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A new puppy in the home is always exciting. After all, you’re bringing home a friend who will stick around with you and your family for years to come! With lots of new experiences, fun times, and a brand new bond to share with your new puppy, it can be difficult to see the downside. At least until it’s the middle of the night and your puppy decides that this is just the right time for him to start howling and whining up a storm.
Puppies who are freshly weaned from their mother can struggle with being in a new home. It can be cold, scary, dark, and even smell funny. Your puppy is experiencing a brand new home without the comfort of his mother and it is generally the norm for him to be a little uncomfortable and unhappy. Even with all the love and affection you can muster, you still can’t get him to sleep through the night. So how do you help him adjust to bedtime without it being such a struggle?
Puppies are needy and require plenty of love and attention throughout the day, and yes, even throughout the night! They require bathroom breaks often, can get hungry at inopportune times, and aren’t all that fond of being alone. Having trouble sleeping through the night is common with many puppies of all kinds of different breeds, so it’s no surprise that there are quite a few different ways to deal with it.
If your puppy is struggling with bedtime, get him settled the first night you bring him home. Have a plan in mind to fulfill his needs and stick to it from the beginning. Your puppy will need stability, especially for the first week, in order to adjust to how you plan on doing things in your home.
In order to help your puppy adjust, try bringing an item that smells like his mother home with you. This can help provide some additional comfort. Otherwise, you can try giving him an item that smells like you, such as a shirt or a towel, especially if you’ve already spent a lot of time cuddling together. Just be prepared to not have that item again! It might just become his.
After that, double check that nothing is hurting or making your puppy feel sick. Keep an eye on his eating habits and his bathroom breaks to check for an upset stomach and feel his paws to be sure there’s nothing hurting them. If he seems to be fine and is only struggling with sleep because he is scared, then you can begin to find a way to cope with the bedtime blues.
The Crate Method
Purchase a crate
A crates provides a safe place for your puppy to sleep and rest when you can’t be around to watch him. An appropriately sized crate should provide enough space for your puppy to stand up, turn around in a circle, and lay back down again without an issue. Going too big or too small may prevent your puppy from adjusting to the crate in the right way or make him uncomfortable.
Keep it comfortable
A crate should be a nice place to rest. Provide a small pillow, blankets, or other comfortable items along the bottom of the crate to keep it from being too hard or cold. Feel free to place items in there that smell like you or your puppy’s mother.
Use the crate regularly
If you plan on adjusting your puppy to the crate, be sure to use it at a few times throughout the day as well as through the night. It should be a place for him to calm down and take a nap every now and then.
Go from the crate to the bathroom
Any time you let your puppy out of the crate, immediately take a bathroom break. This will help get him into a habit of waiting until the crate is opened to go to the bathroom.
Take a few breaks at night
Young puppies are just not able to hold it for eight hours at a time. While he’s young, you will need to let your puppy out of his crate once or twice through the night to use the bathroom.
Don’t give in to whining
If you’ve already let your puppy out to use the bathroom and fed him a meal before bedtime so you know he isn’t hungry, don’t feel tempted to let your puppy out of the crate just to make the whining stop. He will eventually get used to the idea that he stays in the crate at night unless he has to use the bathroom.
The Exercise Method
Watch your puppy’s energy level
Depending on the breed, your puppy may be either higher or lower energy. Keep an eye on her behavior throughout the day to determine how much exercise she may need to spend that energy.
Puppies need lots of play and stimulation. Be ready to break out the toys and go into a tug of war or a game of hide and seek at a moment’s notice. Your puppy will need this sort of play time throughout the day.
Go for walks when you can
While your puppy shouldn’t be going on walks until she’s had all her shots, as soon as she is happily vaccinated, you can begin leash training and walking outside. Going on long walks will help wear her out and get her ready for bedtime in the evening.
Work on training
Even working on obedience can tire your puppy out. Start working on the basics throughout the day and maybe even an hour or two before bedtime. Keeping her mentally stimulated can be just as important as physical exercise.
Even going one day without some kind of physical exercise can leave your puppy full of energy and restless during bed time. Be sure to exercise every day to get your puppy nice and tired before bed.
The Routine Method
Write down a schedule
On a piece of paper or a white board, write down a schedule for the people in your house to follow for your puppy. Be sure that it’s somewhere where everyone can see it. Consistency is important for a puppy to adjust.
Try not to divert
The schedule should stay the same for the first week or two to allow your puppy time to really get used to what you expect from him at certain times of the day. If you have to divert, be sure to get right back on track as soon as possible.
Take bathroom breaks at night
Plan on having at least two bathroom breaks to begin with and then go down to one a night. Be sure to have them at the same time each night so your puppy knows when to expect one.
Turn off the lights
This should be done at the same time each day to help your puppy get sleepy. Having the lights on may keep him in a ‘wake’ mode and may prevent him from falling asleep.
Your puppy may take some time to adjust to the schedule you set for him, but as long as you maintain the same routine every day, he will quickly learn that what you say, goes. However, be aware of his needs such as meals, bathroom breaks, and exercise. Your schedule should be catered to him, not the other way around.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021