I adored Dega, the daughter of my first pit bull, Talla, but the first time I ever left her alone at home to go to work was an infernal nightmare. She scratched and ripped up the carpet; she dug a hold out in my chaise lounge to sleep in, and she chewed up every pair of dress shoes I owned. I was devastated! I had to pay my landlord $600, and that was around 30 years ago!
We love our dogs so much that we want to treat them like people, but we must remember that they are not people. We are their caretakers, and instead of being sentimental, we must be responsible.
For instance, what if she had swallowed part of the heel to one of my high heel shoes? It could have gotten stuck in her throat and choked her to death or cut her intestines and caused internal bleeding.
Should you let your dog have free rein in the house? Well, that depends on many things. Let’s take a look at what those who have been there know.
Should you let your dog roam the house?
There are varying views on what people should do with their dogs when they are gone from their homes.
Some put their dogs outside, some keep their dogs inside but confine them to a crate or small space, and yet others let their dogs roam free in the house.
What risks do you face when you let your dog roam free in the house while you’re gone?
He may choke on something.
Dogs who are left home alone have a bad habit of chewing on things, and when they chew on things, those things tend to end up in pieces. Your dog may attempt to swallow these pieces or anything, really, and could choke on them.
He may swallow a sharp object.
Swallowing these pieces usually have sharp edges on them poses another mortal danger. Even if your dog doesn’t choke on them, when they travel through the intestines of his digestive system, they could cause rips and tears that result in internal bleeding.
He may ingest something toxic.
Leaving your dog to roam free without a whole lot of forethought could leave him vulnerable to poisoning.
One of the leading causes of dog poisonings is human medications. Pills like acetaminophen, ibuprofen (NSAIDS), Prozac (antidepressants), Adderall (ADD/ADHD medications), Xanax (Benzodiazepines), Ambien (sleep aids), Zestril (ACE inhibitors), Coreg (beta-blockers), Synthroid (thyroid hormones), and birth control hormones are among the most common culprits.
Veterinary pain medications like COX-2 inhibitors such as Rimadyl (an anti-inflammatory drug) can cause symptoms as severs as acute kidney failure in dogs.
Another danger to your dog is house plants. You don’t think about it, but some plants can be fatally toxic to your dog. You should never let your dog around sago palms, oleander (also deadly to humans), azaleas (rhododendrons), Dumb canes (dieffenbachias), cyclamen, autumn crocus, philodendrons, lillies of the valley, or Japanese Yews (Buddhist pines or Southern Yews), and this list is not comprehensive.
You should be aware of the foods your dog has access to, as well. Many foods are toxic to dogs. Salt, artificial sweeteners like xylitol, chocolate, coffee, caffeine of any kind, citrus, grapes, raisins, avocado, coconut, alcohol, and many more foods are poisonous to your dog. Be careful what you feed your dog, but be very careful what he has access to when you aren’t around.
You also need to be concerned about rat and mouse poisons, household cleaners, and fertilizers. Plus, your dog will find things to get into that you forgot you even had. Be vigilant!
Should you let your dog roam the house at night?
When it comes down to it, where you put your dog to sleep at night is a personal choice. It depends on more than one factor.
It depends on the dog’s nature.
What is the nature of your dog? Is he energetic 24 hours per day and a bit mischievous? Does he wake up more than once per night and look for something to do to occupy himself, or is he calm and well-behaved? Does he sleep all night?
These factors matter a lot when deciding where to bed down your dog. If your dog wakes us several times per night and will roam around mischievously looking for trouble, he should sleep in a crate or other safe space. On the other hand, If he is a dog you can trust not to get into things, and he won’t disturb anyone, there shouldn’t be a problem letting him roam free.
It depends on the family’s schedule and habits.
If everyone in your home goes to bed at the same time and gets up at the same time, it probably won’t be a huge factor in where your dog sleeps, but if you have varying schedules, it may make a big difference.
For instance, if everyone else in the family goes to bed at 10 pm, but you don’t get off work until 11 pm. You probably won’t want your dog to have access such that he can greet you when you come in the door.
He may be very glad to see you. That may get him all riled up, and he may not be able to calm down and go back to sleep, meaning he may keep you awake and possibly awaken others.
It depends on the dog’s age.
It matters what age your dog is. Puppies shouldn’t be left to roam the house because not only will they do plenty of damage, but it can be quite hazardous for them. Many senior dogs can be allowed to roam around, but to reiterate, it largely depends on their nature.
Those in between, adult dogs, may or may be able to roam free without consequence, but there is much to consider. Read on to find out how age affects the time at which you should let your dog roam the house free.
At what age can you let a dog roam the house?
It would be great if we could let our dogs roam free from the time they were born and not worry about them, but that’s just not the way the world works. Puppies and dogs of different ages are capable of different things.
6 Months Old
Before the age of 6 months, puppies are not capable of being left to their own devices. They will chew on everything they can find and get into everything they can get their paws on. However, at around 6 months old, you can begin training a puppy to responsibly be on his own. It could take quite a while, though.
1 Year Old
If you started training your puppy at the age of 6 months, it could be that your dog is now ready to be left alone, but it could also be that he needs a lot more training before that happens. Again, dogs are natured differently and have different energy levels, so you have to take all this into consideration and be patient with your dog while he’s learning.
2-3 Years Old
Any dog that can be trained to be trusted to roam the house alone will be trained by the age of 2 or 3 years old. If your dog hasn’t conceded to your wishes by now, he isn’t going to, and he will need to be confined when you are gone from the house as long as you have him. The only alternative is to try professional training, but by now, he may be set in his ways.
Here is what you can do if you want to leave your dog to roam the house when you leave.
What can I do to make it safe to leave my dog in the house alone?
If you want to let your dog roam the house free, you will have to prepare both your dog and your house for this to happen catastrophe-free.
You will need to train your dog. Training is the most important factor in whether you can leave your dog alone to roam the house. Ideally, to train your dog, you will want to start young and let him learn as he grows.
Give him a little freedom at a time, and if he abuses it, take it away for a while, and so on, until he learns that he must behave a certain way to gain his freedom. The idea is that eventually, you will have a dog that you can trust alone in your home when you have to go to work for 10 hours.
Crate training helps tremendously with training a dog to be trusted in the house alone and also, with house-training (potty-training). You definitely don’t want to try and leave your dog alone in your home with free rein before he is fully house-trained.
You will need to prepare your home for leaving your dog (puppy) home alone. You’ll need to remove things you don’t want to be damaged and things that could hurt your dog from the rooms he has access to. This includes potpourri, candles, wooden statues, and ceramic or glass that he can knock off and break — you name it — think about it now instead of later when it’s destroyed or your dog has choked to death on it.
When it comes to preparing everything, just remember that you have to think for your dog. You are his keeper. You are responsible for making sure he stays safe, so be vigilant. You can let the canine that you adore roam the house at will. Just make sure all the preparations are made first.