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7 Tips to Get Your New Puppy on a Routine

Consistent feeding times, potty training breaks, play sessions, and naptime schedules are key to getting your new puppy on a routine.

A red-haired man cuddles his brown labrador puppy.

Consistent feeding times, potty training breaks, play sessions, and naptime schedules are key to getting your new puppy on a routine.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM  @itsDrJuli 

Whether you're a first-time puppy parent, or an expert dog owner, caring for a new bundle of fur can be a big adjustment in your daily routine. Like human children, puppies require ample attention, observation, training, and care. Your puppy's first year of life is a critical time for them to learn, grow, and develop a healthy body and strong immune system to support them into adulthood.

Puppyhood is rewarding and sometimes exhausting for dog owners. Before you know it, your tiny fluff ball will take up the whole couch during cuddle sessions. Dogs, like people, thrive on routine and structure, so establishing a schedule for you and your new puppy will set them up for success in becoming a healthy and well-behaved adult dog. Follow these seven tips to start your new pup on the paw with the perfect puppy routine. 

A red-haired man cuddles his brown labrador puppy.

#1: Prepare for your new puppy

It's easy to become distracted by the anticipation and excitement of bringing a new puppy home. In the weeks before bringing home your puppy, ensure to pet-proof your home and purchase supplies so that you and your puppy are prepared for the new life adjustments. As you get to know your new pup, other supplies will likely be needed, but ensure to prepare with the following puppy items: 

  • High-quality AAFCO-approved puppy food  
  • Puppy-safe gut support supplements to help with loose stool that may occur from a new diet or accidental garbage ingestion
  • Food and water bowls
  • Fixed length leash between four feet and six feet long
  • Harness with a chest and shoulder clip
  • Pet gates
  • Poop bags (ideally compostable)
  • Variety of chew toys that are appropriate for your puppy's size
  • Appropriately sized kennel/crate 
  • Dog bed and blankets for their crate
  • Collar and identification tags
  • Grooming supplies (i.e., brush, nail trimmers, puppy-safe shampoo)
  • Pet stain and odor remover for the inevitable potty training accidents

We cover everything you'll need for your new bundle of fur in our comprehensive New Puppy Checklist.

#2: Establish a consistent puppy feeding schedule

Young puppies require extra nutrients for their rapidly growing bones, joints, muscles, and organs. Feeding your puppy a diet that meets the Association of American Feed Control's (AAFCO) guidelines for complete and balanced nutrition will ensure they have the correct balance and type of nutrients to grow appropriately into a healthy adult dog. For large breed puppies, be sure to check that your puppy food is complete and balanced for the growth of large breed dogs (70 lb+ as an adult). These puppies have different nutritional requirements from smaller dogs to ensure proper growth and minimize the risk of orthopedic issues in the future.

Your puppy's feeding schedule and frequency will depend on their breed, activity, and appetite. However, most puppies will eat three to four times a day until they reach six months of age. Additionally, young puppies have an increased risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can be deadly without immediate treatment. So ensuring they are fed enough and on time is critical to their health and routine.

Once your pup reaches six months old, they can transition to a twice-daily feeding schedule. Always consult with your veterinarian before changing your pet's diet. Establish a puppy schedule so that your four-legged family member has their meals at a consistent time daily. Plan your puppy's feeding times to match up with yours, so while you prepare your breakfast, lunch, and dinner, feed your puppy their meal. This will also decrease the chances of a mischievous pup getting into dangerous human food while you are preparing your meal.  

A brown shih-tzu holds a blue dog food bowl in its mouth.

#3: Make potty training a priority

Potty training can be a challenging and often frustrating aspect of raising a puppy, especially for dog owners who live in a carpeted home. However, patience, consistency, praise, and special treats will ensure successful house training. As your pup's bladder matures and they learn the dos and don'ts of bathroom breaks, their ability to avoid accidents in the house will quickly improve.

During the first few weeks after bringing home your new puppy, ensure to take them out for potty breaks every hour they are awake. Once your puppy is more comfortable with their new environment and routine, extend the time between bathroom breaks to every two to three hours. Also, choose a consistent location in your yard, and use a specific word or phrase to remind them when and where to go potty. After every successful outside elimination, immediately praise or give your puppy a treat so that they understand this is the desired behavior.

Your puppy may also require a potty break during the night, so set an alarm for a quick potty break if they cannot hold it during sleeping hours. Also, avoid giving your puppy food or water two hours before bedtime to decrease the chances of middle-of-the-night accidents.

As a general potty training rule, consistently take your puppy out at the following times:

  • First thing in the morning, after they wake up   
  • After any playtime or exercise
  • Before and after naptime
  • Before bedtime
  • 15-20 min after mealtime, snacks, or water breaks

#4: Understand the importance of sleep and nap time

If it seems like your puppy only has two modes –– high energy and constant sleep –– it's because they do! Young puppies require 12 to 20 hours of sleep each day, accomplished by regular naps throughout the day and a consistent bedtime schedule. As your puppy ages, they will need fewer naps or shorter nap periods. Sleep is vital for all species, so ensure your puppy has a safe, quiet space free of distractions where they can rest throughout the day.

Scheduling short naps in their crate after playtime or training sessions will also help them learn that their crate is a safe, comfortable resting place. Ensure your puppy's crate is big enough to stand up and turn around comfortably. Also, line it with a cozy dog bed or blanket. Including a piece of clothing that smells like you and a puppy-sized toy for them to cuddle will provide them with a peaceful and calming resting space.

#5: Designate time daily for mental and physical fitness for your puppy

Exercise, playtime, and brain games are essential for dogs of all ages to ensure overall health and wellness. Regular exercise will improve your puppy's confidence, decrease fear and anxiety, and improve general behavior. Your puppy's bones and joints are still developing, so it's critical to never excessively run, walk, or exercise your puppy, to prevent injuries or disruptions in their skeletal development.

The best type of physical activity for growing puppies is unforced free exercise on surfaces that have some give. For example, instead of choosing to take your puppy on a leashed walk for 30 minutes on hard pavement, choose to let them run around off-leash in a fenced backyard with grass instead.

Schedule multiple play sessions throughout the day, aiming for 10-15 minute periods. Playtime can include playing fetch, enjoying a new toy, or running around and exploring the yard. Incorporating brain games, like a treat-filled puzzle toy, can provide mental stimulation and help prevent behavioral outbursts caused by boredom. You can also add easy dog tricks and/or basic commands like “sit” and “stay” to your puppy training repertoire to encourage good puppy manners.

Because everything in your puppy's environment is new and exciting, they will likely explore the environment with their mouth and paws, which could result in damaged furniture or shoes embellished with puppy teeth marks. Providing your pet with various enrichment tools will decrease the chances of them becoming destructive. Playtime sessions are also the perfect time to teach them basic commands and good puppy manners they will carry into adulthood.

Never physically punish your puppy for bad manners or inappropriate chewing, and always provide them with ample praise for proper behavior, like "leave it" or "stay," so they understand the desired behaviors.

A black scruffy puppy lays on a grey fluffy blanket with a toy basketball.

#6: Introduce changes in your puppy's schedule slowly

Establishing a daily routine will provide security and promote good puppy manners because your dog will know what to expect during the day. Once you create your puppy's schedule, try not to divert from it too much. Puppyhood is a critical learning period for your dog, so the more consistent their routine, the more successful they will be at learning how to be a well-behaved, confident, and kind furry best friend.

However, some variability is also crucial, so slight deviations in their routine are not traumatic. For example, because your puppy will require several veterinary visits during their first year of life, taking them for occasional car rides and "happy visits" to their veterinary clinic will help prepare them for their vaccinations and promote a more positive experience.

#7: Have patience and praise

Puppies are quick learners and naturally eager to please their human companions. However, like children, some activities like potty and crate training can take time, which may be frustrating for puppy owners. Consistency and praise will ensure the most successful outcome when establishing a routine and teaching your puppy manners.

Your puppy may sometimes become frustrated, and it's crucial to redirect their attention to something positive when this happens. If your puppy struggles with crate training, try breaking the time into shorter sessions and provide them with their favorite treat each time they are calm and relaxed. 

Example Daily Schedule for Your New Puppy

A consistent puppy routine will also ensure pet parents remember everything their puppy needs to thrive. Your puppy's routine should mimic yours so it is seamless and successful. Here is an example daily routine for your puppy: 

  • Wake up: Immediate potty break with praise and a short playtime session.
  • Breakfast: Ensure not to overfeed or underfeed your puppy. Follow the feeding instructions on their food bag. 
  • Post breakfast: 15- 20 minutes after eating, take your puppy for a potty break and training session.
  • Mid-morning: Nap and crate training session with some treats. Ensure the crate is in a quiet place and is comfortable for your puppy.
  • Noon/Midday:  Potty break immediately after naptime and repeat the morning routine for their second meal.
  • Mid-afternoon: Following your puppy's post-lunch nap, take them for another potty break and playtime session.
  • Dinner: Feed your puppy dinner while you are preparing your meal. Your pup will likely finish their dinner before you, so provide them with a special toy once they finish their meal to distract them from any falling table scraps. Also, schedule dinner at least two hours before bedtime. 
  • After dinner: 15-20 minutes after they finish dinner, take them for a potty break and short playtime or training session
  • Bedtime: Pre-bed potty break, followed by settling down in their crate. Move their crate into your bedroom so you are close if your puppy asks to go out in the middle of the night. Keeping their crate nearby will comfort your puppy as they adjust to their new home and routine. 

A man holds his brown scruffy puppy’s chin in his hand.

Puppyhood can be very rewarding, but it is also very demanding. For more puppy training tips and advice, check out the Native Pet blog.

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