Puppies, as a general rule, will need a lot more of your time and attention than an already trained adult dog. Not only do they need plenty of training to grow into a well-adjusted adult dog, but they have important developmental stages that need special attention as well.
When you get a puppy, it’s important to plan for their needs. Not only does this involve planning financially for food, vet bills, training classes, and other items you need, but you need to plan your time as well.
How Much Time Do You Need for a Puppy?
Plan to spend at least 2-3 hours on average engaging with your puppy in training and play throughout the day. When getting a puppy, you should consider the impact they will have on you over the next 10-15 years, and whether they will fit into your lifestyle.
There are breeds that require less attention than others, however individual personality is also a factor. Your training goals and their energy level will also factor into their attention requirements.
It’s vital to spend the adequate time your puppy needs in order to avoid behavioral issues, such as separation anxiety, which can make dog ownership much harder.
You’ll need to dedicate time to the following activities, at a minimum:
Teaching basic manners/obedience
Play time and enrichment
Walks and potty breaks
Vet visits and medical care
How much time each of these categories takes up during your day depends very heavily on your individual puppy.
Puppies that have been raised by a breeder or foster parent who starts potty training at 3-4 weeks-old will help. Potty training a puppy from a mill rescue that has had to use the bathroom in their kennel their whole life will take more attention.
Puppies that come from a place that ensured they were healthy before going home will require less veterinary time and attention than a puppy that comes to you with parvovirus, parasitic worms, or another preventable condition.
Breeds (and mixes of breeds) that are considered low energy companion dogs will have much lower playtime and enrichment requirements than a working dog, such as a Malinois or Border Collie.
These are just some of the many reasons it’s important to pay attention to where your puppy comes from, in order to set you and your puppy up for success. It’s better to wait a little longer for the right puppy than to end up with one that doesn’t fit your lifestyle, and will make you miserable for the next decade.
How much attention does a 3-month-old puppy need?
At 3-months-old, your puppy will still be in their socialization period, and will be continuing to learn good potty training habits. Until your puppy is 4-months-old, your focus should be on good socialization, potty training, and household manners. All of which require considerable attention.
You have plenty of time to work on teaching tricks and obedience later. Right now, you’ll need to spend time creating a well-rounded dog and ensuring you don’t let bad habits develop.
For socialization, you’ll want to spend time every day exposing your puppy to something new, while making sure they aren’t overwhelmed or scared.
Good socialization activities should leave your puppy happy and content with the experience, instead of scaring your puppy or making them uncomfortable.
When I raise puppies, I often spend at least 2-4 hours a day just focusing on new socialization opportunities.
This includes things like:
Walking in a new place, such as through a secluded, wooded trail on dirt instead of on a sidewalk in a bustling town
Playing sounds to get my puppy used to thunderstorms, a falling pot or pan, fireworks, sirens, and more
Providing opportunities for enrichment and exploration through new puzzle toys and games
Dressing up in a variety of outfits, so that my puppy born in the summer doesn’t panic when people wear snowsuits, hats, and scarves in the harsh Midwest winters
Visiting friend’s dogs, or a puppy socialization class, to meet a variety of dogs and playmates
Experiencing an elevator, vehicles, hair dryers, grooming procedures, and any other activity they may experience in their life
Socialization is much more than just attending a puppy class. You should expose your puppy to all the things they might encounter in their life!
While puppies won’t have full bladder control until 4-6 months old, you should still be seeing very few accidents by 3-months-old if you’ve been setting your puppy up for success. If not, it’s time to reach out to both the veterinarian and a trainer to make a plan moving forward.
Potty training and socialization can be spread throughout the day, but you should expect a 3 month old puppy to be taking up most of your time outside of work.
There’s plenty to be done at this age!
It’s also vital that your pup has things to do when you can’t give them your attention. A good range of toys is vital for this reason, and make sure you change them up regularly. We recommend Bark Box for this, as your pup will get a new box of toys every month, and it makes for a fun experience for all!
How much attention does a 6-month-old puppy need?
At 6-months-old, your puppy is past their socialization period and should be well on their way to being fully potty trained. During this period you will be spending most of your time exercising and training your puppy.
Depending on your puppy’s breed, they may need two short 20-30 minute play sessions to be tired, or they may need a few hours of both physical and mental exercise to be satisfied.
With my dogs, an active breed known as the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, they need plenty of opportunities to use their body as well as their brain.
At 6-months-old, our time is spent (roughly) in the following manner:
30-60 minutes of puzzle toys, such as snuffle mats, Kongs, or other activities where they use their brain to work for food
30-60 minutes of walks, both for training purposes as well as to let them sniff and use their brain
20-90 minutes of training, depending on the type of training we are doing
30-60 minutes of free play, getting to run around with other dogs, or playing fetch or tug-of-war
This all adds up to at least 2 hours of time spent every day on fulfilling my dog’s physical and mental needs. Most days, the average is closer to 3-4 hours.
Not every breed will need this much work. A smaller breed with low energy requirements, such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, will be perfectly content with a lot less.
On days where the weather is poor, my dogs may spend more time working on puzzle toys or playing and training inside the house.
On nice days, we may do very little training and instead we spend the day exploring a new state park or another outdoor activity.
It’s important to be flexible in your plans for your dog’s exercise and how much attention they will need from you, as it will vary day to day and with their age and breed, too.
Talking to other owners and breeders of the breed you hope to own, or to the foster parents of the puppy you are getting, are two great ways to try and set yourself up for a realistic expectation of time needed.
You’ll also need to consider time spent in training classes. At this age, it’s a great time to be working with your puppy in a basic obedience class where they can learn to behave around other dogs and people.
Most classes run 6-8 weeks for an hour a week, plus time spent training and working on homework in between.
How much attention does a 12-month-old puppy need?
If you’ve done your due diligence as a puppy owner, your 12-month-old puppy should be set up and well on their way to being a well-behaved member of your family. You will still need to spend time training through adolescence, as well as offering the required exercise for your breed.
You’ll likely be able to reduce the hours you spend training your puppy if you’ve been dedicated up until this point.
Otherwise, your training time will likely increase as you have more bad habits to undo. This is why it’s important to spend as much of your attention as you can with your puppy early on.
Exercise needs are likely going to either stay the same or increase from the time your puppy turned 6-months-old. In most dogs, their exercise needs are not going to decrease until they are elderly and cannot physically or mentally do as much anymore.
Depending on your dog’s breed, this may mean spending 60-minutes a day giving your dog the explicit attention and time they need to be content, or it may mean spending 4-5 times that if you have a higher energy, working dog.
Do puppies need constant supervision?
Young puppies are a lot of work in order to raise them appropriately. Potty training and ensuring good house manners requires plenty of time and supervision. That doesn’t mean your puppy needs constant supervision, although they do need to be set up for success.
If you are unable to watch your puppy, they should be in a crate, pen, or room that has specifically been puppy proofed.
Crates and exercise pens in particular are ideal when potty training, to avoid inappropriate elimination.
Most potty training mistakes happen when an owner expects to be able to have their puppy in the same room while focusing completely on something else.
Puppies that are 2-3 months-old will require at least a casual eye to be on them when they are roaming the house in order to ensure they don’t have accidents, eat something they shouldn’t, or harm themselves.
Playing with a puppy
How long you should play with your puppy, as well as how much playtime your puppy needs, will again be dependent on your puppy’s individual breed. Some dogs will be excited for hours of play, while others prefer only short sessions of play coupled with other activities.
You can help your puppy learn to play with you by reviewing many of the materials created by Dr. Amy Cook of Play Way Dogs. Her method of teaching dogs to play socially, rather than with toys alone, is a great way to be able to reward your puppy with play in the future.
It’s also a lot of fun! Take a look at this infographic, created by Lili Chin, that illustrates many of the ways Dr. Cook recommends playing with your dog.
Games of fetch, hide-and-seek, and tug-of-war are a few other favorites of many puppies.
Puppies are a lot of work, and require a lot of time and dedication. By finding the appropriate times and ways to play with them, feed them, exercise them, and train them, you’ll be able to raise a well-adjusted and happy puppy!
Marie started HoundGames with her husband, Geoff. She is a life long dog lover and always wanted to start a business around dogs, and she's finally living out her dream. They hope to launch more products in the future!