When you get a new puppy, it’s a great idea to manage how much space they have and where they have access to in the home. This helps to develop good habits, including housetraining and reduce your chasing around putting out ‘puppy fires’. Eventually, you will want to start opening up your home and allowing access to areas that were once closed off.
Clients often ask how old their pup needs to be to start doing this. It is not an age thing. There are several factors involved in deciding when the time is right. To be clear, we are discussing freedom when you are home. Leaving a dog at home alone and unsupervised is a different situation with its own considerations. I’ll cover that in another article.
How to Decide When Your Puppy is Ready for More Freedom
Each pup and their specific situation is unique, but certain factors strongly influence when a puppy is ready for more space and freedom.
Here are some basic considerations before you go for it. Your puppy should no longer be:
- having accidents in the house
They may not be asking to go out yet. You may even still be assisting them in getting out regularly. Just as long as they are not having inside accidents between potty breaks.
- chewing on household items (or kids) as a regular habit
- having to be continually redirected to appropriate toys or activities
- And your puppy can settle when free (just for short periods to start)
And here are some things that you can do that will help your puppy get ready for more freedom. You have:
- spent time practicing skills they need to be successful in the house, such as settling on a mat
- your puppy in a routine taking regular breaks and having an appropriate amount of mental stimulation
- learned to recognize when your pup is getting tired or needs a change of activity and are proactive about setting them up with what they need
How to Provide More Freedom for Your Puppy
Opening up your home, doesn’t mean you are off the hook for keeping an eye on your pup – quite the contrary. Unattended young dogs will see areas outside the normal living area as ‘anything goes zones’ and potential potty spots. They can also think items in new areas are potential chew items. For this reason, each new space should be introduced as an additional part of the den or living area with careful supervision. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- open up one area at a time
- go into the space together and spend time there
You can, for example, take your pup into the area on a leash and hang out by sitting quietly on the floor with your pup and providing a settling item. If you are mat training, they can do this on the mat. to make settling easier.
Or you can do some training, practicing a calm behaviour such as settle or duration.
- do not just let your dog go into the area unsupervised initially or after having just opened it up
- be sure they have had a successful potty break before going into the new area
- you can let them wander around to explore on leash once you have spent some time hanging out doing one of the above activities
- keep the time in the new area short to start with
- take them out for another potty break afterwards
Freedom Isn’t All or Nothing
Providing more freedom needs to be done with care. It’s not an all-or-nothing sort of thing. Although you may have gotten through the challenges of puppyhood, you will be entering a new phase – adolescence. This is another period where your young dog will continue to change and develop new behaviour. Management and supervision will still be necessary to encourage appropriate behaviour and build habits you want to keep. Management and routines will also help with your sanity.
Keeping up a positive routine of tucking your pup away in their resting area is important. Most young dogs will not be completely reliable in the home or have the skills necessary for all the situations that life will bring until they are much older. So keep the habit going and ensure to make it a positive one.
Having your pup progress to being able to share more of the home with you is something that everyone looks forward to. Take your time to ensure they are ready and you can set them up right. In this way, you will set them up for success and make the transition smooth and easy.
Are you actually thinking of how to let your dog have more free time in their regular living area? Stay tuned for Is It Time for More Free Time for Your Puppy? where I will walk you through how to successfully implement this.
For more ideas about moving your puppy forward with their housetraining, check out Housetraining High School
Need to help your pup learn to love their resting place? Read Why Puppy Play Pens Fail