Many owners compare welcoming a new puppy to bringing home a baby! They come with a lot of needs and demands…but no step-by-step manual. While we do not intend this post to be a manual with a one-size-fits-all approach to every pup out there, we do hope it will be a rough guide for those puppy owners who need a concrete schedule!
In this post, we’ll offer a schedule which assumes that you are starting with a young pup around 8-10 weeks of age.
A Good Daily Schedule for A Puppy: Mornings
Similar to human babies, puppies tend to be early risers. So, you can plan to start your day at around 6 a.m. You may hear your pup begin rustling around his kennel at this time. You will want to grab your pup and carry him out the door to wherever you plan for him to do his business. When young and still getting the hang of housetraining, the walk from the kennel to the yard may be met with an accident if the pup has a full bladder from a nap in the kennel.
Mornings are typically when you pup will have a big burst of play energy. The first half hour of the day should be devoted to playing or going for a walk. The first play session should be an active one as your pup will be ready to romp! At around 6:30 or so, your pup is ready for his first meal. Be prepared to take him out for a potty break immediately following his meal.
Incorporating Nap Time Into Your Pup's Schedule
After about an hour of activity, your pup will likely be ready for his first of many naps of the day. To keep it simple, we recommend alternating with an hour of play time and an hour to two hours of kennel or rest time throughout the day. So at around 7 am, you can put you pup back to his kennel (or naptime place).
Having a scheduled rest time can be very beneficial both for an owner’s sanity as well as for the pups’ mental and physical state. Some puppies will collapse at your feet when they get exhausted, but other pups will fight through their need for sleep and keep playing.
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!
Your pup may nap for around an hour (less or more is okay, too! He/she can play with chew toys, long-lasting treats, etc. if he wakes before his scheduled time is up!). After every scheduled kennel-time, immediately give your pup a potty break.
Potty breaks should continue at every half to one hour intervals when your pup is awake — more often if your little guy has recently eaten and/or drinking water.
For those that work away from home and must leave their pup in the kennel for longer than an hour or two, you will want to adjust the schedule accordingly. Your pup will probably still grow tired after an hour of play, but he will likely only need a shorter nap and then be ready for more action!
Mid-morning is often a good time for a focused training session. The pup has gotten his morning zoomies out of the way but isn’t too over-tired from the day yet. After a nap, give your pup his typical potty break and a few minutes of playing or sniffing around the yard before starting the training session.
Most young pups can only focus for a 5-10 minute training session at first. Keep sessions short and lighthearted. You can do several throughout the day following this same general schedule of engaging in training only when the pup is well-rested!
We recommend feeding your pup his dinner a minimum of 2-3 hours before bedtime. Feeding him a bit earlier in the day will reduce the chances that he has to poop overnight. If your pup does not have much of an appetite or seems to eat in smaller increments, you can adjust to feeding smaller more frequent meals.
But in any case, you will want to make sure that your pup is finished with his meals several hours before bedtime. And again, you will want to provide a potty break as soon as your pup finishes eating.
We recommend at least one walk a day to release some puppy energy as well as practice leash-walking and socialization skills. Many owners find a midday walk works well (coinciding with a work-time lunch break) and/or early evening after work or school responsibilities are done. Keep walks short at first - around 15 minutes or so is typically appropriate for an 8 week old pup.
Most pups need longer naps as the day winds on. Assuming an evening walk, your pup will likely be ready for a long nap around 6 or 7 pm. But he has one final energy burst to work through before officially calling it bedtime!
Similar to their morning burst of energy, many pups have one final spell of wild puppy play before officially going to bed at around 9 or 10 pm. We love using a flirt pole at this time to get the last of the energy drained while not exasperating already-weary owners. If you don’t own a flirt pole, any exciting toy tied to a rope will do! (If you're a new pet owner, review our new puppy owner checklist. )
Your pup should be ready for a final potty break and bed time at 9 or 10 pm. If younger than 12 weeks, you may expect your pup to wake up in the middle of night (around 3 or 4 am) for a potty break. Keep middle of the night potty breaks boring—simply carry the dog outside without making a lot of noise or turning on all the lights so that he/she can more easily settle back in again until morning!
Customize Your Puppy's Daily Schedule for Best Results
Do keep in mind that the above schedule is a general guide and every puppy is different. You may need to adjust the schedule based on your little guys’ needs. For example, a toy or miniature doodle may need more frequent potty breaks as they naturally have smaller bladders.
Or perhaps you have a herding breed doodle that needs more exercise than this schedule allows for. As your puppy grows older you will find that he can be awake for longer periods of time as well as rest for longer periods. He will need less frequent potty breaks and focused play sessions. Over time, you will find that your pup grows into a wonderfully predictable adult dog who fits in well with your preferred schedule!
Jenna and the JLDD Team