Raising a puppy can feel complicated. There are so many things to keep track of — like mealtimes, potty breaks, and basic training — on top of work and family life. How do you make sure you’re meeting everyone’s needs?

Thankfully a solid routine can make all the difference. We know schedules themselves aren’t always easy to create or maintain, though. That’s why we’ve put together everything you need to know in one place.

Here’s how to set up your puppy’s schedule!


  • Creating a schedule will set you and your puppy up for success. A set routine makes sure nothing slips through the cracks and helps everyone build healthy habits. Over time, you can become more flexible.
  • Center your puppy’s schedule around your long-term goals. Different lifestyles and priorities lend themselves to different routines.
  • Remember your puppy is growing physically and mentally. Set your expectations accordingly.
  • Your schedule can be as detailed or as high level as you need. Do what works best for you and your household.
  • The most effective routines prioritize basic needs first like food, water, and sleep—before working in extra activities. This makes sure your puppy has the energy he needs to thrive.
  • Stacking activities can make good dog parenting feel more attainable. Instead of treating each responsibility like a separate to-do item, consider combining them into groups.

Why create a schedule for my puppy?

Raising a dog can be a lot. No matter how cute he is, at times you’re going to feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. That’s where a schedule can make the difference between “tired but motivated” and “completely overwhelmed.”

Benefits of getting your puppy on a set schedule

A puppy-raising schedule provides you and your dog with a few key things. It gives your puppy the consistency he needs to feel secure and develop foundational skills like potty training. It makes sure you stay organized as a dog parent. And it keeps your entire household on the same page so nothing slips through the cracks. Your routine helps everyone build healthy habits, and you can decide if you want to be more flexible over time.

Consistency for your puppy

Your puppy is going through the biggest adjustment of his life when you first bring him home. He’s left his mother, littermates, and familiar environment behind. He’s also entering his first fear period around eight weeks of age (more on that in the next section).

Now more than ever, he needs you to be consistent. Your puppy isn’t old enough to express his needs and make good decisions alone — he relies on you for everything from basic sustenance to social fulfillment and comfort.

Getting in a comfortable routine will make sure you both know what to expect in your relationship!

Organization and guidance for you

While life as a new dog parent is full of excitement, it can also be difficult to manage so many responsibilities. Some people experience“puppy blues” after bringing home their dog: feelings of regret, disappointment, or even dismay at what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Thankfully, preparing a schedule can help you both avoid those negative emotions in the first place and work through them if they do come up. The same way puppies thrive with consistency, so do dog parents! When you’re guided by a routine built on your priorities, everything falls into place.

A framework to keep your household on the same page

Schedules also serve a practical purpose to keep your family on the same page. If you live alone with your new dog, you might not need to keep track of their meals and bathroom breaks so closely — but if two or more people share puppy tasks, you want to be sure you don’t accidentally double up (or miss something entirely).

Healthy habits now enable more flexibility later

In the beginning, defined structure makes sure your household stays consistent. It can be easy to miss something when there’s so much to do — organizing your most important tasks ahead of time takes care of that.

This consistency also creates clarity about your life together. It helps you see what matters and be a steady presence for your dog. As your puppy grows into a young adult and you grow into a confident dog parent, you can embrace greater flexibility over time.

Following a schedule doesn’t mean you’re stuck with strict rules forever. It does prepare you and your puppy for more harmony later on.

How should I set up my puppy’s schedule?

To create the right schedule for you and your dog, start thinking about your long-term goals. Are you hoping to have an active adventure companion? A social city butterfly? Different lifestyles and priorities lend themselves to different routines! As you prepare for the life you want to share, you should also remember that your puppy is still growing. It’s important to set age-appropriate expectations for your dog’s ability to focus and hold his bladder until he reaches full maturity.

Center your schedule around long-term goals

Think about what you want — for both yourself and for your dog — out of this relationship. What drew you to a canine companion? What do you hope to experience together?

Most dog parents will have some similar goals like house training, sleeping through the night, and basic training communication. Beyond that, your individual priorities might vary.

  • Maybe you live in the suburbs and hope to have a quiet, classic life with your family pet. You just want your dog to hold his bladder in the house and join you on neighborhood walks, so your schedule prioritizes at-home training.
  • Maybe you’re an avid adventurer hoping for a do-anything companion. Your puppy needs to learn how to handle a range of environments, come when called, and build physical strength — your routine might involve greater wildlife exposure and impulse control practice.
  • Maybe you’re a city dweller who loves greeting new faces at a favorite coffee shop or bar. You hope your puppy will grow into a confident dog who’s happy to tag along, so you schedule in lots of socialization outings.

Ultimately: Reflecting on who you are, where you are, and what you want will help you build the best possible life with your dog. You don’t have to have the same goals as your family, neighbors, or friends.

Make sure your routine is age appropriate

Just as important as centering your schedule around relevant goals? Making sure it lines up with developmental milestones. If you ask a young dog to behave like an adult, you set everyone up for failure. If you meet him where he’s at, you can enjoy the journey as a team.

Let’s take a look at what your puppy needs at different points while growing up.

2-3 months

Most dogs leave their breeder at around eight weeks (two months) of age. This is also the start of the first fear period, where they become wary of new experiences. It’s normal for your puppy to take some time to settle in.

At this point your dog needs almost constant guidance. He has to eat multiple times a day, use the bathroom every two to four hours, and get plenty of sleep. It’s also important that he starts to experience the world. While young puppies can be unsure of novel situations, their brains are ready to soak everything in. Positive exposure to relevant sights, sounds, surfaces, and objects set them up for success!

At this age you want to:

  • Schedule in frequent bathroom breaks every two to four hours
  • Divide your puppy’s daily food into three to four small meals
  • Allow your dog to sleep about 20 hours a day
  • Prioritize safe exposure to new environments
  • Respect your dog’s boundaries and make sure he feels safe with you

4-6 months

Around four months of age, your puppy should be over his first fear period. He might show more independence and start testing boundaries. Some of his long-term personality traits start to emerge!

He’s still open to new experiences, but his critical socialization period — the time from eight to twelve weeks where he’s most impressionable — has closed. You should continue taking him out in short spurts to maintain comfort with the world around him.

While all this is happening mentally, your puppy is still growing physically, too. He might double in size and finally start growing into those paws.

At this age you want to:

  • Maintain regular bathroom breaks every four to six hours
  • Divide your puppy’s daily food into two to three meals
  • Allow your dog to sleep about 18 hours a day
  • Start working on more basic training skills and household manners

6-18 months

At this point, your dog is approaching maturity — but he’s not quite there yet.

Around six to eight months, your puppies bathroom and nutrition needs stabilize. You can take him to relieve himself as often as you will when he’s fully developed (usually four to eight hours, possibly longer overnight). You can also move to twice daily feedings.

These changes alone create more flexibility in your life together. You and your dog should also know each other pretty well — now is the time to embark on longer adventures! Don’t be afraid to push your limits, but remember to always have your puppy’s back. He still relies on you for support as continues learning about the world.

You can also start asking more of your dog physically in this phase of development. As long as your veterinarian gives you the all clear, your puppy can begin jumping onto higher surfaces and running longer distances.

At this age you want to:

  • Take your dog to use the bathroom every four to eight hours
  • Feed two meals a day (or consider once a day if that’s best for your lifestyle)
  • Allow your dog to sleep about 12-14 hours a day
  • Embrace more physical and mental challenges together
  • Remember that your puppy is still an adolescent even though he might look like a full-grown adult

Make your schedule as detailed as you need it to be

Different households have different needs. Some dog parents benefit from documenting every bathroom break, bite of food, and play session. Keeping close tabs on your puppy’s development can help you track patterns and be more confident adjusting along the way.

Others feel trapped when things are too set in stone. Instead of being motivating, a strict schedule can be overwhelming. There’s no right or wrong way to start life with your puppy as long as you remember to:

  1. Meet everyone’s needs (physical, mental, and emotional)
  2. Set intentional priorities based on your long-term goals

Your puppy’s schedule might be more or less strict

  • Depending on how many people are in your household. In general, a bigger family benefits from more detailed organization so everyone stays on the same page.
  • If you have young kids with their own set routines. It’s hard enough to be a parent to just one species! The more complicated your family’s life is outside of your dog, the more you might rely on a defined routine.
  • Based on where you work (at home, nearby, or with a long commute) and your schedule (part-time, full-time, or flexible hours).

What should my puppy’s schedule look like?

The most effective puppy-raising routines prioritize basic needs (like food, water, and sleep) first. This makes sure your puppy has the energy he needs to thrive! Once your foundation is strong, you can add in other activities. Good schedules also stack multiple responsibilities together to make dog parenting feel more manageable. Instead of treating every potty break, mealtime, and training session like a separate to-do item, combine them into groups.

First things first: Start with basic needs

If you do nothing else with your dog in a day, you have to meet their basic needs. Here are the top things to prioritize in your puppy-raising schedule.

Food, water, and bathroom breaks

  • Depending on your puppy’s age (see above section), he needs to eat two to four times a day.
  • Your puppy should always have access to fresh water unless you’re about to leave him alone for an extended period or it’s bedtime. In those situations, you can consider removing his water bowl 30 minutes to a couple of hours beforehand.
  • Puppies can typically hold their bladders and bowels one hour for every month of age, sometimes plus one. If your puppy is eight weeks old, he can only hold it for two to three hours. As he ages, you can extend the time between bathroom breaks slowly as long as potty training continues to go well.


  • Young puppies need nearly 20 hours of sleep per day. If your household spends eight hours in bed overnight, that means your dog still needs about 12 hours of naps. (We know — that sounds like a lot.)
  • Scheduling designated two to three hour nap times can be a great way to make sure your puppy gets enough rest. It will also give you a break from their cute-but-tiring antics.

Exercise and fulfillment

  • While sustained running is not recommended for young dogs whose bones haven’t finished growing, puppies still need daily exercise. Regularly moving his body will help him develop coordination and build stronger muscles.
  • Give your dog opportunities to fulfill his natural drives by sniffing on neighborhood walks, playing games like tug, or searching for treats in puzzle toys.


  • Exposure to a variety of sights, sounds, surfaces, and objects will help your puppy’s brain develop. Try to do at least one novel thing with your dog each day, even if it’s just taking a new walking route or bringing him with you to run a few errands.

Veterinary care and grooming

  • Your puppy’s vet visits will happen on a monthly rather than daily schedule — but grooming is a lifelong responsibility.
  • Most dogs need their nails trimmed every two to eight weeks. It’s a good idea to do frequent, short sessions with your dog to get him used to the process.
  • Depending on your puppy’s breed, he might need to be brushed one or two times a day to just once every other week.

Positive social interactions

  • Yes: Regular interaction is one of your puppy’s basic needs! Our canine companions are social, cooperative mammals just like us.
  • Thankfully, these positive social experiences are a given if you meet the rest of your dog’s needs above.

Work in foundational training skills

When your dog is physically healthy and fulfilled, you’ll both be ready for more challenges. On top of primary needs, you can schedule in short training sessions to work on:

  • Name recognition. This simple skill sets the stage for more advanced recall and focus work as your dog ages.
  • Accepting a collar and leash. Chances are your puppy will spend plenty of time wearing these tools — but it’s important to remember our dogs don’t come with a natural understanding of what they are.
  • Basic impulse control. Our human world is often incompatible with our dog’s instincts. The ability for your puppy to pause before acting (like when he wants to chase a squirrel or pick up litter on a walk) can give you time to step in and keep him safe.

Add more activities from there

  • Depending on your individual lifestyle, preferences, and goals, you might schedule in other priorities as well.

Stack tasks together

Dog parenting can feel overwhelming. Stacking your activities can make things feel more attainable. Instead of treating each responsibility like a separate to-do item, consider grouping them together.

Common task combinations

  • Morning bathroom break + short walk

You should take your puppy outside as soon as he wakes up. Many owners like to combine going potty with a short morning walk to stretch everyone’s legs.

  • Breakfast + training or play session

It’s a nice habit to sneak in 5-10 minutes of training in the morning. Training sessions should be short, so don’t worry if you feel like you’re just squeezing this in! You can use some of your puppy’s first meal for easy eye contact or impulse control exercises and feed the rest in an enrichment toy.

  • Midday bathroom break + lunch + social interaction

Your young puppy can only hold his bladder for two to four hours. He’ll also be ready for some more food around your own lunch break. And if you have the time, it’s great to break up the day with some gentle play or affection.

  • Socialization outing + training + play

Evenings are ideal socialization opportunities. You can take your puppy on a walk in a new part of the neighborhood, drive to a nearby park, or even run errands together. What’s important is experiencing novel stimuli in a positive way. It’s also easy to work some training (like rewarding your dog for giving you eye contact around distractions) and play (like tugging in an unfamiliar environment) into these outings.

  • Evening meal + play time

You don’t want to feed your puppy’s last meal too close to bedtime — you want him to have ample time to digest before you all go to sleep. Some light activity after eating can help.

Example puppy daily schedules

Here are a few examples to get you thinking. What works for you might vary, so use them as a base and adjust as needed. These example routines all include:

  • Bathroom breaks every 2–6 hours depending on puppy age (4–10+ in a day)
  • 2–4 meals
  • Designated nap times
  • Training and play sessions
  • Slots for socialization outings
  • Time for other skills based on the family's goals, habits, and environments

Everyone works out of the house

Time Routine
6:30 AM Wake Up → Bathroom → Walk
7:00 AM Training → Breakfast → Play → Relax
8:30 AM Bathroom → Crate for the work day
11:00 AM Bathroom → Lunch → Affection → Nap (you, neighbor, or walker)
2:00 PM Bathroom → Nap
5:00 PM Bathroom → Dinner
5:30 PM Socialization outing → Training → Play → Relax
7:30 PM Supper → Play
8:00 PM Bathroom → Grooming → Relax
10:00 PM Bathroom → Crate for bed
12:00 AM Bathroom
3:00 AM Bathroom

Work from home or flexible schedule

Time Routine
6:30 AM Wake Up → Bathroom → Walk
7:00 AM Training → Breakfast → Play → Relax
8:30 AM Bathroom → Crate for morning work
11:00 AM Bathroom → Lunch → Socialization Outing → Nap (you, neighbor, or walker)
3:00 PM Bathroom → Play → Nap
5:30 PM Bathroom → Training (or Grooming) → Dinner → Relax
7:30 PM Supper → Play
8:00 PM Bathroom → Affection
10:00 PM Bathroom → Crate for bed
12:00 AM Bathroom
3:00 AM Bathroom

With young kids at home

Time Routine
6:30 AM Wake Up → Bathroom → Walk
7:00 AM Training → Breakfast → Greetings with the kids
7:30 AM Crate while you get the kids ready
8:30 AM Bathroom → Crate for morning work
11:00 AM Bathroom → Lunch → Affection → Nap
2:00 PM Bathroom → Nap (Kids help if home and old enough)
5:00 PM Bathroom → Dinner → Play with kids
5:30 PM Family socialization outing (Playground, park, dessert shop, etc.)
6:30 PM Nap (while family eats dinner and does homework)
7:30 PM Training → Supper → Family Play
8:00 PM Bathroom → Affection
10:00 PM Bathroom → Into the crate
12:00 AM Bathroom
3:00 AM Bathroom

Further Reading

Want to learn more about your pup's ideal daily schedule? Check out these other articles from Harper: