Getting a Dog: A Puppy’s Life

Making sure your puppy grows into a healthy, well-behaved dog involves considerable work.

By: Maya Rhodan

It’s a good thing puppies are so cute—because they’re also exhausting. For a puppy, every day is a chance to explore, grow, and get into a new mess. Owners had better know how to keep up. With the help of Heather Morris, dog trainer and owner of DC’s Spot On Training, we’ve compiled a puppy’s typical daily routine. (We didn’t schedule cuddles, but those should happen throughout the day, too.)

■ 7:30 am—Wake up and go potty

“A general rule of thumb is a dog can hold its bladder one hour for every month that the dog is old,” says Morris, who has trained dogs in the area for more than nine years. Puppies are generally adopted at eight weeks, meaning they need to go to the bathroom every two hours.

■ 7:45 am—Breakfast time

Puppies six months and younger should eat three meals a day.

■ 8:05 am—Potty break

Puppies need to go to the bathroom within 20 minutes of eating and drinking in the morning.

■ 8:30 am—Alone time

When owners go to work, they should confine puppies to a comfortable-size crate or a designated area with a bed, and spaces to play and potty. Puppies with access to the entire house are sure to get into trouble—even danger.

■ 11:30 am—Dog-walker visit number one

A puppy needs a lot more attention than an adult dog, so owners who work all day and can’t let the young animal out should schedule two daily visits from a dog walker. That person should also feed the puppy a midday meal.

■ 3:30 pm—Dog-walker visit number two

When puppies are six to eight months old, one daily visit from a walker is usually sufficient.

■ 5:30 pm—Reunion!

There’s no happier time for a puppy than when its owner gets home from work. Excited pups are more prone to accidents, so you should immediately take them out for a potty break.

■ 6 pm—Socializing and play time

To grow into happy, confident, well-behaved adult dogs, puppies need to get out into the world. They should go to parks, meet other canines and people, and explore the neighborhood. Obedience classes are a good opportunity for socializing, too.

■ 7 pm—Dinnertime

■ 7:20 pm—Potty break

■ 9:20 pm—Potty break

When they relieve themselves outside, puppies should be rewarded. Positive reinforcement—such as treats, praise, and play time—goes a long way.

■ 11 pm—Potty break before bed

■ 1 am to 7 am—Late-night breaks

New puppy owners who think they’re going to get a full night’s sleep are in for a rude awakening—literally. Puppies usually need to make at least a couple of late trips to relieve themselves.

This article appears in the November 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.

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