Puppies are naturally inquisitive so will strain at the leash outdoors, try to get through doors in the house, whine in their crate, and generally want to do whatever it is they want to do. You can’t blame them, the world’s an exciting place.
But for you as an owner, this can be exhausting. It’s tempting to give them their independence, and let them have as much freedom as they want. But is this setting you up for more challenges in the future, and should a puppy be free in the house, or have as much freedom as they want?
How much freedom should a puppy have? How much freedom you decide to give your puppy will depend on their age, how well trained they are, and the set-up of your home and what the risks are in it. I personally would not give a puppy total freedom until 12 to 18 months of age.
It’s very much a personal decision, but if you are asking yourself does your puppy have too much freedom and how independent they should be, the answer is probably yes, and let me explain why below.
Can you give puppies too much freedom?
Yes, you can give puppies too much freedom. In fact, you might be setting yourself up for a fall if you give them free roam and independence in your house.
I’ve learned the hard way, that when you give puppies too much freedom it can affect their confidence in different ways, and lead to anxiety. It’s because you have given them too much choice, far beyond what their developing brains can deal with.
As a result, you get behavior that can be very challenging, because you are not there to teach them right from wrong.
If I can give you one example with the first puppy we ever had. We didn’t have a crate in our kitchen, and there was no crate training (wish I’d know what I know now).
As a 3-month-old puppy he had all the freedom in the world to explore the house. Aside from the peeing and chewing that happened, he’d also react when the doorbell rang with excitement.
He’d run to the door, try to get out, and leap all over the visitor.
At 18 months of age, he was bigger and still doing this… all because we’d made the mistake of giving him too much freedom.
Based on this, I don’t believe you should give a 3-month-old puppy freedom to walk about your house. It will end in tears and frustration – for you and the pup.
Ultimately, if your puppy has too much freedom, he can roam about the house, barking out of windows, running to the door, intercepting mail as it comes through the letterbox, and generally doing what he wants with no chance for you to correct bad behavior.
How much freedom should a 4-month-old puppy have?
I don’t believe puppies of 4 months old should have any freedom to wander your home. This is peak age for destruction, peeing, and learning behaviors that will form their later years.
At this age, they should be crate trained, and even confined to one room most of the time, unless it’s under your supervision of course.
Puppies don’t tend to stop teething until they are 6 months, some even later. However, even when they have stopped teething, puppies still like to chew and bite things. If your puppy is still in that mode, don’t let your 4-month-old puppy have the freedom to walk about the house without you.
Puppies at 4 months still won’t be potty trained.
But you know your puppy best. If he’s still peeing on the floor, your puppy should not have the freedom to explore the house, even when you are at home.
You should also consider the dangers in your home including stairs. Puppies can often climb stairs with no problem, but it can result in a dangerous fall.
If your puppy has freedom of the house, everything needs to be locked down. And by that, I mean windows, balconies, and potential escape routes.
Unlike older dogs, puppies don’t have a concept of how heights can be dangerous as it takes time for them to develop distance perception. It’s not unheard of for puppies to jump from balconies and get seriously injured.
When to give your puppy more freedom
The final decision on when to give your puppy more freedom is a case-by-case basis. Before you make your mind up, here’s some more detail including some tips on how to do it and how to puppy-proof your home.
The parameters of giving your puppy more freedom in the house
I recommend you are completely confident that your puppy is house trained and the home puppy-proofed before you give them too freedom in the home.
House training, in this case, includes the following:
- Training your puppy to always poop or pee in your preferred location.
- Providing a crate or playpen in one area of the house to make your pup familiar with one place for first.
- Teaching your pup to avoid chewing inappropriate objects.
The goal of house training is to let your pup learn proper manners. When you choose to introduce your pup to every room in the house from the word go without training, you’re asking for two things — your puppy getting hurt and your house turning into a hot mess!
Confining your pup in a crate for at least six months
It’s advisable to train your pup to stay in a crate or playpen for about six months. To make your pup feel secure, consider setting up the crate or playpen where you spend most of your time — for instance, in the living room.
Be sure to fill the crate with appropriate chew toys and scratching posts to keep your fur baby entertained. It will make your life a lot easier to get this cracked.
Should a puppy be confined to one room?
No, a puppy should not be confined to one room. They should be walked, and inside the house you can put them on a lead to introduce them to new rooms. No puppy should spend the entire day confined in one space.
Make sure you create time for leisure walks and play sessions, whether indoors or outdoors (make sure they have their always leash on)
Most importantly, crate training also makes it easier for you to observe and guide your pup to take potty breaks in the right place. You shouldn’t let your puppy have the freedom to roam about the house if they aren’t fully potty trained.
When can my puppy have freedom around the house?
Some people will let their puppy explore the house at six months, but under strict supervision, and possibly even on a leash.
If it’s been six months of house training your pup, and you’ve noticed they are responding well to your rules — they aren’t destroying items in your living room and are fully-potty trained – then now would be the perfect time to introduce them to other rooms.
Start by showing them to one room at a time as you closely supervise them. Strict supervision means taking them on leash and not letting them out of your sight.
Make sure they have their leash so you can quickly intervene when they misbehave or start showing signs of wanting to take a toilet break.
Take a few minutes to observe how they behave while in the new environment.
When your furry companion meets your expectations, you can gradually introduce them to other areas in the house. Let this be supervised freedom too, until you’re confident that your pup behaves well whenever you allow them to move from one room to another.
Plus, be consistent in correcting undesirable chewing behaviors as your pup explores each room.
When to let a puppy roam free in your home
Once you realize your pup has had several destruction-free days, it’s a sign you can trust them to stay out of trouble when they have the freedom to walk around the house.
When this is the case, it’s perfectly fine to reward your pup with longer unsupervised roaming time in the puppy-proofed areas in your home.
Handy Hint: Whilst it can be fun when they are very young, it’s not a good idea to let your puppy bite your hands, even if it is during play.
Puppy-proofing your house
Even though your pup is fully house-trained, they’re likely to run into accidents if you haven’t taken any safety precautions around the house.
Puppy proofing is all about ensuring your home is puppy-friendly so that your furry pal (and your stuff) is safe when the can go from room to room.
If your home isn’t puppy-proofed, your roaming pup can:
- Choke on objects and suffocate.
- Swallow something sharp that can cause internal bleeding.
- Ingest a poisonous product (such as an ant trap).
- Get hurt when a heavy item accidentally falls on them.
Here’s how you can make your home safe for your furry family member:
- Decide on the spaces you don’t want your pup to access and make the area inaccessible by keeping the doors always locked. If it’s an open space, consider setting up a baby gate that’s at least high enough to prevent your pup from jumping over.
- Make sure your indoor trash bin lids are tightly secured. This will ensure your pup doesn’t knock over your bin and chew on dangerous items in the trash.
- Gather all unused power cables and wires, tie them up with duct tapes, and hide them where your pup can’t reach them.
- Tuck any visible electrical wires behind your furniture and use electrical tape to secure hanging wires protruding from spoiled sockets.
- Keep your bathroom door closed at all times to prevent your pup from ingesting hazardous items like cotton swabs, soaps, blue toilet water, and spilled pills.
- Ensure all your household cleaning products and medications are always inaccessible.
- Find a safe space for all your valuable accessories like earrings which are small enough for your pup to accidentally swallow.
- Get rid of any small-yet-sharp ingestible items away from places where your pup can reach without struggling — like on the floor, your bookshelf, or coffee table. Such items include coins, razor blades, scissors, and paper clips.
- Be aware that some dogs are known to eat through drywall. If you have this in your house, be careful about where you let your puppy have freedom in the home.
- If you’re a fan of houseplants and have several in the house, take time to research whether any of your plants are poisonous to puppies, and get rid of them.
When can my puppy explore the house?
Your puppy can explore the house when he’s fully house trained, and your home is puppy proofed. House training will help your pup stick to acceptable potty habits and chewing behaviors as they roam the house.
I’ve also written in depth about “exploring”.
Should I let my puppy roam the backyard?
You can take young puppies out into the backyard as long as they are supervised in a safe area. As they get older, puppies can have the freedom to roam the backyard providing the yard is secure and safe.
You’ve brought home your new furry friend and can’t wait to spend every waking moment with them in your house. While you want your pup to feel at home, it’s not always a good idea to let them have complete independence and freedom of the house.
People have different views on whether you should let a puppy be independent to walk about. It’s a personal thing, and will depend on your puppy’s develop, your training, and their personality.