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, how to get 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 they come home, although like other baby animals, they may not be able to hold their 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:
- They will be totally exhausted from the excitement of the day and go right to sleep, or
- They 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's breeder, foster family or rescue organization for a toy, towel or small blanket that smells like your puppy’s mother/siblings or previous home to put in their dog crate at bedtime. These familiar scents will help them to relax and settle in. Get more crate training tips here.
The younger your puppy is, the less likely it will be that they are 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, they will start to fuss and cry. When you hear them crying, take them outside for a short walk, then bring them back inside and put them back in their crate. Most puppies consistently sleep through the night by 3 or 4 months of age until they're ready for a dog bed.
Steps for Getting Your Puppy to Sleep Through the Night
1. Help them 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 and toys, like the KONG Puppy Dog Toy, during the day. Another top-rated option that your pup is sure to love is a Puppy Goody Box, which comes filled with toys and chews for young dogs.
Toys and activities will help you bond with your puppy and use up their energy. As your puppy grows up, they 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 they have 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 their crate comfortable.
Many dogs enjoy soft blankets, such as the Frisco Sherpa dog blanket, to curl up with at night in their dog crate. 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. Give them 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, like the Nylabone Healthy Edibles Puppy lamb and apple dog bone treats, or you can give your pup a bone or toy. I recommend a toy that doesn’t have squeakers. Having a dog toy or bone in the crate will also help to keep your puppy quietly entertained if they wake 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.
My puppy fusses at night. What should I do?
A: Try giving them a chew at bedtime to calm them down. Most dogs are ready for a nap after working on a chew for a while, and the quiet of the house will encourage them to sleep. If their fussing lasts less than half an hour or so and you’re sure they don't need to go to the bathroom, you can also just wait them out.
They 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 them outside on a leash to keep them focused, then after they eliminate, bring them right back inside to his crate (a treat to settle back in is fine). Ignore any fussing after they have been taken out.
Q: How do I know if my puppy actually needs to go outside?
A: 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 they aren't used to the normal sounds of your home yet. Your puppy may also bark if they need 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 they want to play, make sure to keep those late-night walks all business. Take them outside on lead, then immediately crate them afterward. Don’t get angry, because you do want your puppy to ask to go outside when they need to — just be boring. They will quickly learn that these nocturnal adventures aren’t much fun and will stop bugging you.
Q: My puppy sleeps during the day, but not at night.
A: Start by exercising them more in the afternoon and early evening to have them tired before bedtime. You may also need to go back through all or part of the crate training process to make it clear to them that crate time is downtime.
Q: My puppy used to sleep through the night, but now is waking me up frequently.
A: If your puppy suddenly needs to go out to pee a lot more often, they 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 dog antibiotics.
Q: My puppy fusses a lot at night, but doesn’t need to go outside.
A: Puppies that are teething may be uncomfortable because of their teeth. If your pup is teething, offer 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 they are struggling to settle down and constantly fidgeting or scratching, check if they or their bedding has fleas or another biting insect. Even if you don’t find any bugs, wash their 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 them until they settle down.
You will know your puppy and their normal behaviors better than anyone else. If they are 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.
Q: My puppy won’t sleep in their crate.A:I highly recommend revisiting crate training to get your puppy comfortable with being and sleeping in their crate. Crating at night is an excellent way to speed up housetraining, because your puppy will naturally avoid soiling their 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 their life. The Frisco Fold & Carry double door dog crate comes with a divider panel so you don’t have to keep buying bigger crates as your puppy grows.
Q: My puppy won’t sleep in their bed.
A: Most likely they are too hot, or don’t like to be right next to someone. Try having your puppy sleep in a crate with good ventilation and light bedding, or if they are house broken, allow them 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 they don't like. You can also teach your puppy to go to bed on command, but there is no way for you to enforce that while you are asleep.
My puppy won’t sleep unless next to me.
A: If they are 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 they will think of their crate as a happy place. Then at night, bring their crate right next to your bed so you can reach down and assure him that you are close.
They may have trouble settling down for the first few nights, but be patient and consistent — caving in and letting them onto the bed will teach them that whining is a great way to get what they want. Once they are comfortable sleeping in their 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!