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Sticking to a Puppy Schedule

Written by: Kassie Dickson, CDBC, CPDT-KA

Sticking to a schedule can sometimes be difficult so it’s important to ensure your puppy's schedule is easy to follow, fits well into your life, and isn’t stressful!
We’re going to give you the rundown on schedules!

What is a normal puppy schedule?

A normal puppy schedule consists of a feeding routine, an exercise routine, and a resting routine. It can be hugely beneficial to ensure a routine for feeding and time to eliminate. This way your puppy can anticipate their next move and they can rely on it. This can be helpful for reducing stress, anxiety, and feelings of fear around losing their food or when their next meal may come, even potentially helping to create appropriate coping and self regulation. Creating routine and predictability in the initial months of having your pup can have lifelong beneficial effects.

When we talk about routine it’s also important to understand that daily interactions and routines set a precedent. For example, if you allow people to bring a new young puppy up on the couch your puppy will learn that it is routine to rest in such a place.

How often should I feed my puppy?

It’s important to include your veterinarian in decisions on puppy feeding, growth, and diet. It is most widely accepted that puppies will need more meals throughout the day, not only to aid in digestion but this often helps to regulate other things for our puppies, like elimination, sleep, hormones, and more. Typically puppies should receive four meals up to 12 weeks old, they will then usually be changed to three, and often around 6 months of age, your puppies will transition to eating meals twice daily.

It’s important when choosing how to feed your new puppy that it appropriately suits their needs based on overall health at their initial and follow up veterinary examinations. Another great benefit to feeding your pup more often is that it opens you up to adding very short successful training sessions into your daily life.

Eating will stimulate the GI tract, so it’s good practice to let your puppy out shortly to eliminate after eating.

When it comes to food every puppy is different. The size, growth rate, and projected full size of your dog will change how much and potentially how often they eat at a younger age. I suggest feeding based on veterinary recommendations. If you find you have a puppy who is picky, sometimes it’s about making a different food choice as some pups have refined pallets.

However, other times this can mean your pup is being fed too much or too little. If you find you have a picky puppy, know that there are ways to combat this! Speak with your veterinarian and trainer to come up with a plan that’s right for you and your pup.

How long does a puppy sleep?

Puppies need a whopping amount of sleep to ensure behavioural health and welfare. Letting your puppy sleep is a GOOD thing! One thing to remember with puppies and sleep is that they do it almost in shifts, they will be awake and full of energy for short periods then back to sleep for some rest and recharge.

If your puppy is sleeping a lot, it’s not a bad thing, in fact quite the opposite. Depending on your pup's age, adult dogs generally sleep up to 14 hours. This sleep is necessary in our dogs, just like in people. In order to recover from activities, be able to retain new information, and respond appropriately to the world, sleep is critical.

If you find your pup is acting out, it’s more than likely that they need a nap!

Puppies will eventually begin to sleep through the night, or at least be able to go the night without waking their people. It’s fairly normal for any dog to wake up throughout the night to move around, get more comfortable and even stretch, or need to eliminate before going back to bed. If you want a good night's sleep, it may be a few weeks before your puppy can go the whole night without needing a trip outside. Be patient with them and spend a few minutes before putting them back to bed.

If you do find your puppy cries at night, take them out, give them the opportunity to eliminate, then put them back to bed with a puzzle or safe chew. If your puppy is using confinement and they continue to cry, or are kept in a separate room at night, there are many things to consider so consult with your trainer or behaviour consultant and see what can be done to help your puppy sleep through the night.

How to play with a puppy?

There’s no right or wrong way to play with your puppy. As long as you are gentle and kind, you’ve got it covered. It’s important during play that both/all parties have fun. We can tap into our dogs nature by playing games of tug, fetch, chase, and more.

Experiment with your puppy to see what type of play they enjoy and are drawn to, ensure to offer your puppy interactive toys that can be used solo, or need a person to play. The benefit to toys that can be used solely by your dog are huge; they help to teach coping skills, impulse control, create enrichment, and are mentally stimulating without the need for a person. It is a great way for them to beat boredom when you’re not home.

It’s important when you do play with your puppy that the play is fun for everyone involved, it’s not good to continue play if one or more party, becomes over aroused or frustrated. Some toys like tug or fetch should have some impulse control added to them. It’s also a good plan to implement structure around play with children, older people, or anyone uncomfortable with dogs. If your puppy becomes too excited, trade their toy for something better, a treat or similar and end play.

Safe toys are hugely important and some of those factors are your dog's, size, preferences, and activity level. Puppy proof toys by ensuring they have no strings, small plastic pieces, or tags that could be torn off and ingested. If your dog likes to chew, ensure you keep an eye out that the toys remain intact or any piece that doesn’t is removed and disposed of. If your pup likes to pull out the stuffing of toys, ensure you’re actively monitoring during that type of play.

For chew toys, it's important that they are plastic (nylon) or rubber and they don’t/haven’t come in contact with any toxic chemicals.

How long should puppy training sessions be?

I am a huge fan of putting training into everyday life, it’s not necessary to set aside large amounts of time in a day to train your puppy. What’s important is that with everyday interactions, your puppy is constantly learning. Try keeping small bowls of treats and food around the house and out of reach from your dog so when you have a minute or two you can practice in short successful bursts. 3- 5 sessions for a few minutes a day is a great start with puppies, you can even set at timer at every meal and use their kibble to train, then let them finish the rest in their bowl.

It’s a good idea to ensure the training routine you have for your pup fits into your lifestyle and sets realistic goals and expectations for everyone involved.

How often do you bathe a puppy?

This answer greatly revolves around your lifestyle and your breed of puppy. Their coat, size, environment, and more matter. If you have a long haired setter, you need to brush and bathe far more often than you would if you have a short haired hound.

As a puppy it’s important that we start to get our dogs comfortable with whatever type and frequency of groping they will need later in life. I suggest starting with a long lasting treat, or spreadable food in the bath tub a couple times a week for just a couple minutes, slowly move to running water, then getting your puppies feet, wet, then legs, belly, and so on.

This goes for other grooming as well, such as brushing, nail trims, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing. Start small and ensure your pup is comfortable throughout the process. If you find your pup is uncomfortable or fearful, go to the last step you were successful at and try again.

When it comes to your puppy's routine, it’s most important you meet their needs and yours. Set realistic timelines and expectations, remember a new home is just as stressful and fun for your puppy as it is for you. If you have trouble, or feel stuck, contact your trainer or behaviour specialist and they will be able to help you through. Good luck and enjoy your new best friend!

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