Teaching Good House Behaviors: 4-9 Months

Four to nine months

At this age your puppy has boundaries in the home and is learning good house manners. During this time period your puppy is still inquisitive and going through a teenager phase. They might test boundaries and see what they can get away with in the home. Because of these changes it is important to give freedom in the home once it’s earned and the dog has proven they are consistently reliable.

At this age we are testing our pup’s house manners by giving them more freedom. If at any time your pup regresses please take a step back and assess why the mistake happened. Was the pup busied before allowed in a room? Did they get enough exercise? Was the pup rewarded enough for correct behavior? Was your correction for undesirable behavior effective and understood by the puppy?

Continue using Get SMART methods for reinforcing and teaching good house behaviors. Refer to the "Get SMART!" Article for more information.

  • Around 4 months the pup can start being introduced to dragging the leash in the home instead of being tethered to you.
    • Stepping on or picking up a leash is much easier than catching a puppy.
    • Pups in this age range tend to play games like keep away testing boundaries. Having a leash attached to them can stop that behavior almost immediately.
  • After they have proven to be reliable dragging the leash, you can start letting them off leash in small increments in puppy proofed rooms.
    • Start when the pup is relaxed so the pup can be closely supervised and set up for success.
  • Start setting the pup up successfully by closing doors to the room you’re in with them or using gates.
    • As the pup matures and has proven they are trustworthy you can start expanding the area they’re allowed in with you nearby.
  • As the pup starts to mature and has proven they are trustworthy in a room with the leash on you can start keeping the puppy in the same room you’re in with the leash off.
    • Start with a smaller room with the door closed or gate up so you can directly supervise their behaviors.
  • Consistently praise your puppy for offering the correct behavior without your guidance.
  • Start testing your puppy by using the following guidelines:


Preventing Destructive Behaviors Exercise

Goal: The puppy should learn to avoid forbidden objects, even if the items are at their level and on the floor. Being trustworthy in a home is an essential behavior for guide dogs and service dogs. There might be tempting items in the home that need to be left alone like shoes, trashcans, kid’s toys, etc.

All of our dogs must be trustworthy when left unsupervised. Seeding the floor helps the dog understand the desired behavior and teaches them to always select their toys when they chew on something.

Seeding the floor is an exercise that can start as young as 4 months of age. The exercise teaches pups to only chew on their toys, regardless of what is on the floor. After the first couple sessions, you can practice this throughout the week in various sessions like while you’re watching t.v., sitting at your kitchen table, or on your computer.

The exercise can become more complex as the dog matures and gets closer to their IFT date. The more you successfully practice this the better understanding the dog will have of what is acceptable to chew on and leave other items alone.

Setting Up for Success

  • Start with less tempting items like paper and then move to more tempting items like shoes, socks, kid’s toys, food containers.
  • Practice this exercise in various rooms of the house so the behavior and understanding is generalized.
  • When starting this exercise, do not use more than three or four forbidden objects. Pick out a few items that might be of interest to your puppy.
  • Use as many or more chew toys than forbidden items. Place the items on the floor with varying distance with approved toys as well. Each time you practice this activity use different forbidden objects, chew toys, and distance between the items.
  • Example: three Nylabones, a crumpled piece of paper, and dryer sheet all placed 1-2 feet away from each other.

Beginning Sessions

  • With the pup in the crate in another room, spread the items around so they are far enough away to be seen as different items by the pup.
  • Bring your pup into the room on a leash or dragline and allow them to investigate the items. It is best to stay on the floor so in the beginning you can respond if the puppy starts to pick up an object. Quickly progress to sitting, standing, and doing normal activities so your puppy does not learn to only ignore objects during training sessions.
  • If your puppy chooses a toy allow them to play with it for a few minutes and end the training session because they made the right choice. You can try again later that day or with different items.
  • Use verbal and physical praise when the pup shows interest in their toy.
  • If your puppy attempts to choose a forbidden item immediately interrupt the unwanted behavior. This may include a verbal "NO" and shorten the leash or take a small step back to prevent the puppy from reaching the item
  • Remember that timing is everything with correction – make sure you give the correction the moment they start to mouth or nose the object, before it reaches their mouth. If your expectations are clear your puppy will learn they cannot place the objects in their mouth.
  • If the pup does get a forbidden item in their mouth, simply remove the item. Do not give a correction or verbal cue or praise when you remove it. Take the item away, place it back on the floor, and ignore the pup. Puppies will often pick up items for attention so it’s important not to make a fuss about it. 
  • Do not replace the forbidden item with a toy. You have already established the expectation that forbidden items shouldn’t be picked up. If they pick up the item and get a toy in return at this age they are learning to pick up items for reward.
  • Continue the training exercise with consistent and firm corrections. Praise when they choose the right items and ignore the forbidden items.

Intermediate sessions

  • The pup should be on a longer leash or dragging the leash without you holding it.
  • Continue the verbal and/or physical praise for choosing the right toy. You can also play with the pup for a brief period with the toy they selected.
  • If the pup starts approaching an inappropriate item the handler should calmly pick up the leash. If the pup investigates and walks away praise the pup. If the pup starts mouthing or playing with the item take a step back and give a verbal “NO”.
  • Continue these sessions in various rooms of the house with different toys and forbidden items.
  • If the pup continues to seek out or choose inappropriate items over the toys you should go back to the beginning sessions to establish the pup’s understanding to pick the toys instead. Use high value physical praise and verbal praise as the pup investigates and chooses the right toys.