Puppies are cute and cuddly; they can easily wrap their nest mates around their little paws. What's cute in a puppy can be annoying, if not dangerous, when the pup becomes an adult, however. Take some time now to establish a routine for your puppy, teaching him good manners and appropriate household behavior.
As soon as your puppy wakes up, take him outside to potty. Use a cue, such as "hurry up" or "go potty," and use praise and treats to reward him for pottying outside and to encourage him to continue to do so. If you want to walk your puppy in the morning, do it after he's pottied -- business first, then play. A rule of thumb is to walk no more than five minutes per month in age; this protects the growing bones and joints from damage.
After the walk, it's time for breakfast and then another trip outside to potty as soon as breakfast is finished. If you can keep an eye on the puppy while it plays, provide some safe bones and toys. If you'll be busy with other things, or going to work, put the puppy in his crate with a safe chew toy. Take him out for one last potty trip before you leave for the day.
Puppies can generally hold their bladder for one hour per month of age. If you work outside the home, you'll need to make arrangements to come home at lunch or have someone go to your home, and let your puppy out once or twice during the day. He should go out to potty as soon as he comes out of his crate -- if the crate is far from the door, carrying him might be the best option for the first few weeks.
Your puppy will also need lunch during the afternoon break. Most puppies should eat three times a day until they're 6 months old and then twice a day throughout their adulthood. Feeding schedules may vary by breed, so follow the specific recommendations of your breeder or veterinarian.
Evenings usually provide the best time for you to interact with, socialize and train your puppy. Again, as soon as you get home, let your puppy out of his crate and take him out to potty. Once you've changed out of your work clothes and decompressed to your satisfaction, take him for some socialization at a park, sports field or shopping center -- anywhere there will be a variety of people for him to see and meet. Don't skip this daily exploration. Avoid places where strange dogs congregate until your puppy has had his 12-week or 16-week vaccinations, but encourage interaction with dogs you know are healthy, vaccinated and well-socialized.
You can also spend some time in the evening teaching basic good manners like "sit," "down," "off" and "leave it." Short sessions, five or 10 minutes in length, are most effective for puppies, who typically have the attention spans of gnats. You can use the training session to feed your puppy some of his dinner, using his kibble as the reward; end the session with an exceptionally good response and give him the rest of his dinner as a "jackpot."
The last thing you do before going to bed is take your puppy out to potty. Whether your puppy sleeps in his crate at night or in bed with you is personal preference. Either way, you might need to get up during the night to let him out to potty; after a few weeks, he should start sleeping through the night.
If you do have him sleep in bed with you, consider closing the door or using a baby gate to confine him to your bedroom, in case he wakes up during the night and goes exploring. Puppy-proof the room well, of course -- puppies are very curious and will get into anything and everything, often with undesirable results.
A Word About Water and Housetraining
When you're housetraining a puppy, you walk a fine line between providing ample fresh, clean water and setting him up for housetraining success. A puppy should drink about 1 cup of water per 8 pounds of body weight per day. Controlling water intake means you control output -- urination -- but if you restrict water too much, your puppy might drink excessively when he does have access to it. Try giving a half cup at a time during the day, at least 20 minutes before you need to crate him. In the evening, leave water out if possible, but pick it up an hour before bedtime. Remember -- your puppy needs to go out to potty when he wakes up, after playing, after eating, after drinking and every 10 to 15 minutes while he's awake and uncrated.
- puppy image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com