You just brought home a little bundle of joy. You got all the necessities on The Ultimate Puppies Today New Puppy Checklist checked off. You’ve already checked out our blog on the first night with your puppy. The question most new dog owners ask? “Just got a new puppy…now what?”!
At Puppies Today, we want to guide you in establishing the perfect puppy routine. By setting a great routine early in your puppy’s life, you can help set them up for success from puppydom into adulthood.
Just like humans, puppies thrive with routine! Your puppy routine will focus on consistency. In the same way that a newborn baby needs a routine, a puppy needs a routine that focuses on reward over punishment, consistency, and lots of love. We will cover everything you need to know about establishing routines when it comes to the basics.
Your New Puppy Routine
- 8 AM: Potty break right after waking up, breakfast, more potty, playtime, and crate time.
- 10 AM: Potty break and going on a socialization outing or explore the house.
- 12 PM: Lunch time, potty break, and playtime followed by naptime in the designated den.
- 4 PM: Potty time, walk/training/socialization outing.
- 6 PM: Dinner time, potty time, and calm play session to get out the evening wiggles.
- 8 PM: Potty time, walk, and last chance to use the water bowl before it goes away for the night. Try to keep your puppy away until bedtime!
- 10 PM: Final potty break and bedtime in the designated den.
- Night: Your puppy will likely wake you up for a potty break in the night.
One of the benefits of putting your pup on a schedule is that they will know when it is time to play, time to eat, and time to go potty. Whether you are using a potty pad or the great outdoors, having consistency early in life will pay off as your puppy ages. According to the American Humane Society, a puppy can control their bladder for one hour for every month of age. So if you have a three-month-old puppy, they need to go potty every three hours. Besides paying attention to the time between pees (consider setting a timer on your phone!), consider setting them up for success by doing the following.
- Choose a specific spot for potty breaks. If your dog has a certain spot in the yard they associate with going potty, they will have a better idea of knowing what they are supposed to do when they are lead to that spot. Consider leashing them and walking them to that spot (even if that spot is a potty pad!) so that they will also associate taking walks on the leash with going potty. And when they do go potty outdoors…
- Reward them to reinforce positive behaviors. Once your puppy has finished peeing (wait till they have finished so they won’t get distracted), reward them immediately! Don’t wait to give them their treat- you want them to associate the action of going potty with reward, not going inside. In the same vein, never punish your puppy (or adult dogs) for accidents. A dog’s brain works differently than ours, and its means of establishing cause and effect are different. That means that if your puppy pees inside and you come home from work and punish them, they will associate you coming home with getting punished— NOT with peeing. If they do pee inside, clean it up and reevaluate what you can do to set your dog up for success next time.
- Establish Bedtime Routines. Pick up your puppy’s water dish 2 hours before bedtime and take your puppy out for a walk right before bed. According to PetMD, your puppy should be able to sleep seven hours without relieving themselves and will have full bladder control by 4-6 years of age. If your puppy does wake you in the middle of the night to go potty, don’t punish them (you don’t want them to be afraid to tell you when they have to go), but don’t make a big deal of it either (you don’t want them to think its playtime). While daytime potty break treats are encouraged, stick to praise for middle-of-the-night sojourns— otherwise, you will find yourself getting woken up every time your pup wants a snack!
Speaking of nighttime snacks- your puppy is going to be hungry! Along with needing to sleep and relieve themselves, your puppy needs to be fed frequently. Your Puppies Today welcome kit will include dog food, a high-calorie supplement, a feeding guide, and special instructions for certain breeds. According to Fetch by WedMD, Puppies should eat three times a day from weaning through four to six months. After six months, twice-a-day feedings are fine. If your schedule prevents you from being able to feed your puppy so frequently, consider an automatic pet feeder. Your puppy is a growing little boy or girl, and they will need lots of calories to maintain healthy growth and stay strong. Your puppy needs to be fed special puppy food, and at a rate of 2x what an adult dog needs per pound. Your dog food bag should have a feeding chart, but if you need any help, contact one of our Puppies Today Pawfessionals to see what your puppy needs for its size and breed.
When you get your puppy, the natural instinct is to want to spend every second of time with them. They boost serotonin, alleviate loneliness, and can even make you more attractive to others. But puppies, just like humans, need their downtime. While playtime is great (we recommend the morning and early afternoon), your puppy will have a great life if you can train them early to relax by themselves and entertain themselves. Giving them alone time is actually a great way to prevent separation anxiety and help them to become independent when it comes to keeping themselves busy and entertained (if you’ve ever had a friend with a needy dog, you know how important that is).
- Gradually Increase Alone Time- Start small, and leave your puppy alone for gradually increasing increments of time. A monitor like a camera or baby monitor is a good way to keep tabs on them without actually being there. If they seem to be experiencing excessive distress, consider calling our training hotline for tips on reducing separation anxiety.
- Have a Safe Space. Crates are a great tool in training your puppy. It replicates the warm, safe feeling of a den while also protects your sofa from becoming a casualty of teething. You want their crate to give your dog warm and fuzzy feelings, so be sure to introduce it in a positive way. If you don’t want to crate train, be sure to create some other safe and small area of confinement in the house— and don’t forget to put fun toys and puzzles in it!
- Hire a Helper– Conversely, if you feel like your dog is getting too much alone time, you can always hire a doggy walker or a pet-sitter. This is also a great tool to help with socialization and independence.
Your puppy has likely gone on a long journey to get to you. One of the first things you’ll notice about your puppy is that they sleep… and sleep… and sleep. This might cause concern for some owners, but you can relax knowing that this is a normal sign of a perfectly healthy dog. According to the AKC, dogs spend 50% of their lives snoozing. They also have normal sleep patterns like humans- they enter REM, they have routines, and they even have dreams. Aim for a wind-down routine that begins at around 8 PM, and avoid any rowdy play before bed— you want your little one to start creating their own natural rhythm that saves the zoomies for the morning. We recommend giving them a 6 PM dinner (set a recurring timer in your phone), followed by a potty break or a long walk. Take away the water bowl at around 8:00 PM (see the section below about potty breaks) and give them one last walk before guiding them to their crate, kennel, or designated den for bed.
You also don’t need to worry if they have a nightmare. While it might break your heart to see your puppy appear frightened in your sleep, there is no need for alarm. According to Tufts University Cunnings School of Veterinary Medicine, dogs have dreams and process emotions through them just like humans do. Waking up your puppy in the middle of their dream may interfere with their emotional processing or stop their REM cycle. If you feel like your pup has excessive nightmares, contact one of our Puppies Today experts to see if their behavior might warrant a visit to a behaviorist to help your dog with their anxiety. Otherwise, feel free to let your sleeping dog lie. Once they do wake up, be sure to take them out immediately for a potty break.
Use Your Puppies Today Resources
Having a routine and sticking to it is one of the best ways you can set your puppy up for a lifetime of success. After you have decided on a routine, you can get them going with a perfect first week. Remember- the Puppies Today family is here for you and here to help! If you have any questions or concerns, call our hotline to speak to a puppy expert.