How Much Freedom Should a Puppy Have? 3 Examples to Help You Decide | Pupford
March 14th, 2023
Filed under Podcasts
There’s one question I wish I would have thought about more when I first got a new puppy… “how much freedom should my puppy have?”.
But, then new pup parent life started happening, and quickly!
Stressing about vet appointments, searching for healthy dog treats, and trying to save my hands from all the .
If every new pup parent took a deep breath and gave sincere thought to how much freedom they’re giving their new puppy, there would be MUCH less stress (and ruined furniture) in the long run.
So, let’s dive into the space and freedom you give (or don’t give) your pup. Here’s what we will cover and answer:
- What we mean by “freedom”
- How much freedom should a puppy have?
- What age can you gives puppies more freedom?
- Should I keep my puppy confined or let them free roam?
- How to set boundaries with a puppy
Let’s get right to it. ⬇️
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WHAT WE MEAN BY “FREEDOM”
Before we go further, we need to define what we mean by “freedom” in this context.
Freedom can be defined here as the opportunity to roam, explore, and have access to parts of your home, yard, or a dog’s environment.
You can interchange the words opportunity, space, free roam, access, lack of supervision, and other similar words.
Think of it this way, if your dog isn’t confined, controlled, or under your direct supervision, they have “freedom”.
HOW MUCH FREEDOM SHOULD A PUPPY HAVE?
When wondering how much freedom a puppy should have, remember this…
The more freedom you give, the more opportunities you give a puppy to make mistakes.
That’s things that aren’t really your pup’s fault (more on that later), but things we would see as problem behaviors. Things like , potty accidents, biting and nipping at kids, you name it!
So to put it another way, your puppy should only have as much freedom as you’re willing to allow destruction and other problem behaviors to occur.
I’d argue that the single biggest mistake pup parents make is giving too much freedom to their puppies!
EXAMPLES OF GIVING A DOG TOO MUCH FREEDOM
Let’s look at a few examples. 👇
Example 1 - Potty Accidents
There are few dog-related things less fun than
The next time you find a pee stain on the carpet try to not get upset, but instead, ask yourself “where did I give my puppy too much freedom?”...
#1- Maybe you got distracted and let them roam free right after feeding them a meal.
#2- Maybe you had to leave in a hurry and forgot to put them in their crate.
#3- Maybe you had friends over and wanted to let them hang out with your puppy in the living room where your dog usually isn’t allowed to go.
See the point here?
Often potty training mistakes occur because we give too much freedom. How could we have solved those problems above?
For #1- Next time, try setting a timer for 5 minutes once you put your puppy’s bowl of food down. Once the timer goes off, take your puppy out on a leash.
Or, try feeding your puppy on a leash if you seem to get distracted after putting down their bowl. If they’re next to you, you’ll be likely to remember to take them out!
For #2- Practice crate training methods and as a failsafe, have their crate in an x-pen or puppy-proofed room where accidents won’t be as much of a problem.
For #3- Try having your guests play with your puppy outside, where potty accidents can’t happen.
Example 2 - Destructive Behaviors
Puppies explore the world with their mouths. Just like how babies will try to grab anything they can find and put the said thing in their mouths, our puppies do the same thing just with their mouths!
So the next time you stumble upon a chewed-up shoe try not to get upset, but instead ask yourself “where did I give my puppy too much freedom?”...
#1- Maybe you were on a work call and took your eye off your puppy for a few moments, and the next thing you knew they’re chewing up a shoe.
#2- Maybe you put your puppy in the backyard and had to run inside to grab something, you came back out to find your
#3- Maybe you decided not to crate train your puppy and instead used baby gates to keep them in a certain room, but they still chewed up the edge of your new kitchen table (this certainly 100% happened in our house once 🙃).
Often the destructive behaviors we get frustrated with are our own fault… What could you have done differently for those 3 examples?
For #1- If you are doing something where you can’t give a young puppy your full attention, they shouldn’t have the freedom to roam. So if a work call is coming up, put your puppy in their crate, playpen area, or at least a puppy-proofed room.
For #2- Many times we think to ourselves that if we’re outside in a fenced-in area there is little trouble our puppies can get into… Oh, how wrong we often are!
Even in a fenced-in area, it’s good practice to use a long lead with your puppy. is a powerful way to control situations while still giving your puppy some freedom. But just some.
For #3- If you , step back and objectively look at the area you will leave your puppy when alone. Is there anything your puppy could possibly (even if not likely) destroy?
If the answer is yes, then it will probably be destroyed.
The freedom to explore even a small room will allow your puppy to get into some precarious situations.
When our dogs were puppies we allowed them to freely roam our kitchen and laundry rooms (connected rooms). There was a dog door to go outside as well through this area.
When we would leave we would be completely sure to pick up all the shoes, books, and anything that our pups could get their mouths on. We neglected to realize that if a , they’ll even chew on a brand-new kitchen table.
Puppies are curious. Curiosity leads to destruction.
That is where the use of crates or at least a playpen or x-pen is SO valuable. You shrink the physical area where your puppy can be and therefore shrink the number of opportunities they’ll have to destroy something!
It’s much easier to remove all chewable and destructible items from a 5-square-foot area than an entire room. 😅
Example 3 - Not Coming Back When Called
Recall or what’s also referred to as is not a naturally-born behavior for dogs. They would much rather run after whatever they’re running after than come back to boring-ol-human-you!
Sometimes when you call your dog and they don’t come back you think frustratedly to yourself that you have been practicing recall… They should have come back!
Can you objectively say that your
Odds are they don’t have enough practice, repetition, and reinforcement to truly have a solid recall. So, you probably gave too much freedom…
And the worst part is, every time you call your dog and they don’t come back you make it less likely they’ll come back in the future.
That is where a long lead is a lifesaver!
allows you to, again, give your dog some freedom without being able to completely escape and run away from you when outside!
So if I had to boil the question down to one simple, concise answer…
Your puppy should only have as much freedom as you’re willing to allow destruction and other problem behaviors to occur.
And while of course, our dogs need the freedom to learn and make some mistakes, there’s a fine line between exploration and learning compared to freedom just because we’re being lazy or misguided in how well-behaved we think our pups are. 😀
WHAT AGE CAN YOU GIVE PUPPIES MORE FREEDOM?
So your next question is probably when you can give your puppy freedom. At what age can you start to let your pup explore a bit more?!
The simple answer is probably later/older than you think! Here’s why. ⏬
When you can let your puppy have more freedom is a 100% case-by-case situation. There are many factors to consider when making this decision. Here are some:
- How many trouble/problem behaviors could the specific situation allow for if I decide to give more freedom than I usually do?
- Does my dog understand proper behavior when it comes to where and when to go potty?
- Is my ? If so, this can lead to even more destruction!
- Has my dog shown, for a consistent period of time, an understanding of what items should and should not be chewed?
See how complex each answer might be… That’s why there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for when you can give a puppy more freedom!
Some puppies catch on very quickly and can be afforded more freedoms as young as 6 months or so.
Other puppies frankly haven’t had enough training and may not be ready for a heavy helping of freedom until they’re about 18 months old.
And further, some dogs just can’t handle freedom. While that can be from a combination of a lack of training, breed tendencies, or even a history of problem behaviors, the fact remains that some dogs can’t handle freedom.
Some dogs may never be able to have the full freedom of being in a non-fenced area. And that can be okay!
What’s more important is that as pup parents we are aware of our dog’s individual strengths and weaknesses and raise them accordingly. And of course, work to provide proper training and teaching so that the “weak” behaviors can become the strong ones. 💪
As a general rule, it takes most puppies about 12-24 months of age, paired with consistent learning and training, to be ready for more freedom. But again, each dog is unique and you shouldn’t rush it!
If you’re unsure, I’d recommend finding a local dog trainer in your area who follows LIMA protocol and abides by positive reinforcement-based methods to give you specific advice.
Important note: I want to be clear, it is not okay to not train your dog and then completely limit their freedom because they haven’t been taught how to behave. We have a responsibility as pup parents to teach our dogs how we want them to behave and to do it in a
If you need extra help with training, please sign up for the 100% free class 30 Day Perfect Pup. It covers topics like leash training, recall, potty training, and even limiting your puppy’s freedom.
SHOULD I KEEP MY PUPPY CONFINED OR GIVE THEM FREE ROAM?
At this point, you should know the answer!
Using confinements is the right thing to do. But that doesn’t mean shoving your puppy in a crate for 12+ hours a day though…
Confinements come in all shapes and sizes.
It can be a crate.
It can be a meticulously puppy-proofed room (just know, anything they can access they might destroy).
It can be a playpen or x-pen set up in a part of the house with flooring that won’t be damaged by potty accidents.
It can be tethering your dog to you with a leash when you decide to give a little more freedom in the home.
It can be using a long lead outside instead of letting them run off-leash.
It can be giving them the freedom to run around your fenced-in backyard but having a physical barrier so they can’t access the garden or flowers.
See what we’re getting at here? 😁
Confinements are tools to help your puppy succeed! And setting your puppy up for success is one of the most powerful ways to avoid problem behaviors and raise a well-mannered dog!
And additionally, confinements help your young and learning puppy stay away from things like , , and other dangerous items. It’s not just about avoiding destruction and potty messes, it’s also about keeping your puppy safe!
HOW TO SET BOUNDARIES WITH PUPPIES
Going along the same line as previous sections, setting boundaries with puppies (especially young puppies) is all about limiting access.
While you might think some simple will be sufficient, be careful to not fall into the trap of giving too much freedom to your puppy.
If you want to have 100% certainty they won’t rip up your new rug, don’t give them access to it at a young age.
If you want to have 100% certainty your dog won’t chew your new sneakers, don’t give them access to them at a young age.
If you want to have 100% certainty your , don’t give them access to do that at a young age (again, use a ).
As your pup ages and learns, you can certainly do things to teach limits and boundaries. Watch this video below from Zak George to learn all about that.
Again, relying on physical barriers and contaminants is often the best way to set boundaries with your puppy in the early stages of training and development.
As they progress and start to show a true understanding of behaviors, boundaries, and rules, then you can start to slowly and incrementally provide more freedom.
RECAP OF HOW MUCH FREEDOM PUPPIES SHOULD (NOT) HAVE
When I was a teenager, I could get a driving learner’s permit at around 15 years old. But how much “freedom” did that really afford?
I couldn’t drive after 10 pm, I couldn’t drive with anyone under 18 in the car, and I had to have an adult in the car with me at all times.
While I still had the ability to gain experience and make some mistakes on the road, I was not afforded full freedom!
So as you decide how much freedom your puppy should have, look to driving learner’s permits as a great example.
If you have one takeaway from this article, my hope is that it would be to give your puppy less freedom instead of more. As you set your dog up for successful learning opportunities, you’ll be able to avoid destruction and undesirable “learned behaviors” and be well on your way to training a well-mannered pup.
While puppyhood can seem like forever, your dog will progress and learn and the time will certainly arrive where you feel confident in giving your pup more freedom.
If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the free 30 Day Perfect Pup online training class. You’ll get access to videos covering biting and nipping, leash walking and even potty training.
What mistakes or destructive behaviors did your puppy do because they had too much freedom? Share in the comments below.