I’m not paying attention lol. I’m so glad you enjoy these posts! If you got your pup around the time I got Leo, then it must be your pup’s birthday soon too!

  8. Thanks, Sandy! Hiding treats is a great idea! I also try and make sure the house is “puppy-proofed” by closing doors to all the bedrooms, closets etc. But you’re right, I don’t give Leo enough credit for the good boy he is. *About to go give him a treat right now!* 🙂

  9. Our pointer Snoopy never HAS to be crated, even at night or when we leave the house. For him the crate is a place “to hang his hat” or just chill. Our shepherd/husky/chow Mojo however must be crated when we aren’t home or he will destroy the house. Both dogs were raised together, as young pups, and raised the exact same way.they are 11 and 9 now. I firmly believe it is the personality of each individual dog. Leo might always require to be crated when you’re not home, (like our Mojo) it doesnt mean you’re bad pawrents, it’s just his “type”. If he loves his crate (so does Mojo), theres nothing wrong with crating him whenever you need to.

  10. We took a dog from a friend who was crate trained all day and it was also his safe space but eventually we started leaving him out. He would get in the trash from the bathroom but that was about it so we would scold him and let him know how very unhappy we were but still kept leaving him out and he was perfect. Got a puppy a couple of years ago and at 1 & 1/2 decided it was time for him to be left out as well. He has done so well we feel mostly from having Ruger to look up to but recently came home to chewed up shoes(he’s 2 now) We are scolding and figuring out he wants to go on walks when we get home so we’ve Tried to get short ones in and no more chewed shoes. Keep working with Leo. He’ll be fine and one day absolutely perfect

  11. Loved your posts about Leo. I get all excited when I see one from you about what Leo is doing as he grows. Don’t worry about the crates my pugs just love them . Holly is a fawn colored pug who is 11 and she goes in hers off and on during the day. Bentley is also a pug who is 5. He goes in his crate if he is scared. They eat their meals in their crates. I also take a crate with us when we travel to put Bentley in if we are going out and they can’t go too! That they there is no mess when we come back! Would not live with out my pugs they are so happy to see us when we come home. They love you unconditionally.

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