Having a new puppy is a lot like having a new baby - you know you’re not going to get much sleep until they learn to sleep through the night. Teaching a puppy how to self-soothe, along with what bedtime really means, can go a long way in ensuring you both get the sleep you need. So how do you teach your puppy good sleeping habits? Make sure they:
Get Plenty of Exercise during the Day
Puppies are like children - they sleep better when they’re exhausted from a day of activity. This means your puppy needs plenty of exercise during the day. Don’t wait until the end of the day to play, however. They’ll tend to get too revved up and excited to want to settle down and sleep. Puppies, like small children, will tend to fall asleep during the day and stay awake at night. If your puppy wants to crash after playing, try to keep them awake so that they will be more likely to sleep through the night. Knowing when to let them nap, and when to keep them awake is a balancing act, but you’ll figure it out over time. The closer to bedtime it is, try to distract them, so they don’t sleep.
Keep Puppy Bedtime Calm
Bedtime should be a time of calm, quiet, and soothing. Lap time snuggling, petting, grooming, and soft talk will help calm your puppy down and prepare them for sleeping.
Go Potty before Bedtime
The last thing you should do before putting your puppy in their crate is take them outside to pee and poop. If you have a very young puppy, you may need to get up several times during the night to take them out to potty. Don’t rush them even if you’re exhausted and want to get back to bed yourself.
As they get older and their bladder can hold more urine, multiple trips outside won’t be necessary. If you want to avoid going out at night, you can set up a confinement area and train them to use potty pads inside that area. This is a popular option with many puppy owners. An indoor confinement area should have a bed, food and water dishes, toys or chewies, and a space for your dog’s potty pads or another potty area. You can leave your dog’s crate there with the door open, so they use it as a den or sleeping area. Make sure the confinement area is small enough so that they can easily find their potty pads.
Comfortable Puppy Crate
Crates should be warm, dark and inviting to your puppy. It should be a ‘den’ where they feel safe and will want to retreat to at night. Putting some rubber chew toys, a recently worn t-shirt or another article of clothing that smells like you helps develop that sense of comfort. However, while soft bedding, towels or blankets may seem like comforting items, puppies can shred and chew up cloth and inadvertently swallow any polyester batting or filling, which can be deadly to them. There are a variety of tough, but comfortable, chew-proof beds made for all ages and breeds of dogs. They’re much cheaper than an emergency vet bill for a puppy who has swallowed textiles they’ve shredded.
Have Chew Toys
Chew toys give anxious puppies something to distract them when they can’t sleep. Choose durable, tough rubber toys appropriately sized for your puppy’s mouth. Toys you can stuff with treats and freeze are a safe bet and most likely to keep your puppy engaged in ‘occupational chewing.’ Give your puppy this toy right at bedtime, and it’s likely to keep them busy until they fall asleep. Avoid plush or cloth toys they might shred and ingest.
Keep the Crate Nearby
Even if you plan to have your puppy’s crate be permanently located elsewhere, for the first few nights, or even the first few weeks, it’s a good idea to keep the crate nearby where you can hear what’s happening. This includes their whimpering or needing to go potty during the night, or any anxiety they may have. Your puppy is more likely to settle in and sleep if he’s in the same room with you instead of alone in a new, unfamiliar environment. If you don’t want your dog to get used to being in your bedroom, then plan to camp out next to where you do want his/her crate to live - even if it means sleeping on a cot, air mattress, or the floor next to your dog’s crate. By sleeping nearby, you’ll avoid problems with separation anxiety as they grow. It’s a small price to pay to ensure your puppy feels safe, comfortable and part of the pack (family).