In my domain, my dogs have always earned freedom. What does that mean?
It means that before Tucker earned unsupervised free run of the whole house, he had to show good unsupervised behavior in my bedroom.
And before he earned unsupervised free run of my bedroom, he had to show good partially supervised behavior in my bedroom.
And before he earned partially supervised behavior in my bedroom, he stayed in his kennel when I wasn’t able to watch him – because that was the safest place for him (and my stuff).
It would surprise most people to know that Tucker was not left outside of his kennel if I wasn’t home until he was somewhere between 2-3 years old. Why? Because I knew his kennel was safe, and when he was an adolescent, I didn’t 100% trust him not to stick his head in a trashcan or steal some kleenex.
I have received numerous calls, emails, and text messages from folks who have provided their dog (usually a puppy) with too much freedom too fast. Young dogs are like children – they get distracted, they “forget” rules, and they are easily tempted. You shouldn’t feel guilty for limiting your dog’s unsupervised freedom – it can save you money and your dog injury! I have heard of dogs destroying couches, digging through walls, and even ingesting foreign objects – all because they were trusted too soon.
But here’s the reality folks – as you begin providing freedom, you may have great success for a while and then your puppy does something very “puppy.” So what then? Just like a parent with an unruly teenager, it’s okay to take freedom AWAY again for a time until you feel it can be handled appropriately again.
Ellie just turned a year old this past Saturday. She’s a firecracker, so she has not been given much freedom yet. It’s only been in the past few months that she’s even been trustworthy enough to leave in the living room while I walk down the driveway to get the mail. Lately, she had been showing much improved maturity – so the hallway gate blocking off half the house was used less frequently and fewer doors were closed when she was out of her kennel.
This morning I took a phone call from a client. I didn’t realize that Ellie was no longer in sight until the call ended – less than 10 minutes. I found her ripping up Tucker’s bed in the back room. So what now?! We’ll take away some freedom – we’ll spend a while using the gate again and closing more doors – and when she has gone a while without an incident, we will slowly begin providing more freedom again.
Restrictions and boundaries aren’t mean folks – they’re a safety net for you AND your dog. Don’t feel guilty – feel in control!