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How To Establish A Daily Routine For A Puppy

How To Establish A Daily Routine For A Puppy

You’ve got your new puppy, now you need a puppy schedule. Puppy training isn’t easy, but you can start things out on the right note by establishing a daily routine for a puppy that works for your family. A puppy schedule for working people is even more important.

Putting your puppy on a schedule isn’t just about your needs, however. Your puppy needs boundaries and goals to develop in the right way. Your bond will grow stronger as your puppy learns she can trust you.

We can’t really know what puppy feel, of course. I like to think that puppies start to admire the right kind of owner. This concept might be anthropomorphizing, but it helps me be a better dog owner.

How can you establish a daily routine for a puppy that inspires their admiration? Leadership lesson number one is all about the schedule.

Why Are Schedules Good For Puppies

The whole world is basically brand new to your puppy. Instinctually, puppies look to their parents and other pack members for behavioral cues. It’s natural for a puppy to learn from a dominant animal that lives with them.

Conversely, your puppy will have periods where nothing you do seems to work. He is wilful and stubborn and seems to take pleasure in ruining your furniture and life.

Puppies are balancing their sense of self in the world against social cues and training. There are bound to be bad days and setbacks, but that’s exactly why consistency is so important.

To stay consistent, you have to build some convenience into your puppy schedule. You’ll also need patience and a playful attitude. Leave your anger and frustration at the door whenever you can.

Pro Tip: One of the ways puppies learn is through watching body language. That’s more important to them than verbal cues. Try teaching your puppy a hand signal along with verbal commands to capitalize on this natural behavior.

What Belongs In Your Puppy’s Schedule?

By the time your puppy comes home with you, she is capable of some light training. Between 4 weeks and 8 weeks old, puppies are social. They’re interested in their surroundings and you can start guiding their behavior.

Implement potty training, simple obedience, crate training, and feeding schedules consistently from the time your new puppy comes home.

Potty Training

We all sing the potty training puppy blues at some point during puppy training. For me, potty training and incessant puppy chewing are the worst parts of training! 

You can check out my in-depth article on how to potty train a puppy. I’ll summarize it here for you if you’re short on time. 

I recommend using puppy training pads because it makes life much easier. My word of caution is to use them sparingly and take your dog outside on a regular schedule in spite of the puppy pads.

It’s tempting to place a pad anywhere your puppy has an accident but resist this as much as you can. I like to put one training pad near the door right from the start. This way, while I am getting my coat and shoes on, the dog is on or near the pad so she can go quickly if she can’t hold it.

Wherever you choose to put the pad or pads, be consistent! Your puppy will learn that there is one spot that’s acceptable to potty in and how to hold their bladder.

Quick Potty Training Steps

  1. Pick a potty phrase and use it every time you take your dog to the pad or outside to potty. What you say to your dog is up to you but remember people might be listening! If you’re incorporating hand signals into your puppy’s training, pick one and use it.
  2. Take your puppy outside every 15 minutes, first thing in the morning, 15 minutes after eating, before bed, and anytime you let him out of the crate. If you can’t do that for some reason, at least bring the puppy to the pad near the door to eliminate at regular 15-minute intervals. Use a timer if it helps you.
  3. Watch your puppy closely to learn his signaling behavior. Nearly every dog has certain behavior that immediately precedes elimination. Some dogs run around in circles when they have to go and many will naturally learn to go to the door to let you know. Hang bells on the door if you like. Many dogs will quickly learn to ring them when they need to go out.
  4. Hand over a treat anytime your dog follows the potty rules and verbally praise your dog. 
  5. Let your dog remain outside a short time after he eliminates or he may learn to hold it in order to play!
  6. When you are finally ready to be done with the training pads, move it outside and let your puppy pee on it there. After a few days you can remove it and your dog should have the hang of it. If he has an accident near the door where the pad used to be, put the pad back and start this step over.

In fact, anytime you dog regresses, begin that step again from the beginning. Don’t give up!

When To Feed A Puppy On Your Schedule

Your puppy is probably ready to eat right now! They’re ravenous beasts!

Speak with your vet about the proper amount to feed your dog and also consult the puppy food packaging for their recommendations. You really must feed your puppy appropriate puppy food. Because the dog is growing, it needs a little extra nutrition that specially formulated food provides.

If you can work in three feedings a day I think that’s best. We don’t all have that luxury with work, however. You should at least break your puppy’s daily food into two servings.

Don’t get overly excited when you feed your dog or you could promote unhealthy food behaviors later. As for begging, you can ignore it and resist feeding your dog a bite of your snack with your hands.

If you do want to share, place some into your dog’s bowl and ask your dog to sit before releasing him to go ahead and eat it. Also, be sure whatever you are giving your dog is safe. They can’t eat all people food and have sensitive, developing digestive systems.

It’s often helpful to wet down dry food for puppies. This slows down vacuum cleaner eating and helps out with chewing. Your puppy is probably still teething.

Finally, avoid feeding your puppy right before putting him into his crate. Instead, opt for feeding 30 minutes before you leave or crate your dog. Let your dog eat, rest a few minutes, and then it’s a great time to go out and play until you see some potty business.

Crate Training

Now let’s talk about crate training. It isn’t cruel to crate your puppy humanely, which means you don’t leave your dog crated for hours at a time. You have an appropriately sized crate for your dog and you’re going to make the crate a regular part of his life. It won’t feel like punishment if you do it right.

This also gives you somewhere to put the dog when you can’t watch it. Trust me, you’ll have to use the bathroom or make a phone call at some point and that’s when your puppy will eat the coffee table.

Even if your puppy likes the crate, he may protest a little at first. We want to minimize any crying or whining in the crate, and these steps will help.

Introduce The Crate

Open the crate door and playfully encourage your puppy to go inside. You can use a toy or a treat if you need to. Pick a command word that signals ‘crate’ to your dog and start using it consistently through training.

While praising your puppy, get the dog to go all the way into the crate. Again, treats help! Don’t close the door, just repeat this behavior every hour or so until you feel your puppy is comfortable with the crate itself.

If your puppy seems upset at any time, start over and stay calm. You can help condition the crate by hanging out on the floor with your dog near the crate. It’s a great time over there and you want your puppy to know it. Think of it like going to his house to have a visit.

Condition The Crate With Food

Step up the conditioning by feeding a few meals to your puppy in the crate. 

Each time you do this, move the food a little further inside until your puppy is dining at the back of the crate restaurant.

When your puppy is comfortable with that, close the door while he eats. Don’t make a big deal over this, just quietly do it and remain near the crate. When your puppy is done, let him out. 

Continue this step while progressively increasing the amount of time the door is closed, working up to 10 minutes. Some dogs respond better if you stay nearby and some will have a nap if you walk away. Experiment to see how your dog does best.

Ideally, your puppy will tolerate this without whining. If your puppy does whine, let him out right away but not immediately. Try to distract the puppy before springing him so he doesn’t learn that whining will get him out of the crate. 

A sound will usually do it, but vary the noise so this doesn’t become a big conditioning exercise to your puppy where the whine leads to your noise and then release.

That’s probably the hardest step, so just stay calm and just start at the beginning of any step you struggle with. If you see major regression, move backwards to the previous step and go slowly until your dog is behaving the way you want. 

Increase Crating Periods

Now we are getting to the main event: training your puppy to stay in the crate for longer periods of time. Please make sure your dog is completely comfortable with the crate before you move to this step or you’ll just make more work for yourself in the long run.

Use your crate command and gesture into the crate with a treat in your hand.

When your dog goes in, praise her and close the door.

Sit quietly outside the crate for five minutes before letting your dog out. Repeat this step a few times a day for a day or so until your puppy has the hang of it.

Slowly increase this to ten minutes where you sit near the crate for the first five and then walk away for the last five. When you return, praise your dog, open the door, and give her a treat. Work your way up to ten minutes slowly, in increments of a minute or two extra at a time.

Strengthen your dog’s crate conditioning and your potty training efforts by always taking the dog outside as soon as she comes out of the crate. I think it’s good to do this with adult dogs also, but you’ll be able to relax a bit by then.

You want to work up to 30 minutes before you leave the dog alone. If you’re really worried, pick up a webcam so you can see what happens for your dog when you leave.

Crating At Night

I do advocate crating your puppy at night right from the start, but this is separate training from daytime crating. Here are my recommendations.

Put the crate in your bedroom so the dog senses that you are near and you can hear the puppy whining to go outside. You’re going to lose some sleep at first so be prepared.

Come up with a nighttime routine so your puppy gets used to signals that it’s almost bed time. If you let your puppy on the furniture, this is a great time for some cuddling and relaxing together. Turning the lights down low also helps.

Right before bed, take the puppy outside because he won’t last the night without peeing. He’s got a tiny bladder. This isn’t playtime, however, this is perfunctory. Don’t get excited, don’t let the dog play too much, and always hand over a treat so your puppy is anxious to come back inside.

The best idea is to set an alarm for every 2-3 hours and get up and take the puppy out. This way, your puppy doesn’t have to whine to get your attention. Remember that whining that receives attention will become a communication tool for your dog and we really don’t want them whining to get out of the crate.

If your puppy is still peeing in the crate, I’m sorry to tell you that you have to shorten the intervals of sleep you’re getting during the night. Having a family member help with this is less draining. 

dog in crate

If your puppy is very upset the first few nights, you have a couple of options. 

You can do something crazy like put the crate on the bed next to you and see if that helps. Once the puppy is used to that, move slowly back onto the floor but be sure the crate is within eyeshot of your bed. Alternatively, pull up a sleeping bag and sleep in front of or next to the crate for a few nights. 

If that isn’t for you, you can ignore the puppy until your alarm goes off and then it’s outside time. This is heartbreaking but since you are checking him every hour or so anyway everything will be ok.

Try a white noise machine and a blanket in the crate that smells like you. You can put a few safe toys in the crate for your puppy to cuddle or play with too. Some people swear by a ticking clock or heartbeat simulator and believe these things soothe the puppy. Give them a try if you’re having problems.

If this still isn’t working, ask yourself if you are anxious about this process. Are you communicating that to your dog? Do everything you can to tire the puppy out before bedtime and call your vet for advice if you need to.

General Obedience

While you’re working on all of this, start developing a training language with your puppy. You’re already using a word for potty time, bedtime, and crate time. What are some other commands you’d like your puppy to learn?

Sit, stay, wait, and stop are all good concepts to work on with your new puppy. Be consistent but don’t expect too much immediately. Your puppy has a lot of newness in his life to try to figure out.

Sit and wait are great to use during feeding. Stop is one you’ll use all the time. Make these commands a normal part of your conversation with your dog.

If your puppy is just not getting it, try rewarding something the dog already does. Wait for your puppy to sit, say sit, and then reward with a treat. This step could take a while to sink in, but your dog will eventually understand that you’re using a word that is associated with something he is doing.

You can start clicker training your puppy fairly early and this can really help with all training for the rest of the dog’s life.

What is Clicker Training?

Clicker training uses a sound to bridge the communication gap between words and actions to your dog.

The first step is conditioning the clicker, which happens by simply clicking so your dog hears the sound and then offering a treat. Once you feel your dog has the hang of this, you can add in a command.

If you were using the clicker to teach your dog to sit, you simply wait until the dog sits, use your verbal command, click, praise, and treat. While this seems like an extra step at first, you are building a series of behavior prompts with your dog.

Because your dog understands that a click means a treat is coming, you can reinforce behaviors easily this way. When your dog hears the click, he is likely to understand that he has done something good and will be rewarded.

Many people phase out the treat eventually so your dog is reinforced by your praise and the sound of the click.

You can use this technique during potty training, when teaching your dog to wear clothing in cold weather, and for a variety of tricks.

Sticking To Your Schedule

The easiest way to stick to your schedule during puppy training is to compromise. Make sure you meet your puppy’s needs, but don’t try to force yourself to be the perfect puppy parent. If your expectations and routine are unrealistic, they won’t benefit you or your dog.

Another important aspect to consistency is patience. Remember that you are a human and your puppy is a brand new dog. I know that at times it seems your puppy is literally out to get you, but that’s not the case. 

Part of their development is both responding to cues and testing their boundaries. You have to be the grown up and stay as calm as possible.

In fact, you really shouldn’t ever yell at your puppy. You can use stern commands, but yelling won’t do any good. It risks exciting the dog who then sees yelling as a fun thing he can make you do. It also could jeopardize the bond you are forming if your puppy is sensitive or shy.

Set yourself up for success by being informed. Take time off from work or ask a loved one to stay with your puppy the first few days while you are at work. Don’t be too hard on yourself and ask for help if you need it!

Introducing Some Novelty

As important as routine is, animals need a little variety as well. If you never vary your routine, your puppy could become stressed when something inevitably happens to change things.

Socialization and introducing some novelty into your puppy’s life is important to work on consistently. Let your puppy settle in, but do introduce new people, new environments, and new stimuli to your puppy. They will grow with everything they learn.

Taking your puppy to dog parks or pet stores is a great way to introduce him to new people and other pets. It’s important to socialize your dog with both humans and other dogs. 

So do be consistent, but don’t be too rigid. Your dog will benefit from the mental stimulation that comes from new experiences. 

Let The Games Begin!

Go forth, my dearest puppy trainers. I think you are ready.

Feel free to stop back here to ask questions in the comments section so other readers can share what they know with you. If you need some support, reach out and our wonderful community will lift you up.

Your puppy is cute and cuddly, but needs some training and consistency. You have all the tools you need to raise a loving and loyal companion. It’s time to get to it.

Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your puppy!