The Benefits of Giving Your Puppy Choice

The Benefits of Giving Your Puppy Choice

What if I told you giving your puppy some control over their day would make them happier and even help make living with your puppy a little easier? It’s true! By simply giving your puppy choice you can ease some frustrations that go hand in hand with puppy raising. Let’s talk about the benefits of giving your puppy choice.

I can probably guess what you are already thinking. I hear it often from my puppy clients. Here are some common myths about giving puppies choice.

  • My puppy won’t respect me if I give them freedom of choice
  • Giving my puppy choice will spoil them
  • My puppy won’t look at me as a leader if they get to make choices
  • Giving my puppy choice will let them think they are the boss

I can certainly understand the thought process behind this. Of course there has to be some sort of structure, routine, and consistency if we want our puppies to learn how to live in our world, right? We don’t want our puppies to develop bad habits by letting everything be a free for all, right?

Here’s the good news. We are still going to provide a safe environment for our puppies. Puppies, just like children, do well with consistency and routine so we would never dream of taking that away.

We’re talking about giving choice, also known as ‘agency’.

What is ‘agency’?A cute puppy with a thoughtful expression, deciding between a toy and a pile of treats. The photo highlights "the benefits of giving your puppy choice" by allowing the puppy to choose between the toy and treats, promoting cognitive development and independence.

Agency means providing your puppy some choice over their day to day life. Your puppy has the ability to make choices and have control over certain aspects of their environment.

Of course, there are limits and rules to giving our puppies choice. We would never let puppies choose something that would compromise their safety. For example, we wouldn’t let them run into the street just because they want to run and play. We would not let puppies choose activities that harms their mental well-being or that allows them to practice unwanted behavior. For example, we wouldn’t let a puppy counter surf because they like to forage and scavenge.

Unfortunately, puppies often have very little choice or control over their day. You are in charge of your puppy’s daily routine and activities.

Ways People Control Their Puppy’s Day

Puppy parents already control every aspect of their puppy’s day. Let’s look at examples of all the control you have. You control:

  • When your puppy eats
  • The time they wake up in the morning
  • What toys your puppy play with
  • If your puppy can go for a walk
  • When your puppy goes out to potty
  • If they can have treats
  • Whether or not they can have something to chew on
  • When they get to run and play in the yard
  • What food they eat
  • When you provide attention or affection
  • How long their walks are
  • Whether or not they can have a play day
  • If they can say hello to people on their walks
  • When they get to go for rides with you in the car
  • Where they are allowed to sleep
  • How much time they get to play in the yard
  • The time they go to bed at night

Your puppy has little to no control in anything they do. We structure every aspect of their day.

Why Should You Give Your Puppy Choice?

We can improve our puppy’s well-being by giving them some control. Giving a puppy choice also helps to build their confidence. Furthermore, it can also help your puppy feel more safe in some scenarios.

Ways to Give Your Puppy ChoiceGiving your puppy choices during walks can provide a sense of independence and empowerment, leading to improved confidence and overall well-being. This photo shows a white puppy thoughtfully considering which path to take, as indicated by the "which way" sign with three options. By allowing puppies to make decisions and explore different paths, we can foster their natural curiosity and provide opportunities for mental stimulation and enrichment.

  • Let them choose between several stuffed toys to see which one they want to play with
  • Provide a few non-edible chew toys so your puppy can determine what will satisfy their chewing needs
  • Allow your puppy to taste test a different treat options to see which one will be optimal for training that day
  • Let your puppy pick which way they want to go on a walk
  • Provide a couple of comfy dog beds so your puppy can choose their sleeping preference
  • Bring several toys outside to play with your puppy so they can pick which is the most fun
  • Give your puppy the option to say hello to strangers instead of letting random people come into their space or insisting they interact with new people for the sake of socialization
  • Let your puppy decide if they want to say hi to friendly dogs so they aren’t overwhelmed by unfamiliar dogs coming into their space
  • Provide your puppy with the opportunity to turn around on a walk and go back home if they are hesitant to move forward
  • Set up and expen around your puppy’s crate or place it in the kitchen/laundry room so your puppy can have the option of staying in the crate or coming out during the crate training process

These last 4 scenarios are examples of how giving choice can help your puppy feel more safe and build confidence.

These are just some examples of ways simple ways you can give your puppy choice.

Can you think of any other ways you can provide choice to your puppy?

Safety First

As you can see, giving your puppy autonomy doesn’t mean they get to run amuck and cause chaos. As puppy parents, it our responsibility to ensure our dogs are safe, happy, and healthy. Giving your puppy choice doesn’t mean letting them make decisions that will harm them.

In Summary… Giving Your Puppy Choice

Giving your puppy more choice in their daily life is essential for their wellbeing and overall happiness. It can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, improve their responsiveness, and strengthen the bond between you and your puppy.

By giving your puppy the ability to make simple, safe choices, you can help them feel more confident, stimulated, and content. A few tweaks to your puppy’s day to allow them choice will help your puppy lead a happier and healthier life.

Puppies are cute, but they don’t come with instruction manuals. Need some help? Yes, send in the reinforcements.