If you’ve ever interacted with a puppy before, you’ll know that the good news is puppies seem to be hard-wired to be happy little creatures! They are known for their playful spirits and waggly tails. Still, if you are a first time owner of a puppy, you may be wondering exactly how to make sure your puppy is at their happiest!
We find that most owners know the basics of what puppies need: training, exercise, and socialization are three of the main ingredients to creating a happy, relaxed pup. We wholeheartedly agree with these basic building blocks when it comes to navigating puppyhood, but we want to highlight a few other areas that can sometimes be overlooked but that your puppy will most certainly appreciate.
Spending Quality Time & Playing with Your Puppy Will Make Them Happy
First of all, a brief explanation of the basics of dog psychology will be helpful in getting you started off on the right foot when it comes to understanding your new furry friend. One of the most obvious things about dogs is their social nature. Dog species in the wild (wolves, dingos, etc.) are all pack-oriented creatures who live, hunt, and play together and form strong family ties.
Domestic dogs have been bred down with an even stronger emphasis on their sociability. In particular, the breeds that make up some of the most popular doodle breeds are known for being companionship-oriented dogs. The Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, and of course the poodle (and many other breeds represented in popular doodle crosses) have been bred for their ability to work closely with humans.
As a result, doodles are typically incredibly social, relational animals and people-oriented. There is simply no substitute for spending time with your pup when it comes to making him happy. Your puppy will want to be with you as often as possible. The typical doodle will want to be with you in any room of the house — often waiting for you outside of the shower, following you to the bathroom, etc. To have a happy, well-behaved doodle, an owner must be prepared to spend time with their pup and should not be surprised that their doodle prefers to be at their feet or on their lap all day every day.
Owners may become frustrated that their puppy is not fitting into their schedule. They may be expecting the puppy to spend too much time alone while they are gone during the day at work. The result is often a puppy who bark or whines due to separation anxiety or a puppy who is destructive when left alone. Even when given lots of training and exercise, there is simply no replacement in a puppy’s mind to having some good quality time with their humans.
As a general rule of thumb, we do not recommend leaving a doodle, no matter how old, alone for longer than 5-6 hours at a time. As a high energy, social breed, doodles need at least some kind of interaction and activity half way through a full work day. Coming home for your lunch break to play fetch with your pup, hiring a dog walker, or sending your pup to doggy daycare to play with some 4 legged friends, are all options frequently utilized by full time employees.
Finally, when you are at home, keep in mind that not all time together is created equal in your dog’s mind. Sure, snuggling up on the couch to watch TV is one way to bond, as is running through some training exercises, but puppies typically have one thing at the forefront of their minds: Play! All young animals (including humans) have one aim in life — to figure out the world. Puppies do this by playing.
Their play teaches them the social skills they need to appropriately interact with humans and other dogs as they grow up. While walks/exercise, and structured training sessions certainly have their place in a puppy’s day, good old fashioned play is a big key to a happy pup!
Carving out time just to relax and play with your pup each day is incredibly important for his social development. It gives you the opportunity to teach boundaries when play goes too far (for example your pup may playfully but painfully nip your hand!) as well as give your pup a chance to just have fun and be a puppy! If you are struggling with a busy schedule or figuring exactly how to spend time with your pup, we have some ideas! First, if you need to get something done such as cooking or making a phone call, you can attach your pup’s leash to your wrist or belt loop with a pile of toys nearby. Your pup remains close to you and available for quick interactions, but he can also play with his toys without straying out of your eyesight. Another fun game is various hide-and-go-seek option to engage your pup. You can hide treats around the house as well as hiding yourself and rewarding your pup with praise or treats when he finds you.
Finally, we also recommend sleeping with your doodle in the same room as you. He/she can sleep in their kennel, but simply being near you and able to hear and smell you overnight can help your doodle feel secure and close to his new pack!
Your Puppy is Happy When They Get to Use Their Nose
Another basic concept of dog psychology is that dog’s seek to understand the world through their noses. While humans typically rely on their vision as their most dominant sense, dogs “see” the world through smells. One of the most fulfilling activities for a young dog is to go to a new place and explore it with his nose!
So, while we of course recommend training and teaching your dog to walk appropriately on the leash, we also strongly recommend giving your dog some freedom on the walk to “slow down and smell the roses.” While all dogs love to sniff, puppies in particular are trying to learn about the big wide world and are extra driven to explore their environment.
Puppies also lose focus and tire more easily on walks than adult dogs. So just giving your pup a chance to slow down and sniff as much as he wants to at a few different points on the walk can help him relax and enjoy the walk. We like to think of a dog sniffing a particularly good spot on a walk akin to a human watching a beautiful sunset. This freedom to sniff definitely has a relaxing effect on dogs. One study published in the Applied Animal Behavior Science Journal even suggests that providing ample sniffing opportunities can make your dog feel more optimistic and build confidence and autonomy — all keys to being well-rounded adult dog.
Unhappy Puppies Don’t Get Enough Nap Time
We bring this one up a lot because it can often get overlooked as a crucial element to your puppy’s happiness right alongside of training and exercise! Everyone has heard of the comparison that a puppy is similar to a human baby. While we don’t subscribe to this comparison on every level, we do think there’s something to the scheduled naps!
Every parent knows that if given the choice, your baby will fight sleep in order to stay up and keep playing and exploring the world! But as most parents can attest, it is of critical importance to help your baby settle down for a nap even if he/she does not want to in order to avoid the overtired-crankies!
Believe it or not, puppies can get a serious case of the over-tired-crankies, too! An overtired pup can be a lot like an overtired toddler — they can become forgetful about their obedience and become more frenzied in their play. Often an increase in biting, jumping, etc. can be a sign the pup has reached a frenzied state of over-exhaustion. Hence, why keeping your pup on a schedule can be very important!
Puppies generally need at least 18 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. Usually they are ready to tucker out after an hour of activity and play time. Naps are generally 30 minutes to 2 hours. These are all very rough averages and every puppy is different, so pay attention to your puppies cues. If you have established a good crate-training rhythm, then puppy nap time will be easy—he will know that his crate is a safe, resting place and you can simply place him in his crate when it’s time for him to nap.
In addition to making sure your pup has a nap schedule, giving your pup a few predictable things he can count on is helpful as he is learning to navigate his big new world. Dogs typically thrive on routine, especially as young puppies. So, in addition to naps, having a few more predictable aspects to your pup’s routine will help him feel safe and settled in his environment. We have an example of a puppy schedule here. Even if your habits vary daily, simply keeping morning wake-ups or meals at the same time can help your pup feel secure.
You Can Make Your Puppy Happy By Keeping Up With These Tips
In conclusion, puppies are delightfully simple creatures who are generally easy to please! Simply spending time with them and making sure they have plenty of time to play and sniff as well as making sure they are getting enough rest will ensure a very waggly tail and set the stage for you puppy to grow up to be a well-rounded adult dog.
Jenna and the JLDD Team