Puppies need schedules too, here's why
Puppies sure are cute. But raising one can certainly have it’s challenges.
Creating a schedule and sticking to it helps your puppy settle into your home but also helps everyone in the family understand their responsibilities too. Plan to take at least a few days off work in a row when you bring your puppy home. The more time you can take the better as you can help your puppy settle into a new routine.
Young puppies are usually fed three times a day. Make it easy to remember by planning their meals around your breakfast, lunch and dinner times. It’s a good habit to clean their water bowl at each meal too. You can use feeding time as enrichment time and use food puzzles or toys for the puppy to lick or nudge the food out. This gets your puppy using their amazing problem solving brain and they will be kept busy eating their food. Slow feeders are a super easy and fun beginner level food puzzle for puppies.
Schedule Toilet training breaks!
It’s up to you to make sure your puppy gets out to the appropriate toileting area at regular intervals. Their bladder is tiny when you first bring them home and they can not be expected to hold themselves for very long. Stick to a regular routine of taking your puppy outside every two to four hours. When they first wake up, after eating or playing, are all good times to take your puppy outside. Use a cue word like “go potty” or “quickly”. Say your cue word just once, in a soft tone and then quietly wait for your puppy to go to the toilet. Do not interrupt them, stay quiet. The moment your puppy is done and stands up you praise, praise, praise! “Yay good “go potty”! Good puppy.”
Once your puppy has gone toilet and you have rewarded them for that with a treat and praise. Play with your puppy outside for a little while. This will create a super positive association with going to the toilet outside. Top tips: Be patient, if you get bored of waiting and give up and take puppy inside, they are likely to just pee or poop inside! They will learn to wait for you to take them back into the nice warm inside and go there. So be patient. Positively reinforce your puppy every single time they toilet outside, have a puppy party! Seriously, everytime they toilet outside give your puppy a treat, lots of praise and play. If your puppy goes in the wrong place, they have an accident inside. Do NOT tell your puppy off. Try not to get frustrated or verbally mad, even if it’s not directed at your puppy. If you shout “Damn it! Garhhh nooooo not the carpet!” you could accidentally scare the puppy. This can cause the puppy to have a negative association with toileting in front of you. This is when puppies start to run and hide and toilet under people's beds or in the spare room you never go in. If your puppy toilets in the wrong place you simply need to clean it up, very well. And remember to take your puppy outside earlier next time. It’s ok, accidents happen.
Every time you positively reinforce a behaviour it is more likely to occur. So focus on sticking to a regular routine of getting your puppy outside to go to the toilet so you can reinforce that behaviour. Before you know it your puppy will be showing off how well they can go toilet on the grass! Woof!
Playtime is an important part of your puppies day. They want to interact and be silly with you. And that’s why you got a puppy didn’t you!
Playtime is the best way to bond with your puppy. Make sure to schedule playtime and exercise with your puppy each day. Play with toys at home, I suggest nice big long toys for puppies that are teething. This way your fingers are far away from those little shark teeth when you are playing with the toy. This is a great tip for young kids. Nice long toys! Like this snake toy from Pet Direct
Sniff walks are a great way to bond with your puppy. Using a long line/long lightweight leash attached to your puppies harness. Go for a walk where the intention is to simply let your puppy sniff. Sniff and sniff and sniff. This is a great way to let your puppy take in the world at their own pace.
Use food to reinforce desired behaviours.
You can take treats with you whenever you take your puppy out and reinforce behaviours you want to see more of. For example when your puppy turns and looks at you, mark that behaviour by saying “yes” and feeding them a treat. Sniff walks will tire your puppy out far more and in a healthier way than a fast march around the block. If your puppy is too young to take outside, you can practise popping the leash on and going for a sniff walk around the garden or house at home. You can start teaching your puppy to follow you on leash by positively reinforcing them by saying “yes” and feeding a treat whenever they are following you. Practise calling your puppy to you and rewarding them with a treat for coming to you. It’s never to early to start training.
Talk to your vet or puppy breeder about appropriate exercise for your puppy. It’s important not to overdo it with your puppy's young growing body. Even though they sometimes seem like they could play alllll day. Puppies need a lot of sleep.
Naps and bedtime.
Puppies need up to 18 hours of sleep a day. Plan on quiet nap times for your puppy several times during the day. Let sleeping dogs lie. Family members, especially young children should learn to never disturb the puppy or dog when they are sleeping. They need their rest.
Some pet parents want the puppy to go to sleep for the night when they do. Others set a specific time for their puppies' bed time. I think it is helpful to set a regular bedtime to help your puppy settle into a routine.
By setting a schedule for your puppy and sticking to it you are setting up for a lifetime of success. If you have a new puppy or dog now is the time to start training. Go to my website www.howlistichelp.com to learn more about online or in home puppy training. I’d love to hear from you.
A day with your puppy.
An example routine:
- Puppy wakes up: Take your puppy outside to the toilet. Remember to positively reinforce that behavior. Praise and play with your puppy.
- Breakfast time: Use puzzle feeders to give your puppy breakfast. Remember to wash and refill their water bowl. You could use 10 biscuits, or a small portion of your puppies food to do a 1 minute training session. Choose a behaviour that you love and reinforce that today! Teach your puppy their name video by Kikopup on Youtube
- After breakfast: Although everyone is busy in the morning getting ready for work or school, a quick walk after breakfast gives your puppy a chance to go to the toilet again and see (sniff) and experience a bit of the world.
- Mid-morning: The rest of your puppy's morning might be devoted to a nap. If you are home they might like to rest by your feet while you work. Or they might like to nap in their crate. Your puppy will also need to go out to the toilet at least one more time before lunch. Make sure you take them outside, use your toilet cue word and reward them with treats, praise and play for toileting in front of you! Bam! Awesome toilet training Team Puppy!
- If everyone leaves the house for the day, consider having a positive reinforcement puppy trainer or pet sitter to come in and walk your pup. Find a list of professional dog trainers in NZ here. A dog trainer from the APDTNZ directory will be able to point you in the right direction of a professional dog walker or pet sitter in your area.
- Midday: Lunchtime. Of course, a trip outside to the toilet should follow a meal. Reward your puppy for toileting outside.
- Why not use each meal time to do a 1 minute training session with your puppy! Count out ten “treats” from your puppies lunch portion as use them to reinforce a behaviour of your choice.
- Mid-afternoon: It’s probably nap time again. And time to go out - again.
- Dinner: If you arrange your puppies mealtimes around yours, it will become natural to feed them either while you’re preparing dinner or while you are eating. I suggest preventing your puppy from begging at the table or being a nuisance at dinner time by teaching him to enjoy a chew or toy in his puppy proofed play pen or zone. The powerful part of sticking to a routine with your puppy is that it easily and effectively teaches your puppy habits and associations you would like them to have. Think about what habits and associations you would like your puppy to have and set up your routine and environment to support that.
- Evening: Toilet 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 make sure to always have at least a few minutes outdoors before bed.
- Bedtime: Choosing a set bedtime makes your puppies house training and sleeping routine easier for everyone. It doesn’t matter what time, as long as it becomes a routine. Take your puppy to their crate and help them settle in for the night.
If you are welcoming a new puppy or dog into your home, congratulations! This is such an exciting time. As a professional dog trainer I aim to help families have happy and fulfilling lives with their dogs. If you take the time to teach your puppy what you want them to do through positive reinforcement, setting a routine and sticking to it, you are well on the way to having a happy and well adjusted dog.
If you are preparing to bring your first puppy or dog home I highly recommend getting in touch with a positive reinforcement dog trainer to help you set up for a lifetime of success with your puppy. Professional dog trainers like myself offer “Puppy Preparation” coaching sessions where we go to families homes, answer their many burning questions about their pup and home set up. You can start learning how to be the best pet parent to your puppy before they arrive.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Samantha Jan Jackson