In many ways, getting a new puppy is just like having a baby in the house. They are cute and fun to cuddle or play with, but also poop a lot and throw occasional tantrums. Everyone has heard horror stories about parents kept awake all night by an unhappy baby. Luckily for you, getting a puppy to sleep through the night is usually pretty easy!
Like their human counterparts, dogs are most active during the day and naturally prefer to sleep at night. Even if they take frequent naps, they will still usually go into a deep, extended sleep at night. Your puppy will already be started on this activity cycle when he comes home, although like other baby animals, he may not be able to hold his bladder very well at first.
What To Expect On Your Puppy’s First Night Home
Your puppy’s first night home will probably go one of two ways: he will be totally exhausted from the excitement of the day and go right to sleep, or he will have trouble settling in. Moving to a new home with strangers is a stressful event, even if all introductions go smoothly. Ask your dog breeder for a toy, towel or small blanket that smells like your puppy’s mother and siblings to put in his crate at bedtime. These familiar scents will help him to relax and settle in.
The younger your puppy is, the less likely it will be that he is able to sleep all the way through the night at first. Dogs don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep, so if your puppy needs a trip outside during the night, he will start to fuss and cry. When you hear him crying, take him outside for a short walk, then bring him back inside and put him back in his crate. Most puppies consistently sleep through the night by 3 or 4 months of age.
How Can You Help Your Puppy Get To Sleep?
Here are some tips for helping your puppy to settle in and sleep through the night.
1. Help him get plenty of exercise during the day.
One of my favorite sayings is, “A tired puppy is a good puppy!” Stimulate your puppy’s mind and body with age-appropriate activities during the day, both to bond with him and to use up his energy. As your puppy grows up, he will need more exercise.
2. Keep bedtime calm.
Try to avoid intense games of tug or other exciting activities that get your puppy aroused and amped up within the last half hour or so before bedtime. Many dogs enjoy routines: My dogs know that when I brush my teeth at night, it is almost time for bed.
3. Make sure he has peed and pooped.
Sometimes when puppies go outside, they get distracted by the sights and sounds of the world and forget that they are out there for a reason. An “empty” puppy will sleep much longer than one who needs to go.
4. Make his crate comfortable.
Many dogs enjoy soft blankets to curl up in at night, while others prefer a cooler surface. Consider the temperature and time of year when choosing the bedding that will be most comfortable for your pup: No one wants flannel bedding when it’s 90 degrees out!
5. Something to chew on.
Chewing is a calming activity that all dogs enjoy; even more so when your puppy is teething! Some people give their dogs a biscuit or an edible chew at bedtime, or you can give your pup a bone or toy. I recommend a toy that doesn’t have squeakers. Having a toy or bone in the crate will also help to keep your puppy quietly entertained if he wakes up before you do.
6. Keep your puppy’s crate close by.
I like to crate my puppies next to my bed so that they aren’t alone and I will hear if they wake up in the night. As they become housebroken, they are allowed more freedom.
8 Common Problems And Solutions For Getting Puppies To Sleep
Problem No. 1:
My puppy fusses at night. What should I do?
Try giving him a chew at bedtime to calm him down. Most dogs are ready for a nap after working on a chew for a while, and the quiet of the house will encourage him to sleep. If his fussing lasts less than half an hour or so and you’re sure he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom, you can also just wait him out. He may be overtired and cranky, or just doesn’t want the fun of the day to end.
One big thing to avoid is allowing late-night walks to become playtime. That will reinforce your puppy to wake you up. He probably thinks, “Ooh, if I whine and cry, Mom will throw my ball for me!” If your puppy cries, take him outside on a leash to keep him focused, then after he eliminates, bring him right back inside to his crate (a treat to settle back in is fine). Ignore any fussing after he has been taken out.
Problem No. 2:
How do I know if my puppy actually needs to go outside?
Each dog has different ways of communicating what they need, so part of this will be trial and error as you learn to read your puppy’s behavior. Most puppies whine or cry if they need to go outside, with or without pacing and fidgeting in the crate. “Emergency” situations, such as needing to pee really badly or impending diarrhea, may cause your puppy to bark urgently. One of my dogs whines constantly when she needs to go out, while my other dog runs back and forth between me and the door (as a puppy she would fuss and stomp around in her crate). Until I learn a new puppy’s signals, I prefer to err toward the side of caution and always take them outside if they are fussing in any way.
Barking is usually in response to a strange sound that startled your puppy, especially if you have noisy neighbors or you just got your puppy and he isn’t used to the normal sounds of your home yet. Your puppy may also bark if he needs to pee but previous efforts to wake you haven’t worked. In my experience, these two types of barks sound different.
If you suspect that your puppy is only waking you up because he wants to play, make sure to keep those late-night walks all business. Take him outside on lead, then immediately crate him afterward. Don’t get angry, because you do want your puppy to ask to go outside when he needs to — just be boring. He will quickly learn that these nocturnal adventures aren’t much fun and will stop bugging you.
Problem No. 3:
My puppy sleeps during the day but not at night.
Start by exercising him more in the afternoon and early evening to have him tired before bedtime. You may also need to go back through all or part of the crate training process to make it clear to him that crate time is downtime.
Problem No. 4:
My puppy used to sleep through the night but now is waking me up frequently.
If your puppy suddenly needs to go out to pee a lot more often, he may have a bladder infection. This is very easy to check for and treat — your vet will look at a urine sample for signs of infection and, if necessary, your puppy will be put on a course of antibiotics.
Problem No. 5:
My puppy fusses a lot at night but doesn’t need to go outside.
Puppies that are teething may be uncomfortable because of their teeth. If your pup is teething, offer him some soft toys or treats to chew on. Ice cubes or frozen treats are another popular option to help soothe sore gums. Be patient and know that this stage will pass!
If he is struggling to settle down and constantly fidgeting or scratching, check if he or his bedding has fleas or another biting insect. Even if you don’t find any bugs, wash his crate and bedding just to be sure there aren’t any unwanted guests.
Another possibility, particularly with very young puppies, is that your puppy is overtired. You know how tired toddlers get cranky and throw a tantrum, then fall fast asleep? Your puppy can do that, too. This will typically happen after a very big day where a lot of new or exciting things happened. Be patient and ignore him until he settles down.
You will know your puppy and his normal behaviors better than anyone else. If he is inexplicably fussing at night, you’ve tried several solutions, and things just don’t seem right to you, consult your veterinarian. Your pup may just be going through a difficult stage, but it can’t hurt to seek help if you are concerned.
Problem No. 6:
My puppy won’t sleep in his crate.
I highly recommend revisiting crate training to get your puppy comfortable with being and sleeping in his crate. Crating at night is an excellent way to speed up housetraining, because your puppy will naturally avoid soiling his space, and it prevents messes or damage throughout your house. Crating is also a valuable life skill that your dog will probably need at some point in his life.
Problem No. 7:
My puppy won’t sleep in his bed.
Most likely he is too hot, or doesn’t like to be right next to someone. Try having your puppy sleep in a crate with good ventilation and light bedding, or if he is house broken, allow him to sleep on the floor. In hot weather, many dogs prefer to sleep on bare tile or linoleum because it is cooler. Some of my dogs have loved to sleep next to me, while others prefer their own space to stretch out.
If it is a dog bed that you are concerned about rather than your bed, there isn’t much that you can do. Try washing the cover in case the new fabric has a weird smell that he doesn’t like. You can also teach your puppy to go to his bed on command, but there is no way for you to enforce that while you are asleep. If you would like him to be in a contained place at night, switch to a crate; otherwise, accept that your puppy prefers to sleep on the floor.
Problem No. 8:
My puppy won’t sleep unless next to me.
If he is house-trained and you enjoy cuddling, great! If not, it’s time to establish ground rules. Practice crate training during the day, making it a fun game so he will think of his crate as a happy place. Then at night, bring his crate right next to your bed so you can reach down and assure him that you are close. He may have trouble settling down for the first few nights, but be patient and consistent — caving in and letting him onto the bed will teach him that whining is a great way to get what he wants.
Once he is comfortable sleeping in his crate right next to your bed, you can gradually move the crate farther away if desired. Your puppy may enjoy having an old shirt or something else that smells like you to sleep with.
Good luck with your new puppy!