Building a Routine With Your New Puppy

Rules for Puppies and People

Portrait of puppy lying down on sofa
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Puppies may seem happy-go-lucky creatures but when training puppies, your new puppy routine helps them feel secure. Building a routine for your puppy, and creating “rules of the house” lets the new baby know what to expect—and makes sure all the humans do, too.

New owners take the youngster away from the only world she’s ever known. The baby leaves its mom-dog and puppy friends behind; travels in a scary car ride; and arrives in a strange new world with unfamiliar smells, sounds, people, and other animals. That’s sure to put a twist in the tail of the most confident pup. Establishing a schedule with a known routine gives your puppy something to expect—and reduces the surprises that raise the normal stress of the transition to his new home.

Rules of the House

Before it comes home—or very shortly thereafter—make sure everyone in your human family agrees on basic rules. The puppy won’t know what’s allowed and what’s forbidden if one person allows it into the living room and another person becomes angry it leaves the linoleum floor space.

Puppies need consistency to learn. Changing the rules isn’t fair to them, or you, and interferes with the great companion they’re meant to be.

Decide if it’s allowed on the furniture or not. Will it sleep on its bed, in a crate, in the garage, or on your pillow? There are benefits to each, and it’s up to you to decide. Choose your battles wisely. Sleeping together may accelerate the bonding process, but if your kids are allergic that may be a no-no. The key is for the whole family to agree, and then enforce the rules with consistency.

Potty Routine

The new puppy will learn what’s expected more quickly with a known routine. Choose a convenient, easily cleaned and accessible location for potty training and be sure the whole family knows where it’s supposed to “go.” Pets become confused if you move their bathroom. By sticking to one area, the new pup will be reminded by the scent and location of what is expected.

Schedule potty breaks to accommodate the baby. Generally, this is the first thing in the morning, right before you go to bed, and after every puppy meal three to four times a day. The number of breaks diminishes as the baby matures and develops the ability to wait, but in the beginning, make sure you stay on schedule. That will help prevent potty accidents and speed up the house training. Don’t forget to schedule times to pick up the waste, too.

Soup’s On!

Ringing the dinner bell means you must choose a specific location and schedule for meals. Will it be allowed treats from the table, or not? Agree in advance and warn Grandma not to give in to puppy begging.

Healthy table treats aren’t all bad, as long as they don’t spoil the puppy’s appetite for balanced nutrition. But begging or (gasp!) stealing food off a dinner plate is rude. If you’re having snacks in the evening, it’s best to confine the puppy out of sight so you’re not teasing the poor fur-kid.

It’s not fair to the puppy if you insist on it eating only from its bowl, while Grandma or the kids sneak it treats. Perhaps you can compromise. Place a bowl on the table for the family to add their puppy-donations, and offer that as “desert” after the baby finishes its regular meal. Or reserve them for use during clicker training sessions, so there aren’t mixed signals.

Exercise Routine

A tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy. Depending on how your puppy plays, schedule several playtimes throughout the day for healthy exercise and to wear it out.

There are many reasons why puppies play. It also helps you bond with the new puppy. Use parts of these fun times to teach and practice basic obedience commands, such as teaching come. Just five minutes a day reminds it of lessons it already knows, teaches new ones, and wears out that mile-a-minute brain so it doesn’t go in search of trouble.