Originally published June 1, 2013
Puppies change dramatically between 8 weeks when we get them, and 10 weeks when we start taking them into the wider world and 12 weeks when they are most like what people think a puppy will be like.
Puppies can come home at 7 weeks without serious behavioural consequences, but they are very young babies. Make sure they get lots of crib time in their crates, and make sure that they are warm enough and have the chance to eat moistened food four times a day.
We chose Friday just before he 8 week birthday and brought her home at 8 weeks. Here she is just after her puppy testing.
Ideally, puppies should come home within a day or two of their eight week birthday. Before your puppy comes home have a crate set up for him at home and another in the car you are travelling within. When you arrive home, put your puppy down on the ground to potty. Choose a word to tell him what to do and say it while he is going. Watch carefully; tiny little puppies can sometimes go when you don’t notice. Once he has gone to the toilet, carry him into the house and help him to explore the room his crate is going to be in. When he appears to be sleepy, put him down for a nap. Follow your pup’s nap/wake cycle as closely as you can until about an hour before your bedtime. Get your puppy up and out to pee and spend some time playing with him for the hour before you go to bed. Put him in his crate to go to bed for the night and then set an alarm for two hours after you go to sleep. Get up, take your puppy out and then put him right back to bed again.
Our recommended schedule for 8 week old puppies is as follows:
Evening: Keep your puppy busy for one to two hours before bed time. Take him out and put him in his crate for the night.
Bedtime: Set an alarm for 3 to 4 hours after you go to sleep, get your puppy up and take him out to toilet. Put him back to bed. If he wakes you in the night, take him out to toilet. If he goes, then he can sleep in his crate in your room. If he does not, move his crate to another room where he will not disturb anyone through the night so that you can get back to sleep.
Morning: When your alarm goes off, get your puppy out of his crate and carry him to his toilet area and cue him to pee. As soon as your puppy goes to the toilet, he can come in and have his breakfast and hang out with you. Watch him carefully though; you must be in the same room! If your puppy is doing something naughty, just say “that’s enough” and if he continues, say “too bad” and put him in his crate or a safe room for 30 seconds to 3 minutes. If he starts to look like he needs to go to the toilet, carry him out to your toilet area and ask him to go. If he goes he gets to spend more time out. If he does not, then put him in his crate for half an hour and try again. Puppies usually need to urinate or defecate every thirty minutes or so. Your puppy will need a long nap in the morning in his crate where he can rest without being disturbed after your puppy has had an early morning play.
Late Morning to Early Afternoon: Repeat your morning routine with your puppy.
Late Afternoon to Early Evening: Repeat your morning routine with your puppy.
You puppy might need to sleep as much as 20 hours a day when he first comes home. Allowing him to rest undisturbed with predictable activities of play and training in between will help him to grow a brain that is good at learning, that is good at bouncing back after being startled and that accepts new things. Sleep is important for young puppies. Exercise is not. If your puppy is zooming around like a maniac, he needs a nap, not a walk.
Short at home puppy visits are better than walks for 8 week old puppies. Notice that we have several important elements in the room; an adult to supervise, two crates to nap in or have time outs in, and lots of legal toys. Photo Credit: Sue Alexander
Now that you have a good sleep wake cycle established with your puppy, you can begin adding in extra time, making sure your pup gets out to pee every half an hour when he is awake. If he toilets right away, he can have more time out. Work with your puppy’s natural rhythms as much as possible. At ten weeks, your puppy is ready for some short off leash walks in a safe environment and puppy play dates on a daily basis. Your puppy should not be visiting the dog parks at this age as he could be bullied or harassed. At ten weeks you can stop setting your alarm for two hours after you go to sleep, and only get up if your puppy wakes you. Remember to use the rule that if he wakes you to toilet, and he actually toilets, he can continue to spend the night with you. If he wakes you to play, you can move his crate to another room so that you can get a good night’s sleep. If your puppy is having over night accidents, go back to waking up through the night and taking him out.
When your puppy is out of his crate, he must be in the same room as you for his own safety. You can give him about as much time unattended as a two year old child; this means that if you need to use the bathroom, you must take him with you, or put him in his crate for safety’s sake. Continue to use “that’s enough/too bad” to teach him what behaviours you want him to do when he is out of his crate and what behaviours you want him to not do.
By now, you should have a great schedule with your puppy, based on what you started above. Your puppy should begin to sleep through the night on a regular basis now. Your puppy should not need to sleep as much anymore and can spend more time out of his crate with the family. Anytime you cannot directly supervise, put him in his crate where he is safe from chewing on dangerous items such as electrical cords or getting into your plants or causing mayhem. Allow your puppy about as much unsupervised time as you would allow a three year old.
Your puppy can begin to have daily regular off leash exercise. 12 weeks is the ideal time to start teaching leash manners, but only work on this for five to ten minutes at a time, twice a day. Your puppy can now tolerate up to half an hour of off leash hiking with you. Please build up your puppy’s endurance slowly, working up to an hour off leash at about 8 months of age.
Off leash walks are a blast for people and dogs! Start at about 12 weeks of age and you can work up to longer hikes by the time your dog is 8 or nine months old. Photo Credit: John Alexander