If you’ve perused my various crate training articles, you’ll see a frequent suggestion appear: make a schedule!
This is because puppies really do thrive on routine - a schedule provides them with structure, which aids in training and mental development, and even helps their small bodies function better.
When making a crate training schedule, consider your own habits and your puppy’s needs. Then make a schedule that fits both. Include food, potty, play, nap, and bedtime in the routine. Consistency is the key to success. As your puppy grows and changes, so will the daily routine.
It can be overwhelming to make a crate training schedule yourself, especially if you’re a first-time dog parent!
In this article, I will give you a schedule foundation to work off of, helping you determine the right routine for your furry best friend.
Ready? Let’s dive in.
Setting a schedule will help you tremendously with crate training your puppy.
You’ll find your efforts successful rather quickly by basing the crate time around what makes sense for your puppy’s day. Here are four steps to getting that perfect schedule.
Although adding a puppy into your life will uproot your own daily rituals as you know them, a new family member doesn’t have to alter things to an unrecognizable extent! The easiest way to maintain a proper schedule is to keep parts of your own intact.
Consider your own daily routine and what you need in it - for example, what time do you usually wake up? When do you go to work? What is your lunchtime? When do you come home? How do you wind down for bed?
Although many of us do not have a daily schedule written on paper, it’s a good idea to write yours down and have a physical interpretation of your own routine. This can make it a lot easier to determine a good daily plan for your puppy!
After determining your own side of the equation, it’s time to look at the puppy’s needs. This step has two components: what the puppy needs as a puppy and what crate training requires.
To start, every daily puppy plan must include:
Unlike their mature counterparts that eat only once or twice daily, puppies need food three to four times a day.
As such, integrating these multiple meal counts becomes fundamental in a schedule. This is especially true because all of the other schedule components depend upon the puppy’s eating time.
Where there is eating… There is also potty time!
According to studies, a puppy can usually only hold their bladder for about one hour per month of age. For example, if your puppy is four months old, they can only go four hours before having an accident.
This is a great reference point in determining where potty time should fall in the schedule, dependent upon when your puppy has eaten.
Keep in mind that puppies don’t gain full control of their bladders until later, so it’s usually a good idea to err on the side of caution.
Like human children, playtime is vital in a puppy’s development!
Play allows the puppy to exercise their mind, get out pent-up energy, and truly thrive as a happy little furry bundle! In addition, playtime builds confidence and can teach your puppy healthy boundaries in your home.
Playtime is also a wonderful opportunity to get some training in, as teaching your dog to learn behaviors through play is a great way to shape their future. You can teach tricks and behaviors by playing with your puppy by making training time a fun game!
As such, all schedules need to include a good amount of supervised playtime, which will help tremendously keep your puppy calm for crating.
It can be really exhausting to be a puppy, and that little body can’t handle playtime for too long until plopping on the floor for a nice nap!
Taking this into consideration, plenty of nap times need to be sprinkled into that routine, which is where the crate training shines.
Finally, a proper bedtime is always in order, both with a puppy and an adult dog.
Unlike a nap, this is when your dog will be left alone for the longest period to sleep! Timing this correctly will help you keep your healthy sleep cycle in check as well.
Now, to jump into the other side of this equation is what the process of crate training actually needs. Keeping the above in mind, crate training isn’t something you can just jump immediately into and be perfectly successful.
For starters, you can’t just lock your puppy in the kennel and expect everything to be okay. Instead, you have to increase kennel time gradually as your puppy becomes more and more comfortable with the crate.
Crate training needs a consistent rhythm of out-time and in-time. This can encourage your puppy’s body to adhere to sleepy, relaxed, nappy time when kenneled.
Once you’ve looked at your own life patterns and accepted your puppy’s needs, it’s time to set the schedule!
Here is a little sample schedule you can work off of to not throw you into the deep end to figure it out yourself. This should be suitable for a very small, 8-week-old puppy.
The schedule is only as successful as those adhering to it, so it’s pretty important to make sure the routine stays as is.
For some people who have never really had a set schedule by the minute before, it can be good to set some alarms for yourself until you become more used to it! Being inconsistent renders the routine futile.
As your puppy matures into a beautiful young dog, their needs will begin to change.
Mature dogs can usually be trusted unsupervised in the house for longer periods, require less hands-on initiative from their owners, and generally have much different requirements to maintain health and happiness than their younger selves.
Feeding time will be less frequent, as three to four meals a day is a bit of an overkill for a fully adult dog! Likewise, potty time will be a less frequent need (depending on the breed and temperament); exercise will have a different requirement, and your dog should be able to handle the crate for longer periods (within reason).
With the above changes gradually coming to fruition corresponding to your dog’s age, the schedule will need to be re-evaluated every few months. Start moving things around! For example, maybe playtime extends to an hour rather than thirty minutes, accommodating the removal of a midday meal.
Your puppy is an individual - and what we think sounds perfect in our brain may not necessarily be reality.
As such, it’s important to alter the schedule if you see parts of it that are not working very well. What isn’t working doesn’t always sit on the dog’s side; maybe an adjustment needs to be made to fit the schedule you also need for your own well-being and productivity!
While adhering to a strict schedule is best, it’s totally fine to deviate from it to suit you or your puppy’s needs better.
Just be sure to be attentive as to whether parts of the routine aren’t working because they’re not right for yourself or your dog or if they just haven’t been given a chance to work because your puppy is still too new to it!
Puppies can be quite flexible, so keep consistent however you choose to deviate.