When you bring your puppy home, you want to simply let them run wild and free. For your own sake, however, you’ll want to limit your puppy’s freedom so they aren’t destroying everything. Here’s what you need to know about how much freedom should a puppy have and about the important stages of puppy freedom!
Every puppy parent’s experience will differ based on maturity level. Generally, you won’t want to let them have total freedom until they are at least 18 months old. If you feel your puppy is matured before then, you can shorten this time. The goal is to give them enough freedom for their maturity level.
Can you give puppies too much freedom?
Absolutely, yes. When you give your puppies too much freedom, you could be dealing with excess bathroom accidents, chewed-up belongings, causing unnecessary stress (to you and your dog), and even creating hazards in your home since dogs need to be protected from things much like children! Puppy proofing is a real thing.
Should a puppy be free in the house?
Your puppy should never be allowed to roam freely around your home unless they can meet a few important milestones (more on that later). Generally, though, your puppy should understand how the household works (such as schedules) and also be starting to learn basic potty training and obedience commands! Before this, they’re essentially going to be a loose cannon!
Types of restrictions a puppy should have
You’ll basically need to treat your puppy like you would treat a child. Puppy proof your home and ensure you are always aware of new hazards or risks as they arise. The biggest one is going to be chewing and destruction of your possessions!
Give them their own space where they are safe and can enjoy their life when you can’t supervise them every second. It’s not only essential, as you’ll learn, but healthy and happy for your pup!
Remember that restricting your puppy doesn’t mean that you are hurting them! Designate a room or a sectionable space (use a baby gate) so that your puppy can enjoy to their heart’s content. Line it with safe chew toys and lots of sleeping spaces, and enjoy the ability to let them hang out in their own space when you have other things to do.
Your puppy will be very happy in this kind of space, particularly because they are denning animals and will enjoy the security of this space just for them, rather than a shared space with noisy humans and other foreign household animals!
How much freedom should my puppy have?
Giving your puppy the right kind of freedom doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to look at the different stages of their first year and understand what freedom they can have safely and easily! This will help them as much as it will help them, so keep this in mind! We’ll get into that in more detail a little later on. For now, here are the stages to know about:
At this young age, puppies are still really young mentally and physically. They often won’t understand how to move around a space safely unless it’s been effectively puppy-proofed. They don’t understand basic commands or have any potty training. At this age, they’re still very much discovering the world. Your 2-month puppy shouldn’t have any freedom in your home at this age! Confined spaces only!
At this point, most puppies have had several weeks to get used to the household schedule and how things work. They can be allowed to have some exploration time around the home as long as it’s supervised and controlled (like on a leash). They still aren’t going to be mature enough to consistently follow commands and even basic potty training, so keep in mind that they should be supervised when out of their puppy zones.
This is when many puppy parents make the mistake of getting them free rein to roam around the home! However, this is still very young. To be sure, your puppy can have more supervised visits out of their space, but they shouldn’t be allowed to roam freely. Their potty training may still not be spot-on.
If you want to test your puppy at this point, you can get them to walk from their space to the door to go to the bathroom off a leash. Before doing this, clear any obvious distractions and pen off escape routes. Puppies at this age don’t understand stairs, which can lead to many injuries if they jump off a landing without understanding how anything works.
When your puppy graduates to being 5 months old, this is when you can gradually — remember that last word — start to see how your puppy does with more and more freedom. In addition to walking to the door with you to go out of the house, try allowing your puppy the ability to wander around the house on a leash. Start with 5-minute sessions and go all the way to 30 minutes at a time.
With your pup on a leash, allow them to explore various parts of the home each time, and don’t forget to test their obedience by using commands like “sit,” “come,” and “stay.” This will go into the next stage, where you’ll allow them more freedom to see what freedom feels like.
6 months -18 months
Any time after 6 months, your pup will grow up as far as maturity and proper understanding of the responsibility of freedom. They’ll be fully potty trained at this point and will listen to your commands when you give them. You can slowly give them more free-roaming potential around the house, off-leash. Don’t forget to test them regularly by calling them back and directing them back to their designated space.
You can allow them to wander unsupervised if you want to, but do this gradually and also pen off any rooms with delicate or important things. Your pup won’t realize that part of the house is still penned off anyway!
The whole house will be open to them at some point, and they can wander around during your gradually increasing roaming sessions. Still, pen your dog up when you leave or go to bed at night since that’s just asking for trouble!
18 months and onward
At this point, your pup is considered totally mature and should be well-behaved enough to wander freely around your home, its possessions, people, and pets without supervision. You can safely allow your dog to wander freely and easily without looking over your shoulder the whole time. The first days might be a bit tense, but you’ll surely see all your hard work on training go into effect where there are no disasters!
At what age do you give a puppy more freedom?
Regarding what time your puppy starts to “feel” their freedom, it will be right around the 6-month point. This is when they will understand that there is more to the house than the leash-led walks and the crate or space in which they’ve been spending their time! They’ll be so excited about this that they will see it as the best gift ever — and it is!
Remember that puppies don’t understand spaces the same way that we do. They honestly have no idea that an entire house is waiting for them. It’ll be like a brand new adventure every single day for them!
How do I know my puppy has too much freedom?
Now that you understand all about puppy freedom and the different stages, you’ll be able to get a feel for what kinds of things your puppy should be doing and when. But what if they’re an outlier? What if they tend to be immature? Here are some signs that they are being given too much freedom at any given age and stage:
- Destructive behavior
- Not listening
- Stress or anxiety
All these are warning signs that your puppy needs more control to expand their boundaries gently and enjoy some freedom in smaller, more manageable spurts. Regardless of their age, these are signs that things are moving too quickly for your puppy to keep track of.
How do I train my dog to be free in the house?
Training your dog to be free in your actual house itself is going to be about understanding the different forms of training. These are timing, tools, and training!
As mentioned above, different levels of time are recommended for age groups and how much they can explore. This timing is done to help your puppy gradually explore your house and keep from getting overwhelmed, overstimulated, and overexcited. While you can wiggle the timings a bit if your dog is extremely mature or immature, these are general guidelines to help you!
Don’t just let your dog run around randomly in your home during their exploration! You need to control them, and that means having tools. Most experts recommend a simple leash and collar since many are working on leash training at the same time. You’ll also want tools like baby gates or a crate to help your dog enjoy their own space that they can be in unsupervised.
As your puppy grows, you’ll want to ensure that their safe space is still big enough! Small dogs can get away with a large playpen, but medium and large dogs will need a room for this designated space.
The last component here is going to be ensuring your dog is properly trained when it comes to general obedience. Basic obedience training keeps your puppy under your control even when their excitement gets the best of them. You’re making the process harder for yourself and your dog if you don’t train basic commands. Dogs love obeying their humans, after all!
Is it okay to keep my puppy on a leash in the house?
Absolutely! This is how most will keep their puppies under control during this freedom exploration time. You’ll have plenty of time for them to be leash-free later in life, as well as now when they are in their own designated space. Remember that this can make general leash training easier, too!
Do you have to watch your puppy 24/7?
If your puppy is in their crate/designated space, you’re safe to leave them alone and unsupervised without worrying about them destroying anything. However, you must keep an eye on them if they are in an undesignated space.
As they get older, you’ll get a sense of what they go for more (ex: shoes), and they are okay to be around with no worries (ex: power cords). This will guide you more on understanding supervision for your dog!
Why are restrictions important?
Many people have let their dogs wander aimlessly around the house from the first day they get home, right? So what’s the big deal? Puppies can quickly become overstimulated and overwhelmed, leading to serious long-term health risks and drawbacks! If you neglect this careful freedom of exploring, you’ll face difficulties for your puppy in:
- Anxiety management (particularly separation anxiety)
- Obedience training
- Leash training
- The importance of social hierarchy (human and animal)
- Reward vs punishment
The most important thing to remember is that giving your puppy limited freedom at first will help them rather than hinder them. They won’t and can’t understand that their access to the rest of the house is unlimited. As long as they know they are getting dedicated love and time, they will be happy and healthy!
Puppies can roam the house with supervision at 6 months and then be allowed to roam freely, safely, and permanently at 18 months of age. Giving them too much freedom can cause them health deficits and make obedience training and leash training harder on you and your puppy. Understand the different stages o freedom in your puppy’s first 18 months of life!
Giving your puppy the right kind of freedom at the right age and stage will help create a happy, destruction-free home! These tips will help you make the most out of it. Know someone with a puppy in the throes of freedom training? Please share this with them to help!