Nine top tips for a well-rested first night at home
By Hannah Burton
There is nothing like a good night’s sleep! However, when you first bring home your puppy it can start to feel like you’re lucky to grab a few minutes!
When your little bundle of fluff arrives, it can feel like your whole life turns upside down. Luckily, by laying the groundwork early, you can still manage to keep something of a regular sleep schedule!
Here are Wanderdog’s top tips for having a restful night’s sleep every night with your new arrival.
1. Decide where your puppy will sleep before you bring them home
Where your puppy will sleep in the home is a deeply personal choice and will vary from home to home. Some guardians want nothing more than to snuggle up in bed with their dog, whereas some would prefer them to be on a bed on the bedroom floor, and some would prefer that they sleep in a separate room.
When considering where you want your puppy to sleep, don’t just think about where you want your tiny, eight-week-old puppy to sleep – where you want your full-grown pup to sleep? It’s all well and good letting your Great Dane puppy sleep on the bed with you when they’re tiny, but if you can’t commit to this through your puppy’s whole life, you may want to reconsider your decision. Decide early where you would like your puppy to sleep. It is always easier to change your mind and allow your dog to sleep on the bed later down the line, than to try and move them off it when they are used to sleeping there.
2. Be consistent, but fair
Regardless of where you would like your puppy to sleep, it is important to remember that dogs are naturally social sleepers. If you want them to sleep in your kitchen, your dog may struggle with this on the first night having never been alone in their entire eight-week life.
An ideal way to introduce your dog to separated sleeping is to slowly transition where your puppy sleeps over a period of many weeks. Using a crate next to the bed so your puppy can still see, smell and hear you for reassurance on the first night can make the world of difference when that crate slowly moves away from the bedroom. Over a period of many weeks you can progressively move the crate (at your dog’s pace) into the place where you’d like them to sleep.
Alternatively, you can sleep in the room that you want your dog to sleep in. Sleeping on the floor near them for the first week or so, until they can sleep through the night, can help to make this transition easier for your dog.
3. Don’t set alarms
Some trainers, websites and owners will advise you to set alarms to take your dog out to toilet through the night. Unless you like the idea of waking up at 2am and 6am to take your dog out for the remainder of your dog’s life, this is generally a technique to avoid!
Dogs have excellent body clocks, and as a result they fall very naturally into routines. If you set alarms through the night to take your dog out to toilet, your dog will soon come to expect this and as a result you could be locked into a routine!
Instead, allow your dog to make their own decisions regarding their bladder. Puppies learn from their mothers very young not to toilet in the sleeping area, and so chances are they will cry and ask to be taken out. If this happens, simply take them to their toilet area and give them the opportunity to toilet. If they choose to go, reward them for going in the correct place. If they don’t, take them back to their sleeping area and resettle them.
4. Create a cosy den for your dog
If you don’t want your dog to sleep on your bed, or even if you do but want a place for your dog to sleep in the daytime, then creating a cosy den that encourages rest will be a game changer. Using a crate as your pup’s private sleeping space will discourage them from toileting. As mentioned previously puppies learn from their mother that they shouldn’t toilet in their sleeping area and so most puppies won’t use well sized crate to toilet, unless ignored when asking to come out.
Ideally, the crate should be covered and against a wall to promote peace and quiet when in the crate. You may wish to leave the door uncovered at first to allow your puppy to see out for reassurance.
When you first kit out your crate, it can be tempting to buy your puppy the best of everything – why wouldn’t you? However, it generally not advisable to buy your puppy expensive beds until they are fully grown. Providing a young puppy with an awfully expensive bed may result in that bed becoming an awfully expensive chew toy, or even worse an awfully expensive puppy pad! Providing your dog with a simple, but functional bed in their crate while they are still young may save you cash in the long run.
Note: When selecting a crate, the crate should be just big enough for your dog to stand up without crouching and turn around. Any larger and your puppy may start to use half to sleep and half to toilet! If you wish to buy a bigger crate for your puppy to grow into, use a divider to split the space.
5. What to do if your dog has toileted in their den
If properly managed, with social support and taking your puppy out when they ask, this shouldn’t be an issue for the majority of puppies. However, if something does go wrong, it is important not to tell them off. At eight weeks old, your puppy is still a baby and is unable to hold their bladder through the night!
If you come into your dog’s space in the morning to discover they have toileted, it is important to remain calm. Though it may feel incredibly irritating that you have to clean up your dog’s mess, it is important to remember that it wasn’t their fault.
Wash their bedding in biodegradable washing powder to remove all traces of the smell. Be sure to use biodegradable, as non-bio washing liquids won’t remove the smell. You should also clean the inside of their sleeping space or the area of the room where they toileted with enzymatic cleaner. This will help to reduce the chances of your puppy toileting here again, as they are much more likely go where it smells like a toilet spot. Wiping down with soapy water will not remove the smell or clean the area.
It is important that you do not use bleach or other household cleaning products, as the chemicals inside these are often ammonia based and can make the area smell more like urine, encouraging your puppy to use the space as a toilet as opposed to a sleeping area!
6. Establish a bedtime routine
Having a no fuss bedtime routine will help to promote a smoother bedtime. Firstly, make sure your dog has had the opportunity to let out any excess energy. At eight weeks old, it is inadvisable to take them on a walk, as they will not be full vaccinated. However, you can take them out if you carry them or take them in a dog carrier. Mental stimulation in this way will be very tiring for your dog.
Equally, getting them to explore their new environment at home, or play games with you is a great way to tire them out.
Finally, just before bed, take them out to their toileting area so they have had to opportunity to relieve themselves before bedtime.
In their sleeping area, you could fill a hot water bottle with lukewarm water. The water should be cool enough that you can place a drop on the inside of your wrist without it hurting. In the hot water bottle cover you should place a ticking clock or a loud watch. This is to simulate the heartbeat of a mother of litter mates. Alternatively, you can buy a heartbeat toy for your dog.
Leave your dog with a lickimat or chew as you shut the door to the crate has two benefits. Firstly, it is likely your dog will be so distracted by the yummy food item they will not notice you shut the crate door. The second is that licking and chewing are naturally calming for dogs, and so will help to get your dog ready for bed.
7. Use baby monitors to keep an eye on your dog
Once you have worked up your pups confidence to the point where they can sleep in a separate room to you overnight, it may be beneficial to make sure you have a way to still hear, or even see them.
As above, puppies will cry when they need something. If you are unable to hear them to due to doors or walls, they may do something drastic to get your attention or relieve themselves. Giving yourself a way to hear your puppy gives you the best chance of setting them up for success.
Using a baby monitor to allow you to hear/see your dog gives you a way to reassure yourself without going into the room and potentially disturbing your dog.
These monitors can also be useful for separation related training. Being able to see and hear what your puppy does when they are unable to access you will be invaluable for progressing the length of time you leave them at a pace your puppy can come with.
8. What to do if puppy wakes you in the night
If puppy wakes you in the night, it could be for a variety of reasons. As previously mentioned, it may be due to the fact they need the toilet.
Puppies may also wake you as they sleep differently to humans. Humans are monophasic sleepers, meaning they get all their sleep in one period over a 24-hour span. Dogs on the other hand are polyphasic sleepers, meaning they will rest three or more times over a 24-hour period. This may result in your puppy attempting to wake you up to play or just generally moving around in the night.
If your puppy wakes you in the night for any reason, you should attend to their basic needs before returning them to bed. Taking them outside and giving them the opportunity to toilet before returning them to their sleeping area. If they are really unable to settle, providing them with a lickimat or another licking item to help your puppy calm themselves.
Though it can be very tempting to pick your dog up and cuddle them back to sleep, this sets a precedent for this. Dogs learn through consequences. If your dog cries, and you pick them up and cuddle them back to sleep, they learnt this is how they get cuddles or play at night in the future. We want to offer social support but only in the form of you being close by or taking your puppy to their toileting spot to relieve themselves if required. This may be fine for the occasional night, but puppies will very quickly learn that they can have this every night! Teaching an alternative behaviour at 2am is not something many owners would be willing to do. It is much easier to teach your puppy that they cannot get your attention at night, except to take them to the bathroom.
Never leave your puppy in sustained stress as this can cause more problems in the future. We want your puppy to know you are there to support them, and so it is advisable to never leave your puppy to cry it out. Previous advice suggested that you should leave your puppy to cry and only give them support when they are quiet. This can be inherently punishing for your dog and create a dog that is increasingly anxious and decreasingly confident. Instead, when your puppy cries, you should provide them with the support they are asking for, regardless of the time of day.
9. Set your puppy up for success
Regardless of how you want your dog to sleep, it is important that they are set up for success.
What we don’t want is your puppy to learn undesirable behaviours while you’re sleeping. A bored puppy may see your best shoes as a chew toy when bored at night. It is therefore important whatever space your puppy is in is puppy proofed – i.e. free of anything you don’t want them to get their teeth around!
Providing a toy in your dog’s sleeping area has two benefits. Firstly, it can be comforting for some puppies to have a small, soft squishy toy to snuggle up with. Secondly, providing a toy also has the added benefit of allowing your puppy to self-entertain at night while you are sleeping.
Though it may seem exhausting at first, taking the time to help your puppy through the massive changes happening in their life. Be patient with your puppy, reward them when they make the right choices and think about how you can help them when they don’t. In time, puppy will learn the night-time routine and be sleeping through the night.