Are You Prepared for Your Puppy's Arrival?
Adding a puppy to your family is an exciting time but it can also be difficult, confusing and frustrating too. Between potty training, puppy biting, chewing and all of the other challenges that are waiting for you on your puppy raising journey, your joy and excitement can quickly be replaced with stress.
Having a plan and a routine to follow makes the transition easier for everyone in your family to be prepared and ready for your new addition. This is what I am outlining for you in this article today. Read through to see how I break down a healthy daily routine to help you minimize stress and let you enjoy your new puppy more.
If you're bringing a new puppy home and need a little guidance on how to prepare, you can enrol in CPU Online for as little as $27/mo
and access online resources to help you get ready for your new addition. Or if you want private coaching, you can enrol in the Puppy Partners QuickStart Program
and I'll guide you step by step and support you through every challenge you face.
By enrolling, you'll discover what you need to do before your puppy comes home and they tools, equipment you'll need to have and what to focus on to help your puppy thrive. Don't wait until your puppy arrives to try to figure out what you need. Be prepared to help your puppy settle in their new home before you pick them up. I recommend having some mealtime Toppls or Kongs ready for their arrival because chewing is a wonderful stress release and since food often brings joy, you'll also be starting off your life together with calm, happiness for everyone.
The Daily Cycle of Activities
In the first few days that your puppy is home, the focus of your interactions should be first easing the transition, establishing a nurturing bond, creating a healthy daily routine and getting started on potty training. Many guardians don't realize that allowing even a few accidents can create big potty training problems for weeks or months to come. Make sure that you download the free Potty Training Guide found at the bottom of this page, and read it so you know the key components that will lead to your success right off the bat.
To help with the transition from being with littermates and momma, to joining your family, I recommend bringing home a piece of a blanket that momma has used so that your puppy has a familiar scent that will give comfort in a new environment. Also keep your home environment fairly calm and quiet for the first few days to help ease the puppy into their new home and not overwhelm them with too much stimulation.
To start bonding with your puppy I suggest gentle play, hand-feeding meals and restful naps together over the first 24-48 hours. Remember that your puppy is a baby who has just left his mother so he needs to feel comforted and safe with you. Your puppy will probably be tired for the first day or two, but that won't last so don't get used to it ! The first few days of transition will allow you to introduce a Daily Cycle of Activities that will promote appropriate play, decompression and relaxation, sleep and rest and of course establish good potty habits from the start.
The daily cycle of activities
will look like this: sleep, wake up, out to go to the bathroom, then play and learning games for 30-45 minutes, followed by an interactive meal such as a frozen Kong
or a lickee mat
and then back down for a nap. This cycle can be repeated several times each day and adapted to each individual dog and family's needs.
A puppies routine should be divided approximately as follows: 18 hours of sleep that is broken up into one long sleep through the night and then several blocks of 2-3 hours of sleep throughout the day; 3 hours of calm, low arousal activities such as chewing, sniffing, exploring, resting or doing nothing each day; 2.5 hours of moderately arousing play, walks and learning games each day; only 30 minutes a day of higher arousing play that gets puppy more excited or puts a little more stress on their nervous system.
Let's look at the cycle of activities a little closer.
The Importance of Sleep for Dogs and Puppies
Did you know that puppies need about 18-20 hours of sleep each day and adolescent and adult dogs still need about 16-18 hours of sleep? Sleep is often overlooked when raising puppies and the emphasis is largely placed on more exercise and activity. But directly linked to exercises and arousing activities is an over-aroused nervous system which can lead to behaviour like biting, chewing and barking. In the same way that humans need proper rest and sleep, dogs need sleep and rest too.
Proper sleep and rest will improve your puppies mood, support balance in their emotional and mental states, promote resilience in new, exciting or stressful situations, reduce anxious feelings or nervousness, foster a peaceful internal state that's ready to explore and learn and support health and wellness. Getting enough sleep helps the body function properly.
Healthy Daily Habits for Puppies
Traditionally, guardians were advised to exercise their dogs and puppies more to tire them out. The saying goes, "A Tired Dog is a Good Dog." But new scientific findings have shown that this is not necessarily true and many professionals are actually moving away from this model and adapting to a "slow dog movement" model that promotes a healthy, calm nervous system and emotional regulation. Appropriate activities, play and walks are important for your puppy's success and happiness in life.
Focus on the green zone for most of the day. These are activities that help your puppy find peace and contentment and promote a calm mental state. They could be quietly playing with a favourite toy, chewing on a kong or Toppl, you could be massaging them or working on a calming skill like settling on a mat. I know this can feel impossible for some busy puppies so be sure to join CPU Online today and ask in the Member Forum if you need new calming ideas for your puppy!
The yellow zone is a more active state of arousal but is not to be confused with over-arousal which is the orange zone. The orange zone is often activated if a puppy is over-stimulated, over-tired or stressed. You'll know that your puppy is in this state when he's biting really hard and you can't redirect him, if he's barking more than usual or is otherwise just really having a hard time. At this point what your puppy needs is a calm-down activity such as chewing or sniffing and then they need to have a nap!
The yellow zone is where your puppy is when you are gently playing with toys or playing some learning games. Typically you will do these activities right after your puppy wakes up from a nap but some puppies will need a little time to wake up before they are ready to play. Some of my favourite learning games are the name game, the trade game (trade a toy for a treat to start teaching drop it), the connection game and the yo-yo game. You can find these videos in the CPU Online Resources - Join today for as little as $27/mo.
When your puppy is moderately aroused and ready to play you can also work on puppy biting strategies.
Most outings or walks will lead to high arousal because everything is so brand new for your puppy. Make sure when you head out with your puppy that you bring a lot of yummy, soft treats and you only plan to be out for a half hour. After each exciting or stressful social outing, your puppy needs to decompress in a way that is natural for them.
Decompression & Stress Release to Prepare for Sleep
One of your most important roles as a puppy parent is in supporting your puppy's emotional intelligence or in other words how well they can cope with stress and return to a balanced emotional state. Just like children, puppies need to feel safe, loved and part of a family unit. In addition to this, puppies, like children, need co-regulation from their caregiver to master self-regulation later in life.
Our dogs don’t just love us, they’re attached to us and look to us to be their safe haven. Here’s an excerpt from an article that explores the connection between humans and dogs and the similarities to a parent-child relationship in humans.
“In dogs, just like in human infants, attachment is associated with reward-related brain responses to their caregiver's speech, according to a new study published recently in NeuroImage. Combining behavioural and brain data, Hungarian researchers at the Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, the MTE-ELTE Lendület Neuroethology of Communication Research Group and the MTA-ELTE Comparative Ethology Research Group revealed exciting similarities between dog-owner and infant-mother attachment.”
Recent studies show that dogs form similar attachments to their human caregivers, as infants do to their parents. This new information has lead to professionals shifting gears from the traditional obedience model as a first step for raising puppies, to helping guardians form this type of bond with their puppies through daily healthy habits. A daily routine that supports emotional health, physical well-being, intellectual maturity and problem solving ability, is linked to a greater quality of life for everyone.
A great way to help support healthy mental states is by ensuring the cycle of emotional regulation is completed after each fun event, arousing activity or stimulating outing. In other words, what goes up, must come down so after a period of heightened arousal, we must help our puppy properly decompress and learn how to regulate so that they can switch off their sympathetic nervous system easily and learn to relax.
There are two things I love to do to help dogs and puppies decompress: sniff and chew. Snuffle mats
are great for indoor sniffing, but you can also toss some yummy, stinky treats into the grass and teach your puppy to forage for them. Kongs and Toppls bring mealtime enrichment in a way that can't be imitated by synthetic toys. I suggest having an outing or play session after waking, and when it's time to slow down and decompress, feed your puppy their meal in a way that supports calm, focused chewing. The biological mechanisms of chewing will trigger a release of calming endorphins to help the nervous systems return to balance and help ease your puppy into the next nap cycle.
I suggest feeding your puppy 3-4 small enrichment meals a day and giving them strategically after activity or play because chewing also functions as a great stress reliever and prepares your puppy for the rest and digest state that is served by the parasympathetic nervous system. The only way to shut off the excitatory nervous system, otherwise known as sympathetic activation, is to engage the parasympathetic system. So the goal after any activity is to help your puppy return to a balanced state that's achieved through calming & decompressing activities.
Your puppy's routine doesn't go by the clock but by their natural rhythm. Just remember the cycle: sleep, activity, mealtime decompression and then back to sleep. Repeat this each time your puppy is awake and don't forget to follow the potty training rules throughout your activity phase. You'll want to be taking your puppy out to go pee every 20 minutes or so when they are active because they likely will need to go more often.