A new puppy is a very exciting time! You are probably wondering what steps you can take to help him settle in.
For many puppies when they come home with you this will be the first time they have been away from their mom and siblings, so they may need some help to adjust. Young pups can struggle to sleep well initially, and this might mean that you also experience a few sleepless nights!
This article explores what you can do to help your new furry friend, including what is normal for puppies, what to do if your puppy is not sleeping, and establishing a good bedtime routine for them.
How to get a puppy to sleep through the night
Puppies are just like babies — they are going through a period of rapid growth and development at this age. Sleep is an important part of this, but it is normal for many puppies to be unsettled at night, particularly when they are very young.
A study by the Dogs Trust demonstrated that younger dogs actually slept for less time at night than older dogs do. This is probably because their brains are processing lots of information from their day and also due to them having to toilet more frequently than an older dog. Puppies will tend to make up for an unsettled night by sleeping plenty during the day though, enjoying lots of naps.
In other words, it’s totally normal for your puppy not to sleep through at first, and most dogs will sleep through the night by around 4 months of age. However, there may be some things you can do to help your puppy sleep well at night.
Where should they sleep?
Puppies should have their own bed, that they feel safe and secure in. Position it somewhere peaceful in the house, away from busy footfall. Their bed must never be used as a place of punishment, it should always be a positive place for him to go to.
Some people use crates for their puppies, which many dogs get on well with, or other people will just opt for a basket or cushion bed. Whatever you choose, make sure that small children don’t climb in it — this is your dog’s place for some peace and quiet! Don’t let the bed become an area your dog associates with play, as this can be confusing for them.
Most pet owners situate their dog’s bed downstairs, as this tends to lead to undisturbed rest for both parties. However, many owners start with good intentions but then bring the pup upstairs after the first bad night or two. Be warned that your puppy may get a taste for sharing your bedroom!
What other things impact a puppy’s sleep?
By making sure your pup is playing and exercising during the day it will encourage him to sleep better at night. Before 16 weeks of age, your puppy shouldn’t be doing hours and hours of running. However, you should make sure they are getting out for a couple of short walks and have plenty of chance to sniff and explore.
Back at the house, playing games with your puppy and starting his training will also help mentally stimulate him. This will all help make him more tired by the end of the day.
As with people, light can affect puppies’ sleeping patterns. If their bed is in a room with a large window, don’t be surprised if your pup wakes when the sun comes up! If you are finding your puppy is waking up too early, then you may want to consider installing a blackout blind or curtains to reduce the amount of natural light in the morning.
As mentioned previously, the place you situate your pet’s bed is important in helping him feel secure. Don’t expect him to sleep well if he is in an area where there are lots of comings and goings. Noisy machinery or appliances may also wake him up.
Consider the use of calming pheromones, particularly in the early days when he is settling into his new home. These come in the form of plug-in diffusers or sprays to spritz on his bedding and can act as a comfort for pups that are feeling a little stressed after the move to a new home.
Some puppies do well with a bit of soft background noise. It can be a little alarming for them suddenly being on their own at night after living with a noisy litter of siblings and mom. Similar principles are used in babies, with white noise proving to be quite comforting to new-borns.
You could try your pup with a specially-designed noise maker, or even a very quiet radio — sometimes the static of an untuned radio can provide enough background noise to help them feel more settled.
Very young puppies are unable to last through the night. Having small bladders means they often will wake in the night needing the toilet. You can help by ensuring you let your puppy out the last thing at night before you go to bed. Some owners will set an alarm to get up early and let their pup out for a wee before he starts whining and crying.
Consider using puppy pads or newspaper as an absorbent area in case he does have an accident in the night. Do not withhold water from your puppy at any point. He must have access to fresh water whenever he needs it.
As your puppy grows, he should start to be able to go for longer stretches before needing the toilet, this is part of his normal growth – it will happen naturally.
Can a bedtime routine help?
A bedtime routine might help puppies to know what is expected of them, which could help them settle easier.
- Don’t feed your puppy too late. Ideally, feed your puppy his last meal of the day no later than 3 hours before your bedtime. This allows him time to digest his tea before he has to go a long stretch overnight.
- Allow him one last toilet attempt. Let your puppy out for the toilet last thing before you go to bed so that they have the opportunity to empty their bladder and bowels.
- Have a night-time cue. Encourage your pup into bed with a command word or phrase, a small treat may help build a positive association. This helps them know it’s bedtime now.
- Make sure his bed is a safe space. Ensure that he is unlikely to be disturbed in the night by having his bed in a quiet location.
- Try to encourage them to stay in their bed. Most puppies will cry in the night in the early days whilst settling into their new home. Try not to give in to their demands for attention (unless you want them to sleep in your room – which is fine for a chihuahua, less good if you own a slobbery Saint Bernard!), most puppies will soon adjust to their new environment within a few days.
How much sleep does your puppy need?
Puppies need plenty of sleep, which they get in the daytime as well as at night. The exact amount of sleep a puppy needs varies, with different breeds having different energy levels.
Younger puppies will tend to need more sleep than older ones. Your puppy will naturally have a day-time nap whenever he feels he needs one, so try and make sure he has some downtime to allow him to do this.
Hopefully, all of the suggestions in this article will help create the perfect sleeping environment for your puppy. Even if he is still a bit unsettled at night, rest assured that most dogs will sleep through the night by around 4 months of age, so things should naturally get better.
If you have any specific concerns about your puppy’s health or behavior though, you should always speak to your veterinarian for advice.