Creating a schedule for your puppy is vital to their development and transition to your home, but that doesn't mean it comes easy. Figuring out the right way to sit, stay, and come can be difficult for a new pup — and tough for you when there's an adorable face staring back at yours. As Maria LaCombe, dog trainer with Einstein Dog Training in Michigan, said, "Creating a schedule for your puppy helps with their mental health. Once they learn about your expectations, it relieves a lot of their stress." She went on to say that setting up a routine also sets your puppy up for success as they learn what their role is in the home and family. "And just like humans," LaCombe told POPSUGAR, "a routine helps us with our day-to-day lives and prevents bad habits from forming."
How do I set up a routine for my puppy?
Simplicity is key when setting up a schedule for your dog. "It's all about rhythm and predictability for dogs to thrive in their pack mentality," Joe Hendricks, DVM, told POPSUGAR. The schedule needs to be divided up into work time, rest time, and playtime, with the repetition of this throughout the day. This way, your puppy will not only know what to expect, but when to expect it. "That's all dog training really is," LaCombe said, "a routine."
What is work time for a puppy?
Work time is when your puppy is mentally engaged. This is where you teach your puppy to sit, stay, come, leave it, and more, and you can do this any time of day as long as it's consistent. Work time can look like several things, but it's mostly obedience training. For example, after your puppy wakes up in the morning, you take them outside to go potty, let them eat, and then can give them some work time. If you're looking to combine activities, LaCombe said that eating can be included in this work time, too. You can teach your dog to sit and leave it before eating, or even give them their food in some kind of puzzle feeder — but remember to try to be consistent; Dr. Hendricks said that it's important for dogs to know when they're going to be fed and how. After all of this work time, your puppy will likely be ready for rest time.
What is rest time for a puppy?
Giving your puppy rest time is essential to their well-being — and yours. If you never give your puppy rest time, they'll learn that they can rely on you whenever they want, meaning you'll probably be bugged for food, bathroom time, or treats when you may be busy with work, running errands, or just relaxing yourself. Rest time as part of your puppy's day teaches them independence, while also giving them actual rest (and puppies need a lot of that!). LaCombe always recommends using a crate for dogs because it provides a safe space that belongs to them. They become used to this small area, and more importantly, you can close them into the crate when necessary, so they're not running amuck in the house or having accidents all over the place. And for you, this will allow you to focus your energy on other things without your puppy demanding your constant attention. Rest time can be any length, but pay attention to your puppy's cues. Plus, after rest time, you can provide your pup with their greatest reward — playtime.
What is playtime for a puppy?
After rest time, you can take your puppy out of their crate and give them some fun playtime. Perhaps your dog loves to play tug of war, fetch, or even go for a walk. This reward will make their rest time worth it. All of this engagement will not only build their confidence, but also help them feel loved. Dr. Hendricks, who has a puppy himself, said that he gives his puppy lots of playtime after dinner outside, where she can run around chasing balls to get all of her energy out. But, he said that even through playtime, you still have a good opportunity to help mold your puppy's behavior while they're still getting used to listening to you. After all, so much of puppy training is loving on your sweet new fur baby.