For some, taking the plunge means getting married. For me, having already taken that plunge (it wasn't that bad, honest!), the bigger plunge was making the decision to leave my basenjis uncrated when alone in the house. Cringe! Having already seen what havoc an uncrated basenji can wreak on my living room (the picture to your left was taken a year ago when Biko managed to break out of his crate), I was rightfully nervous.
Previously, we had tried all manner of leaving the dogs gated together in various one- or two-room setups, one dog gated and the other crated, both dogs uncrated but split with an X-pen, etc, with no positive results. When crated, the dogs do just sleep all day, but sometimes Biko gets nervous and still pees a little in his crate, which I have been able to modify from nervous pooping every day to now just an occasional nervous piddle. Some of you BRAT-chatters may recall a year ago when I had asked for advice about this, and I tried absolutely all of your suggestions until I was able to find a solution to mitigate the problem. However, even though it's now only an occasional piddle, I still don't like the situation, and I feel the dogs would be so much less stressed if they could just be in the rooms where they're comfortable. So, for about 2 years now I've been on a quest to figure out a better way of leaving them alone in the house while I'm out at work during the day.
The changeover started rather gradually for us, with a mix of careful experimentation and some bold leaps of faith. First, my husband started to notice that when he's home studying sometimes during the day, the dogs tend to stay in the exact same spot and just sleep through the entire morning. Same thing after they are walked - they go to sleep and don't wake up for at least an hour. So, a few nights after I ran a few miles with the dogs, we decided to leave them for a half hour while we ran to the store. Amazingly, nothing bad happened! They were literally in the exact same positions as when we left, and nothing was eaten. Phew!
After a few more test rounds of leaving them uncrated after walks for an hour or so, we decided to cautiously re-try leaving them gated in one room for the entire morning. Bad idea: first Reef, then Biko, had a grand old time gutting and re-gutting their favorite papasan "basket chair." Bummer! My husband suggested that perhaps they get more stressed by the gates, and maybe we should just leave them alone, ungated and uncrated. He could leave them alone in the house during the morning, when they sleep anyway, and I could crate them after I walk them at lunch. An uncrated basenji!?! Talk about a leap of faith!
That first day, I was a complete mess at work. I imagined that my entire living room would be gone when I returned home. At lunch, I took a deep breath, opened the front door, and..... the room was just as we had left it! Amazing!
Since that first day, we have been pretty successful in leaving the dogs together uncrated in the house. We still close the doors to the bedrooms upstairs, put up the couch pillows, remove any handy shredding material (books, the remote, anything), and don't leave rawhides around for them to fight over, and for the most part they've been pretty good. I feel so much better now that I can be at work knowing that my doggies are sleeping happily in their favorite sun window, ready to come to the door with tails wagging when I come home to walk them. And, best of all, Biko has started barooing with joy when I come home! I guess taking the plunge wasn't that bad after all :)