In 2015 a study found that looking at puppies could help improve focus and concentration - but if you recently had a restless night (or ten) with your own wakeful pup, you might disagree. It’s no secret that puppies are adorable - but how to get a puppy to sleep through the night can feel impossible. Don’t despair: pour yourself a coffee, and check out this guide - as (with a vet’s guidance) it may help you to identify the cause of the problem.
1. Everything Is New
Try to see the world through their eyes: it’s big, it’s exciting - but sometimes, it can be a little scary (despite your best efforts to look fierce). Plus, you’re away from your mother and siblings, surrounded by strange smells and sounds. Some puppies can be overstimulated by this, while others want to run and hide - so knowing how to soothe them is essential.
2. They Need A Little TLC
When it comes to helping them stay asleep, a regular routine, a gentle demeanour and using something scented with the smell of their littermates (like a dog-friendly plushie) can work wonders - you can even get dog toys that mimic the feeling of a breathing companion right next to them.
3. Time To Unwind
Following an established timetable can help your puppy create positive associations with certain times of day - even bedtime. Using clicker training can help your puppy create an unconscious positive connection with snuggling down to sleep - while items like lick-mats help support natural canine “settling down” instincts like snuffling and chewing.
4. Everything Is Bright - And Noisy!
Support your puppy’s melatonin (sleep hormone) levels by keeping the room dark and free from distractions. Try to keep your puppy’s sleeping quarters separate from disturbances caused by screens or other electrical devices and consider using a crate cover to help block out light and noise (these provide better ventilation than towels or blankets) - but a word of warning: avoid if your pup tends to chew everything - including fabric, as swallowed textiles can be dangerous to puppies.
5. Full Of Beans
While too much stimulation can keep your puppy awake, so can a lack of it: be sure to build in regular play sessions: at minimum,10-20 minutes twice a day. Exercising their mind is just as important: clicker training, nteractive feeders and food puzzles gives your puppy’s brain the workout it needs to feel rested. If they tend to get bored during the night, provide a (non-squeaky!) chewtoy to help them drift off - this also helps if they are teething.
6. Miss You Already
A few hours apart from their new human can seem like a long time (especially if they stay awake!). Consider placing something chew-proof that smells just like you into their crate. You might even find it helpful to place the crate near your own bed - at least for the first couple of nights, being in proximity to you might offer your pup a little extra comfort - but avoid co-sleeping in case of suffocation, and take care to phase this out so they don’t get too comfortable!
7. Comfort Factor
Make sure the bedding you choose is comfortable, washable (using a pet-friendly detergent) - and if they tend to gnaw everything - make sure it’s chew proof, Avoid situations where your puppy might be too hot (never use heaters near your puppy -especially in a crate where they can’t get away) - or too cold: for guidance on the optimum temperature to keep your puppy safe and sound (asleep!) consult your vet.
8. To Crate, Or Not To Crate?
You don’t have to use a crate for the rest of your pup’s life - but many people find crate training helps establish a regular sleep routine. Choose one that is safe for use by puppies- and use clicker training to establish positive associations - never force them to go in there, or use the crate or bed as punishment (you want a positive assocation, remember!). Also, never leave them in there too long: according to the Humane Society 3-4 hours maximum is the limit for a puppy 6 months or under.
9. House Training
For the same reason, puppies are unable to hold their bladders (or bowels) for too long. To avoid nighttime accidents, feed your puppy about 3 hours before bedtime and before lights-out, take them for one more trip outside. Keep this calm - (you don’t want them to get them excited. “Pee pads” of course are also an option, though not always suitable - so check with your vet first about the best way to toilet train your puppy.
10. Nighttime Noisiness
If your puppy cries and barks, don’t plug your ears: remember they’re still infants in a new, potentially stressful situation, and research indicates leaving them to “cry it out” can make things worse. Instead:
- Wait first: if you respond straight away, they’ll know that crying equals attention.
- Take them out on a leash to see if they need to pee - if they don’t, take them right back to bed.
- Match your energy and volume of voice to the situation and keep things low key: if they hear you being quiet they’ll know nighttime is not noisy time - it’s time for bed!
11. Check With A Vet
Of course, crying and whining could mean something else. It’s important not to rule out possible medical reasons for your wakeful pup, whether it’s fleas, diarrhea or another medical condition. Using a baby monitor or web cam throughout the night (ideallly one that works in darkness) might help you to suss out what’s keeping your puppy (and you!) awake - but as always if in doubt, see a vet.
12. Stay Hydrated
Another medical reason for wakefulness might be a UTI - in which case, your vet may or may not advise you to restrict water access, but generally access to clean drinking water is a must. If your puppy is especially small or if you are worried about them potentially drowning, consult your vet about the best way to keep them hydrated and safe.
13. Fur Babies
When it comes to establishing things like positive behaviour, both human and dog babies have one key thing in common: they both require structure. Having a timetable also helps young pups to feel secure in still-unfamiliar surroundings - including nap times (yes, they need those, too!) - and remember things won’t always go perfectly (expect the occasional nighttime disturbance), but also remember...
14. This Too Will Pass
Dogs of all ages are precious (even golden oldies never quite grow up!) If you’ve been lucky enough to bring home a “fresh” one, remember that the restless nights, the “little accidents”, the chewed ....everything - will pass, and so too will the benefits of puppyhood - so don’t miss out on them: by establishing a calm, soothing routine, you’ll not only set the standard for a lifetime of good sleep habits - you’ll also be rested and better equipped to enjoy every waking minute.