Congratulations on your new puppy! Those adorable little fluff balls are so much fun, but also a lot of work. Do you feel like you’re running on empty, from taking the puppy outside non-stop and still cleaning up potty accidents? Feeling overwhelmed with learning how to raise a happy and healthy puppy?
One of the most important things you can do for your puppy or rescue dog (and your sanity) is to establish a schedule today.
A puppy schedule is a daily routine that you set, which includes everything from when to feed your puppy, potty breaks, playtime, training, and nap time.
I reference “PUPPY” in this article, but a schedule can help your adult rescue dog also. ALL dogs thrive on routine, so this puppy schedule can be a rescue dog schedule too!
Why is establishing a schedule important for your puppy?
A schedule helps your puppy feel safe and secure. Puppies and dogs thrive on routine and consistency, and having a set schedule will help them feel more comfortable in their new surroundings.
A set schedule also helps with potty training. Puppies need to go outside frequently, especially when they’re young, and having a set schedule for potty breaks will help them learn when it’s time to go.
Finally, having a schedule helps with overall training. When you have a set routine for feeding, playing, and training, your puppy will know what to expect and will be more receptive to learning.
Tips on creating a schedule for your puppy
Establishing a puppy schedule doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips to help you get started:
1. Keep it simple
Don’t overcomplicate the schedule, begin by establishing a basic schedule for feeding times, potty breaks, playtime, and nap time.
2. Be consistent
Consistency is key when it comes to establishing a routine for your puppy. Stick to the same schedule every day, even on weekends. Yes, that means your days of sleeping in are over for a while.
If you have a family, it’s important to involve everyone in establishing the puppy schedule. This will help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that your puppy gets the consistency they need.
Printing out a schedule to keep track can help keep everyone on board and consistent.
3. Go with the flow and adjust as needed
Every puppy is unique. If you find your puppy needs more frequent potty breaks, work that into the schedule. If they seem to do better with training in the morning or need more sleep, go with what works and adjust the schedule accordingly.
You will need to adjust their schedule as your puppy grows and matures. For example, they will need fewer potty breaks, less sleep, and more training time as they get older.
What to include in your puppy’s schedule
A well-structured schedule can help your puppy develop good behaviors, learn important skills, and thrive in their new environment. Here are some key components of a healthy puppy schedule:
1. Feeding time
Puppies need to eat frequently to support their growth and development. A puppy’s meal schedule should include two to three measured meals a day, preferably at the same time every day.
The best time for your puppy’s first meal is when they first wake up. Second meal midday and dinner at least 2 hours before bedtime so they will have ample time to digest their food and go potty one last time before bedtime.
Puppy feeding schedule by age
The feeding schedule and amount for your puppy will vary depending on their age.
Follow instructions from the food manufacturer for the appropriate amount to feed your puppy.
Here’s a breakdown of how often you should feed your puppy based on their age:
Always provide your puppy with fresh water. It’s okay to remove the water bowl one hour before bedtime to help with any overnight accidents.
2. Potty breaks and house-training routine
A routine is a critical part of your puppy’s potty training. You should take your puppy outside at least every 2-3 hours and after every change of activity. For example, go outside after a nap, after a meal, and before/after playtime.
This is especially important while potty training. As your puppy gets older, you can gradually reduce the number of potty breaks, but it’s essential to stay consistent until they are fully trained.
Typically, a puppy can control their bladder one hour for every month of age. So if your puppy is 2 months old, they can hold it for about two hours.
Read How to Potty Train a Puppy Fast & Easy for more help.
3. Playtime and Exercise
Puppies have a lot of energy and need plenty of opportunities to play and exercise. Plan for several short playtime sessions each day, with a mix of indoor and outdoor activities.
Physical and mental exercise is important for your puppy’s overall health and well-being. It helps to build strong muscles, improve cardiovascular health, and maintain a healthy weight.
It is recommended that puppies get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, but this can vary depending on the breed and age of your puppy.
Some great ways to provide playtime, physical and mental exercise for your puppy include:
- Going for walks or runs
- Playing fetch or tug-of-war
- Agility training
- Hiking or exploring new areas
- Puzzle toys
- Hide-and-seek games
- Training sessions
- Socialization skills
- Learning new tricks or commands
- Playing with toys
- Chasing bubbles
- Running around in a fenced area
- Exploring new environments
Incorporating both physical and mental exercise into your puppy’s daily routine can help to provide a well-rounded and fulfilling lifestyle and are a big part of socialization and training.
4. Socialization and Training
Socialization is an amazing journey that allows your adorable puppy to explore the world with confidence and without fear. It involves introducing your pup to all sorts of wonderful people, places, and things they’ll encounter throughout their entire life.
The most important time for socialization is during the early stages of your puppy’s life, specifically before they reach 12 weeks old.
However, keep in mind that this window of opportunity starts closing around the age of 5 months. So let’s make the most of this precious time and help your puppy embrace the world with open paws!
Keep all socialization and training fun, combining playtime and learning will give you the best results.
Use our easy-to-use puppy socialization checklist to make sure you cover a wide range of socialization life skills.
5. Downtime and Sleep
As a new puppy owner, it’s important to understand that puppies need a lot of sleep and rest to grow and develop properly. In fact, an 8-week-old puppy can sleep up to 20 hours a day.
Teaching your new puppy how to settle down and relax will help them become a balanced adult dog. Keep playtime and adventures short to ensure they have time to refresh and learn how to be calm.
If you don’t schedule downtime, your puppy will play and play and play… then have a meltdown, kind of like a human toddler.
Puppy Nap Schedule by Age
The amount of sleep a puppy needs can vary depending on their age. Here is a general guideline for the puppy nap schedule by age:
Try to establish a consistent bedtime and wake-up time for your puppy. This will help them get into a routine and know when it’s time to sleep.
Consider crate training your puppy to help them feel safe and secure at night. Make sure the crate is comfortable and cozy, and place it in a quiet, dark room.
Puppies will need to go potty during the night, especially when they are very young. Take your puppy out for a quick potty break before bed and set an alarm to take them out again during the night if needed.
It may take some time for your puppy to adjust to their new routine and sleep schedule. Be patient and consistent, and your puppy will eventually learn to sleep through the night.
Remember, sleep is an essential part of your puppy’s growth and development. By following a consistent puppy nap schedule by age and establishing a puppy night schedule, you can help your puppy get the rest they need to thrive.
One way to help keep track of your puppy’s sleep schedule is to use a sleep diary like this one.
Create Your Puppy’s Schedule
We’ve established why it’s crucial to set a daily schedule for your puppy, now let’s create your Puppy’s Daily Schedule Chart. This simple chart will record your puppy’s daily routine, including feeding times, potty breaks, playtime, training, and nap time.
Having a visual representation of your puppy’s schedule can help you stay organized and ensure that you are staying consistent providing them with the care they need.
Here’s an example of a puppy’s daily schedule:
Remember, this is just a sample schedule. You should adjust it based on your puppy’s individual needs and your own schedule.
Feel free to adjust the schedule to fit your puppy’s individual needs. It’s important to remember that puppies require more frequent potty breaks and naps than adult dogs.
Keeping track of your puppy’s schedule can also help you identify any patterns or changes in their behavior. If your puppy suddenly starts sleeping more or eating less, it could be a sign of illness or discomfort. By monitoring their daily routine, you can catch any potential issues early and seek veterinary care if necessary.
In addition to a daily schedule chart, you may also want to keep a record of your puppy’s growth and development milestones. This can include their weight, height, and any new skills they learn, such as sitting or walking on a leash.
By establishing a schedule, you’ll be setting your new puppy or rescue dog up for success. They’ll feel more secure, be more receptive to learning and be easier to train. So, take the time to establish a routine for your puppy – it’s well worth the effort!
Remember it’s important for the entire family to be consistent to not confuse the puppy. It helps to have a tracking system in place to remind everyone of the schedule.
I do want to mention it’s also important to keep up with your puppy’s vaccinations to protect them from diseases. Your veterinarian can provide a schedule for when your puppy should receive their vaccinations.