Updated: Feb 15
When we take our puppies home at around 8 weeks they are still babies. Think about it for a minute your little puppy has only been alive for 8 weeks. At 8-9 weeks old your puppy is still an infant, who needs a career to look after them emotionally and physically. They need someone who can create a safe environment for them to grow and flourish.
Dogs are social sleepers. They find safety and comfort when they sleep near someone else and without it they struggle to get into a deep sleep. All they have know in their short time on earth is the comfort of sleeping against and sometimes on top of their siblings and mother. Research also shows that like us - dogs struggle to get into a deep sleep when they are in a new environment. When bringing your puppy home it's import to have empathy and patience. In time and providing your puppy with the love and security that they need, night times will get better.
What should I do to help my puppy feel safe?
The ideal situation is to have your puppy upstairs sleeping by your bedside. If the puppy wakes during the night take them straight outside to toilet then settle them back in their create if you choose to use one with a Kong or chew. If they stir again soon after you are right there to comfort them. This will help your puppy to feel safe knowing there is someone there if they wake up.
As the nights go on you can start to very gradually move the crate out of the room to eventually ending having your puppy sleeping down stairs in their own room if you don't want you puppy upstairs with you permanently.
If they can't be in your bedroom, camping down stairs with them for a while will have the same affect. Then you can gradually start moving further from your puppy to eventually being back in your bedroom again.
Don't let your puppy cry it out
For years we have been told to ignore our puppy if they cry, as this will avoid rewarding their attention seeking behaviour and lead to a 'needy' puppy who can't cope being on their own.
However scientific research has shown that this can cause the puppy to become more stressed. When the brain is working on a problem (such as I am hungry or I need to fo to the toilet or I am lonely and scared) it releases a neurotransmitter called Dopamine. It is an addictive chemical which plays a vital role in reward-seeking behaviour and also is linked with movement and sensations of pain and pleasure. When this dopamine is released, if the brain can't solve the puzzle and the puppy doesn't get to go outside/eat/reassurance then the puppy's cries will escalate and the dopamine will convert into cortisol. What this does is provide the body with glucose which aims to give the puppy the energy to flee or fight. As you can imagine energy is the reverse of what we want the puppies to be producing when we want them to sleep. Research has also shown that a mother will always respond to their puppies cries.
So, ignoring your puppies cries will not help your puppy to settle, it will quickly escalate making your puppy feel very stressed and anxious. This will not help your puppy for the future nights and you might end up having many unsettled nights.
Why does my puppy wake up early?
Dog's are crepuscular animals, which means their most active times of the day can be at dawn and dusk. ( Many owners report that their puppy has a mad half hour in the morning and in the evening, this is why.) Over time they will start to adjust to your routine, it just takes time.
Alternatively you could place them in their place them in their play pen, scatter some of their breakfast onto a snuffle mat. This will tire them out in a calm way by engaging their brains as they sniff around for their breakfast. You might well find they’re ready for another nap after the exertion. This is also a good exercise to do in the garden in the evening before bed.
Know when your puppy is tired
Puppies need a lot of sleep, around 18 hours a day. Dogs are polyphasic sleepers, they sleep in multiple blocks throughout the day and night. You night think that you should keep your puppy awake a few hours before bedtime to assure a good nights sleep. However you are just training your puppy to be their most active in the evenings which wont help them feel calm and ready to sleep when it's bed time. Puppies who are over-tired can become hyperactive and restless and find it difficult to go to sleep at night. Keep things calm in the evening, work on enrichment and calm training activities rather than active physical games or long walks.
Here are some signs that your puppy may be tired or over-tired:
Eyes closing whilst sitting up
Restlessness or not knowing what to do with themselves
Grumpiness / becoming snappy
I go through my 6 week online puppy school course. The online course is self-paced which means you can start at any time and you get a lot of support along the way as well as access to a private Facebook group where you can connect with other puppy owners, where you can share your training journey together.
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By Melissa Hartnack
Melissa is a puppy specialist trainer. Her catchment area is Cambridge, Cambridgeshire but she offers video training sessions and works with clients nationally and internationally so don't hesitate to get in touch from wherever you live in the world.
Disclaimer: This post contains Affiliate Links. This helps to fund the blog and for me to be able to provide more free helpful advice.