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The ultimate guide to help your puppy sleep through the night

Puppy sleep is a big deal. When you first bring your puppy home, you may feel much like you’ve just welcomed a newborn baby into your life… and we all know that can mean a lot of sleepless nights!

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Donna Connelly - Dog Behaviorist and trainer

In this ultimate guide to helping your puppy sleep through the night, we are going to cover everything you need to know, from that very first night to introducing a successful puppy bedtime routine.

Your puppy will sleep through the night in time, and with these top tips from professional dog trainer and behaviourist Donna Connelly, you’ll be perfectly prepared to set your puppy up for success.

Read on for our ultimate guide

    The first night with your new puppy

    It’s very exciting for us humans when we first bring our bundle of puppy joy home. But for your puppy, it is a very overwhelming experience.

    They have just left their mum, their siblings, their human(s), and their home. This is often also the day that your puppy has their first car journey of any length, and certainly their first car journey without the comfort of their siblings.

    Puppies also go through something called fear periods which is a stage in their life when they are a little more sensitive and worried about things. The first fear period takes place between 8 and 12 weeks of age which is often when puppy’s make the transition to their new home.

    Put all of this together, and you can see that what your puppy needs more than anything on their first few nights with you is comfort, reassurance, and security.

    As a society, we are often encouraged to start as we mean to go on. And that can lead to puppies being popped into their beds or crates alone from the very first night they arrive in their new home.

    If you want your puppy to sleep on their own in the future, that is absolutely achievable. But when your puppy first arrives, we need to be concentrate on establishing connection, security, and meeting their emotional needs.
    When you get this right, your puppy’s confidence and independence will develop naturally.

    Where should my puppy sleep at night time?

    To begin with, your puppy will need to be close to you at night time. There are two ways you can do this. You can set your puppy’s crate or bed up in your bedroom, or you can set up to sleep on the sofa near their bed or crate while your puppy settles into their new home.

    Some puppies will need the comfort of your touch, and some will be secure just knowing you’re in the room.

    It may take time for you to train your new puppy to feel comfortable in their crate, and we don’t want to force this before they’re ready. Have the crate available, but if your puppy doesn’t want to go in or is nervous about having the door shut, then concentrate on training this during the daytime until that crate confidence is established.

    The main focus is on building an attachment between you and your puppy. Of course, trust is a huge part of that.

    What to put in your puppy’s crate at night

    Imagine what life was like for your puppy when they were with their siblings. Puppies often cuddle up together, and so they are used to being very warm and snuggly.

    You can find microwavable heat pads made especially for dogs to simulate this sense of comfort. Typically pads will have a washable cover and helps to keep your puppy warm through the night.

    Certain toys equipped with a heartbeat is another brilliant tool for helping your puppy feel comfortable at night. The little heartbeat inside is perfect for your puppy to snuggle up close to.

    If you are able to have a toy or blanket from your breeder that has the scent of your puppy’s mum and siblings then keep this in your puppy’s crate too.

    And finally, your puppy should always have access to fresh and clean water so make sure you have a water bowl inside your puppy’s crate. You can get bowls that attach to the side of the crate to prevent any spillages.

    Should I wake my puppy to pee at night?

    Much like a sleeping baby, never wake a sleeping puppy (or dog). But if your puppy wakes in the night, they will likely need the toilet.

    When your puppy wakes, if they get out of bed, then take your puppy into the garden quickly for a toilet break.

    We don’t want your puppy to think this is playtime, so ideally, pop your pup on a lead and take them into the garden. Don’t play with your puppy or make any exciting noises. Instead, reward your puppy for toileting outside calmly and then head straight back inside to bed.

    Click here for our guide on puppy toilet training

    Should I leave my puppy to cry at night?

    Please don’t leave your puppy to cry at night. It’s old-fashioned advice which is sadly still touted about quite a lot.

    If your puppy is crying at night time, then your puppy needs comfort. Remember how scared they may be feeling and that being alone is an entirely new concept to your puppy.

    If you leave your puppy to cry, then they will eventually stop crying and go to sleep. But, this is a stress-induced sleep that could damage your relationship and create a negative association with their crate and being left alone.

    It is called flooding when you overexpose a dog to something they find stressful. It can absolutely lead to the dog no longer expressing the signs that they are stressed, but it can lead to deep-rooted problems which are challenging to solve.

    Leaving your puppy to cry can lead to stress, separation anxiety, and insecurities in general.

    Staying with your puppy won’t make it over-attached to you. Instead, it will make your puppy feel safe, secure, and far more likely to waltz into independence with confidence in the future.

    How do you get a puppy to stop whining at night?

    So what should you do if your puppy is crying at night? You can try sleeping in the same room with some distance between you, or you can try simply staying with your pup for a short period to help their adrenalin levels to settle.

    If your puppy is comforted by this short presence and can drift back to sleep, and isn’t immediately startled at your attempts to leave, this could be an effective choice.

    But if your puppy is crying or whining again the second you walk away, you need to take your training back a step. Return to sleeping in the same room or close enough to touch your puppy to give reassurance when they need it.

    And concentrate on encouraging more independence during the daytime, more on that shortly!

    Does my puppy have to have a crate?

    Crate training isn’t for everyone, and you don’t need a crate for your puppy necessarily.

    However, your dog will have to go into a crate at some stage in their lives, at the vets or for travel, and so it’s important that your puppy is positively introduced to one. In addition, if you plan to use a dog walker at some stage or send your pup to doggy daycare, then they will likely be transported in a crate for their safety.

    Again, there will be so many other new and potentially scary or exciting factors at play when your puppy first goes out with a dog walker or spends time at the vets. So crate training your puppy can help reduce the stress they may feel in these situations.

    So, even if you don’t intend for your puppy to sleep in their crate, I still recommend having one and spending time making it a positive and happy place for your puppy.

    How long should a puppy sleep in your room

    Your puppy will need to sleep close by to you until they are confident spending time alone.

    There isn’t a set time frame for this as all dogs are individual and will get to this point at their own pace.

    The more confident your puppy is, the quicker they will feel secure enough to be left alone.

    Building your puppy’s independence during the day

    If you give your puppy all the attention in the world during the day and are happy for them to be by your side continuously but want them to sleep alone at night, you honestly are not the only one.

    But what we want to do is to help your puppy build independence and confidence in the daytime, and that will positively impact their comfort in being independent at night time too. 

    It’s really simple to do and doesn’t take a lot of time. We want to introduce micro absences to your dog so that being alone becomes no big deal.

    Step 1: Encouraging puppy to choose to be alone

    You start by providing your puppy with an enrichment feeder such as a Lickimat with their Marley Bones spread on it or a snuffle mat. Put the feeder on the opposite side of the room to you or in the hallway just outside the room you’re in.

    Your puppy must be able to choose to return to you if they wish. So there is no physical barrier between you and your puppy at step 1. If your puppy is struggling, then remain in their sight but slowly increase the distance between you and your puppy.

    Licking and sniffing helps release endorphins that actively calm your dog, so using a Lickimat or a snuffle mat can help your puppy to enjoy these micro-absences.

    Step 2: Encouraging puppy to accept a barrier

    The barrier could be a baby gate that still allows your puppy to see you, their crate, or a solid door.

    While you pop to the loo, put the kettle on, or put the bins out, simply give your puppy an enrichment feeder or scatter feed some treats on the floor. Make sure you put down enough to keep your pup occupied for the time you’re gone. I use Marleybones air-dried natural treats to scatter. 

    Step 3: Slowly increase the duration

    To help your puppy get used to longer periods alone, slowly increase the time you leave them with their enrichment feeder or a chew.

    It can be tempting to increase the time alone continuously, but I recommend varying your puppy’s time unattended so that you’re not pushing them too quickly. For example, leave your puppy for 5 minutes (so long as they can manage this duration), and the next time leave them for 2 minutes.

    Be aware that during your puppy’s fear periods, they may regress slightly. These take place between 8 and 12 weeks of age and around 5 or 6 months of age and usually last a few weeks. During any regression, just take it back to basics and remove the barrier if your puppy becomes more anxious about time alone.

    3 steps to creating a puppy bedtime routine

    Creating a routine can help your puppy immensely. Creating a bedtime routine for your puppy will help him/her know exactly what to expect each night and will make for an easier transition to sleep.

    Step 1: A bit of mental stimulation

    We want to help your puppy to feel tired enough to sleep without ramping him/her up into an excited frenzy. So instead of a mad game of tug or fetch before bed, I recommend a short training session to get your puppy’s brain working.

    Try a short training session working on sit, lie down, or hand target to help your puppy burn off some energy before bedtime.

    Step 2: Toilet time

    Take your puppy out for their last wees and poos before bedtime. I recommend doing this on the lead as we don’t want your puppy to get all hyped up zooming around the garden before bedtime.

    If your puppy is finding it hard to calm down, then try scattering some food on the ground to encourage your puppy to get their nose down. Remember, sniffing actively helps your puppy to relax.

    Step 3: Sleep time

    After toilet, take your puppy to their sleeping area and get them settled with a chew. Just like sniffing, chewing helps your puppy to relax.

    At this point, if you’re in the early stages with your puppy, you will need to be ready to respond throughout the night if they need you.

    As your puppy grows in confidence and is used to their bedtime routine, you can slowly progress towards dropping the training session before sleep. But keep it up your sleeve for any regressions that may occur!

    How much sleep does a puppy need?

    A puppy needs a staggering 18-20 hours of sleep a day. We often see that puppies become overtired as puppy parents don’t realise quite how much sleep they need.

    When your puppy is overtired, they may appear to be full of energy, zooming around, which leads to you thinking more playtime or exercise is needed.

    Your puppy may need help to encourage them to get the sleep they need. Again, using Lickimats, stuffed Kongs, and chews can help your puppy to wind down and relax.

    Be mindful of where your puppy’s sleeping area is. If your puppy is being woken up frequently by comings and goings, then consider moving their bed or crate to a quieter spot in the home.

    If your puppy is particularly bitey, then this could also be down to not getting enough sleep.

    Have a look at our guide to puppy biting to help you identify the cause and solution! There are some tips here to help you build positive sleep associations, which can help encourage your puppy to embrace the sleep they so desperately need! 

    This phase won’t last forever. If you’re feeling overwhelmed at any point, then please know that it’s completely normal. Many new puppy parents experience the puppy blues at some stage, and sleep deprivation can be a significant contributor.

    By staying close to your puppy, they will sleep for longer, which will positively impact on your sleep levels too.

    If you need further support, then please get in touch or reach out to a positive dog trainer in your area.

    You have a lifetime of joy ahead of you with your dog. One day you will look back on these early days through blissful rose-tinted glasses as you consider doing it all over again.

    It’s worth every second.

    Donna Connelly Dog Behaviorist and trainer

    Who?

    Donna Connelly is the founder and Instructor at Barking Mad Dog Training and has been working with dogs professionally for 30 year.

    Donna is a member of both the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers. Which ensures her methods are ethical, evidence based and practical.

    Fun fact

    Getting her first family dog, Shep at the age of 12, Donna now shares her life with her partner and daughter along with 4 Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Miss Scarlett (6), Grace (3), Valerie (2) and Darcy (1). Not missing out her German Spitz, Tinkerbelle (13) and the newest additions Kali (8 months) and Harry (9 months) both Jack Russells.

    Why?

    Donna specialises in helping new puppies and their owners. Along with helping and supporting multi dog households live in harmony and helping rehabilitated dogs with issues such as aggression and settling in the new home.

    Donna shares her knowledge here with us, and we just love learning new things every month!

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