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Ask the Pet Expert: Transitioning from crate

5:31 PM EDT, April 29, 2013

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My 1-year-old dog seems to be past the chewing stage and I'd like to start leaving him outside his crate when we're not home. What's the best way for us to transition to his having free reign like that?

Start slowly. Instead of making his first day of freedom be your longest day at the office, work up to the transition by starting with him inside the house, out of his crate, while you spend a few minutes outside. A few days later, head out to dinner or the movies. Gradually extend the time until you can be gone until you reach your full workday length. Each time you come back, greet him calmly and carry on your regular business with as little fuss as possible. It would probably be wise to look into a dog walker to break up the day and give pup a chance to relieve himself. A midday walk also provides exercise and mental stimulation, so he'll be more likely to be a little tired when you get home. A tired dog is a well-behaved dog!

Keep in mind that a 1-year-old dog is not all that unlike an adolescent human. There will likely be some boundary testing. You'll need to prepare for this by being certain things are dog-proofed. Even a dog that has never taken a second glance at the garbage may find it too tempting to resist if he's unsupervised. Cleaning supplies and other dangerous chemicals are often stored under the sink and well within puppy's reach. Put any potential danger or temptation securely out of reach, remembering that a bored dog can be impressively creative when it comes to finding trouble. Use patience and caution and before long, your pup should adjust to his additional freedom without too much difficulty.

This week's expert is Amie Glasgow, head trainer with the Maryland SPCA. Send your questions to sun.unleashed@gmail.com.