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Free Range Puppy Raising

Free Range Puppy Raising

Click on photos below to enlarge.

Email responses at the end of the rendering.

Through 41 years of raising Labrador Retriever puppies and 37 years of training over 20,000 dogs, the amount of experience accumulated can not adequately be summated in a few pages of text, to be honest even the thickest book would not cover every single situation that I have navigated through. In these pages I will cover the period of puppy raising that I enjoy the most.


The most pleasurable of experiences for me is the puppy raising stage between 6 weeks of age and then up to 8 weeks when they are placed with their new owners. The period of birth to 5 weeks is very memorable and of the utmost importance and I will cover that period in another fit of writer's angst.


Over the years through the old tried and true method of trial and tribulations I have developed my own method of raising and socializing litters of puppies so that they can be ready for as many eventualities as they will encounter in the outside world.


From the 6th week to the 8th week of age, I use a method that I have termed Free Range Puppy Raising. Free Range allows the litter of puppies to venture out as a group to a much larger area than they have been confined to previously.


There are all types of natural surfaces, obstacles, borders, fences, every day type objects and countless other things encountered in this natural setting.


From the photos below, a 6 week litter that has been confined to a small puppy yard measuring 20 by 20 feet with a roofed enclosure measuring 14 by 10 feet are for the very first time released into an area that is 75 feet by 150 feet or slightly smaller than a ¼ acre.


Before heading out to places unknown, the litter is fed and then encouraged to venture out through the open gate that separates their living area from the much larger enclosed area just beyond their fenced-in area.


At first the puppies are very apprehensive about their newest play area. Each moves out into the larger area at their own pace according to personality types. Some are more adventurous and explore at will, while others are more cautious and hang back until they feel the coast is clear.


For their first time out in the new area, they mostly stay within 20 feet of the entrance. At times some will retreat back to the safety of their own little world. Slowly but assuredly the pack of puppies will venture out further and further in a radial fashion from the entrance point.

Click on photos below to enlarge.


The whole time they are exploring their newest digs; mental notes are made about each puppy’s attitude and ways of coping with their environment. These observations create a “profile” about each puppy that will become instrumental in the puppy placement process with the prospective new owners.


Since puppies usually will potty within 20 minutes after eating, this venture/play times also serve as training for puppies to eat and then travel away to potty after eating.


These periods of exploration usually last about half an hour or so and then the puppies are encouraged to return to their familiar habitat where they are offered water.


Each day that the puppies are offered the Free Range periods, they naturally will increase the roaming area to eventually include the entire ¼ acre yard provided for them by the time they are 8 weeks old and ready for their new homes.


There are all types of natural and man-made encounters in this large expanse, including trees, bushes, small mounds, large boulders, sand, grass, mulched over areas, heavy wooded sections, ravines, steep inclines, concreted areas, wooden decks, plus objects such as chairs, tables, yard wagons, trailers, cars, dog pens and crates, fenced in runs with dogs in them and a myriad of other yard and house accruements that puppies and dogs need to get used to.


The litter is encouraged to follow me around the front yard to teach them the “leader of the pack” mentality. I create a natural path around this “territory” by traveling the same way every time we venture out. Every day we increase the length that we travel and the time that we spend on these jaunts.


This builds up a sense of pack where there is a leader to follow, it builds up a repertoire of experiences with different objects, it builds up a natural sense of confidence that will assuredly aid them in their acclimation to the real world once they leave Chambray Acres for places unknown to them.

Click on photos below to enlarge.


Photos above are the most recent litter being exposed to the large front yard for the very first time.


After their first exposure to a new world, they are led back to their own little world where they are used to living in.





Hi Chambray

Very interesting your method of raising puppies, what do other breeders do?

Emma Sutton, BC


Hi Emma

I guess it all depends on the space that people have. I know that at the big breeding kennels, they use the pen method because they don't have the time to spend with each litter as I do. As soon as the puppies reach 5 weeks of age, they are placed in pen lots that are about 10 X 12 until they are old enough to place. Although the litter is kept together for socialization purposes, they are not given the space to explore and develop a "big world" picture as they do with the Free Range method used for over 2 decades here at Chambray.

Other breeders totally raise their litters indoors where they also do not get the experiences afforded them with Free Range, also their natural immune system is not as developed being raised totally indoors.


Hi Mr Herzon

How much time do you typically spend with a litter per day?

Sue Miles

Hi Sue.

Ok, let's do a 24 hour clock with one of my litters that are 6 weeks old and up to 8 weeks.

  • 7 AM - the litters sleeps indoors in a 10 X 14 covered area. They are put up into this area at about 12 midnight. At 7 AM, they are let out into their 20 X 20 puppy yard where they receive the 1st feeding of the day. There is always water present in this puppy yard.

  • 7:30 AM - the litter is let out into the large 1/4 acre front yard. For the first few days they venture out on their own between 20 to 50 feet from the entrance to their puppy yard. This outing period last about 1/2 hour and allows them to pee and potty away from where they eat and live. Eventually by the 8th week, I will lead them all around the large expanse of the front yard and then leave them to their own resources for about and hour before leading them back to their smaller puppy yard where I can keep an eye on them.

  • At about noon, they are fed again and the same procedure of letting them venture out is repeated. Since it is the hottest part of the day, they really would like to just lay about and thus will return to their own puppy yard much quicker than the morning outing.

  • At around 5 PM they are fed again and the process is once again repeated, however this Free Range session lasts much longer, from 1 hour to 2 hours of free time out in the bigger roaming area.

  • They are led back into their puppy yard and eventually at around 12 midnight are led into the sheltered porch area where they will sack out for the rest of the night until morning.

  • Several times per day, either my daughter Jessie or I will take each puppy individually and perform the Puppy Leadership routine where we hold each puppy, stroke them all about, turn them on their backs all the while talking to them, they are then each released with the command "Ok". This establishes human leadership that can be later be transferred to the new owners with our continuing training and socialization classes.

Hi Chambray

I bought my puppy at a pet shop and they don't teach Free Range there, how can I teach ,my puppy this Free Range training way?


Hi Liz

Free Range is taught to puppies from the developmental period 6 to 8 weeks of age. Once you take the puppy home, you need to do either "crate training" or "space training", which are 2 different ways to "house break" a puppy! Usually at pet shops the puppies live in small cages or crates and really don't have much space to develop properly.


Hi Sandy

What a difference your puppies are to train! We added a Chambray puppy recently and within a day that puppy was trained to eat and want to go outside to do its business! Not so with Toby who we bought from another breeder 2 years ago. It took him forever to learn to potty out and for several weeks he would soil in his crate at night. Sabre our new Chambray puppy has never had an accident in his crate. We have been following your training methods and they are totally wonderful!

Mary & Dave


Mr Herzon

Recently I spoke with another breeder and they had never heard of this Free Range method. Could you explain?

Melanie S

Hi Melanie

Before Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, no one had ever seen the light before! Before Graham Bell invented the telephone, no one had ever heard a word through a telephone!!!! That's the case with Free Range Raising Puppies and numerous other innovative methods and ideas that I have come up with through 41 years of raising, training and exhibiting Labrador Retrievers. When you are the first, it takes a while for others to get it.


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