For new puppy parents, knowing how to calm down a puppy at night can be a fraught, noisy (and, depending on how toilet training is going) somes messy business. Before you progress to using adult dog beds, there’s a whole learning curve to negotiate when it comes to bed times - but it need not be a nightmare: here are some ways you can settle your pup so the whole household can get some much-needed rest.
Wear Them Out (But Don’t Wind Them Up)
Giving your puppy pre-bedtime exercise - without over exciting them - takes a little finessing, but it is possible.
Around ten to twenty minutes before bedtime, take them out for a stroll (this will also give them the chance to relieve themselves).
Alternatively, play with them until they’re tired - but try to follow a natural momentum, winding down the play session rather than stopping abruptly. That way, your pup will have a sense of the day finishing and know that it’s time for bed.
Depending on the build, breed and disposition of your puppy, regular daily exercise will also help to establish a solid routine and use up some of that energy to enable them to sleep better at night.
Crate training can help strengthen positive associations with bedtime and comfort. Feeding your puppy in the crate, using clicker training and keeping disruption to a minimum helps reinforce positive associations with the crate - which in turn should make it easier for them to sleep in there.
Avoid leaving your puppy in their crate for excessive periods, and always choose a suitable crate. Never co-sleep with puppies or small dogs as they are at risk of being smothered in the night by blankets or sleep companions.
Keep them Occupied
Keeping a favouirite “sleepy time” toy in their crate can be useful way in case your puppy gets bored during the night. Chewable (and preferably indestructible) toys can be soothing to pups (especially if they’re teething) - but avoid toys with a squeaker (for obvious reasons!) - and limit other stimulating distractions like food, treats or too many toys.
Have a Routine in Place
Just like human babies, it helps for puppies to have a regular schedule as part of their training: without knowing what a bedtime is, all your puppy knows is that their humans have gone away, there’s no more playtime - and it’s dark! Establishing a regular bedtime will help your pet to become aware that bedtime equals snooze time - while creating a reassuring, predictable routine for their day.
Make it Cosy (With Caution)
For bedding, avoid using blankets, filled bedding, towels or any puppy bedding that could be shredded by tiny teeth - ingested textiles can lead to dangerous blockages in your puppy’s gut. Instead, use “chew-proof” indestructible dog beds, taking care to use breathable and chewproof blankets.
For the same reason, avoid using hot water bottles and heat pads (as these can lead to burns or other injuries). Petsafe alternatives such as kevlar blankets are an option - but check with your vet first if unsure. Finally, never use devices such as space heaters: if your pup gets overheated during the night they will have no way of escape.
It’s a well-known fact that ticking clocks mimic the human heartbeat - and that this can help people to sleep. The same goes for puppies, so why not try placing an old fashioned clock in the room to see if it helps? Alternatively you can also find Youtube videos and even specially-made noise machines (normally used with babies) with sounds made especially for wakeful pups.
Whine O’ Clock
Most puppies whine after being placed in a crate - with good reason: moving from being with their siblings and mother to a new, strange place is hard for anyone. Soothing techniques before bed can help your puppy to wind down - but when it’s time to sleep too much attention could backfire - especially if your puppy starts to equate whining with getting lots of extra fusses.
Keep your reactions (including cuddles, shushing and talking) to a minimum to let baby dog know it’s time for sleep, not play. Fractious new puppies might also do well to sleep in a crate near you - at least for the first couple of night - you can then phase this out gradually using the old tee shirt technique described below.
Puppies learn about the world through smell - so one way to comfort them (especially if they were picked fresh from the litter) is to take a tee shirt or an indestructible fabric toy on adoption day to rub on their littermates so that when you go home, you take their scent with you.
If you’ve moved into a separate room (puppies like to sleep near to their owners for the first stage of being at home) and they’re missing you, tuck your smelliest tee into the crate along with your pet - they’ll be able to smell you and and drift off to doggie dreamland in no time.
If the whining continues after a while, it may be time for a bathroom break. Toilet training is a fundamental part of your puppy’s training - so it’s important to establish this early on.
Throughout the day, provide fresh water - though it’s best to avoid placing a bowl next to their sleeping quarters as clumsy pups could create a cold, soggy (and uncomfortable mess for themselves, or worse - fall in. Avoid food and water in the hour before bedtime, as this can lead to late night toilet trips - keeping you up as well.
Be a Sleepy Doggy Detective
If none of the above tips are working after a few days - consider other potential issues that might be keeping your puppy (and you!) awake. Check that where they are sleeping isn’t too draughty - and that there’s no strange bumps (or other noises) in the night to disturb your pet.
Placing a webcam in the room can be useful (out of reach to avoid access to electrical wires, of course) - can help you suss out the reason for your pet’s wakefulness - and for new pet parents it can offer additional peace of mind if you’re sleeping in separate rooms. If in doubt - or if you are particularly concerned about your puppy’s lack of sleep, always consult a vet.