There's so much to think about and so many new experiences when you bring home your puppy that you may forget an important part of puppy homecoming: establishing a routine. Your new canine family member needs structure to feel secure and know what's expected of him. The best way to do this is to create a schedule and stick to it. The first few weeks with your new puppy is the time to start establishing good behaviors. By the way, the puppy is not the only one who benefits from a schedule; it also helps every member of the household understand his or her responsibilities. You won't have to plan out every moment of your pup's day, but there are a few important areas where a schedule can make the difference between a well-adjusted dog and chaos.
Your Puppy's Feeding Schedule
Unlike mature dogs that eat once or twice a day, most puppies need to eat three times a day. Make it easier to remember by planning his mealtimes around your own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Wash out his water bowl and make sure it's filled with clean water, too.
Schedule Potty Breaks
Keep to a regular routine of taking your puppy outside every two-to-four hours. This is especially important during house training and will keep accidents to a minimum.
Playtime Is Important, Too!
Your puppy needs exercise and interaction with you. A word of caution: Be sure to check with your breeder or veterinarian before indulging in rigorous exercise. Some experts recommend waiting until a dog is about one year old before playtime gets rowdy. Also, different dog breeds have different energy levels. But do schedule play and exercise time into your puppy's day: a walk around the neighborhood, playing with toys, and time spent bonding with you are important.
Naps And Bedtime
Young puppies sleep a great deal of the time; in fact some will sleep as much as 16-to-18 hours a day. Plan on quiet nap times for him several times during the day. Family members, especially young children, should learn not to disturb him when he's sleeping. He needs his rest!
When it comes to bedtime, some owners set a specific time to settle their puppy down for the night. Others just want him to sleep when they sleep. It may be easier to set a puppy bedtime and help him get used to the routine.
Do I Have to Make a Schedule For My Puppy?
Keep in mind that high jinks from an adorable puppy or little “accidents” will not seem so adorable when he's a full-grown dog. The sooner you set a schedule, the sooner he'll adjust to his new family and you to him. Routine makes it easier for everyone, humans included, to know what's acceptable behavior and what's expected.
A Sample Puppy Schedule
- First thing in the morning: Take the puppy out to relieve himself. If you have a little time, it's also a good time to play and interact with him.
- Breakfast time: Wash his water bowl and give him clean water when you feed him.
- After breakfast: Although everyone is busy in the morning getting ready for work or school, a quick walk after breakfast gives him a chance to do his business one more time.
- Mid-morning: The rest of the morning might be devoted to nap time. If you're home during the day, your puppy may want to hang out with you while you're working or doing your morning chores. He'll also need to go out at least one more time before lunch. If everyone leaves the house for the day, consider having a pet sitter to come in and walk him.
- Noon: Lunchtime. Naturally, a trip outside should follow a meal.
- Mid-afternoon: It's probably nap time again. And time to go out — again.
- Dinner: If you arrange his mealtimes around yours, it will become natural to feed him either while you're preparing dinner or while the household is eating.
- Evening: Potty break, of course. The early evening is a good time for play and lots of interaction. You also want to let him burn off some puppy energy before bedtime. If you have time, an evening stroll gives him exercise and a chance to take a potty break. But schedule at least a few minutes outdoors before bed.
- Bedtime: A set bedtime makes his adjustment and house training easier for everyone; whether it's 8 p.m. or midnight, it doesn't matter, as long as it becomes a routine. Take him to his crate and help him settle down for the night.
By setting the schedule as soon as your puppy comes home, you'll be on your way to a happy, well-adjusted dog. It's worth putting in the time and effort right now and not waiting until he's older, bigger, and set on less acceptable behaviors.