Thank you for letting me ask you a question or 2. I have a two-month-old puppy. We’re trying to get her to sleep in the crate at night. After she’s in there for about an hour or so she’ll start to cry and then my wife will take her out and lay on the couch with her and then she’ll sleep there all night with no problem. Any suggestions you have I would greatly appreciate I know it takes time, but I am wondering the best way to do it and how long it would possibly take for her to sleep through the night in her crate.
Thank you very much!
New Puppy Dad
Dogs are social creatures. One of the characteristics breeders should be breeding for is sociability. That doesn’t mean that we cannot mold the dog to more of what we would like from them. It does mean that it takes some time, and the dog does have its own individual personality which comes into play. There are ways that we can set our puppy up to be more successful at sleeping through the night.
When they first come home, they are in a foreign place, and everything smells and sounds differently. Just like human children, they can get overstimulated and have a hard time settling down. They can also feel nervous which also makes it hard to sleep.
Puppies are just like human babies except instead of midnight diaper changes they need nighttime potty breaks. They do not have the ability to hold their urine and feces yet. That is a muscle that gets developed over time. In general, we find that puppies can sleep through the night at four to five months.
How you set up your puppy’s sleep area can have a big influence on their ability to get and stay asleep. Just like us, dogs sleep cycles are influenced by melatonin. Melatonin’s production goes up when the lights are turned off. It may help to have a cover over her crate. It also can help to avoid them seeing movement and waking up.
A good set up for a puppy area is a crate with a pen around it with puppy pads on the floor. Before you have had time to work on crate training, you don’t want to shut the puppy in the crate. This setup is good for times when you need to be gone for longer than what the puppy is able to hold their bladder. We really don’t want the puppy to learn that she can go to the bathroom in her crate so having potty pads offers an alternative.
Make the crate area as comfortable as possible. If the puppy doesn’t chew up bedding, have soft, comfy bedding available. A white noise machine can help block out any noises that might wake her up. A diffuser with Adaptil mimics a mother’s pheromones which can help soothe anxious dogs. Very small pups that have just been separated from mom and siblings may benefits from a toy to snuggle up to in their crate. There are actually toys called Snuggle Puppy which have a heartbeat to simulate a sibling or mom.
Routine is Key
Dogs thrive on routines. How you arrange the puppy’s evening can impact their sleep cycles. We can strategically feed, exercise and potty our puppy to help them be successful.
You will want to feed no later than 3 hours before bedtime. We want the puppy to have enough time to digest their meal before bedtime. I also recommend that you feed your puppy exclusively from an enrichment feeder like a Kong or other puzzle toy. Using their brain to obtain their meals helps tire the puppy out. Frozen toys stuffed with their kibble also helps satisfy their need to chew.
Plan out an evening exercise routine. Spend 15 minutes twice in the evening playing with your puppy. For the early session, play a game of fetch, tug or flirt pole. For the second session, which is closer to bedtime, consider playing a game where your puppy can sniff. Nose work games like Find It are a great way to tire a puppy out without getting them all worked up. You can also use a snuffle mat to hide some treats or kibble in. I like to toss treats in the grass for my dogs to sniff out.
Training sessions for puppies especially should be very short and spread throughout the day. Practice training during commercial breaks while watching tv. Puppies can’t handle training sessions longer than 5 minutes anyways. Working their brain with training not only teaches them cues so that they know what is expected of them, but it also tires them out to use their brain.
Give your puppy a potty break right before you go to bed. This potty break should be as calm as possible. Keep your voice soothing and body language slow. This potty break should be all business and then into the crate.
Licking and chewing help to relax a dog. If we use toys that the dog needs to lick at, it teaches them how to self soothe and can get them into a bedtime mood. After the last evening potty break and when you put them in their crate, give your pup something to chew or lick on to calm them down. You can smear a licki mat with peanut butter, cream cheese, can food or other dog friendly foods and freeze it to make it more difficult. You don’t want to fill up the whole mat, this is more of a snack, and it should be just enough for them to lick at for 10-15 minutes. You can also give your pup their favorite chew toy at this time. This will also help develop a positive association with the crate.
In regard to crate training, make sure that you are working on the crate training during the day and not just crating the puppy at night. I recommend feeding all meals in the crate. This helps keep down the mess from the frozen Kongs as well. Make your puppy take regular naps during the day by placing them in their crate with a Kong at regular intervals in the day.
Until she is completely comfortable in the crate with the door closed during the day when you are training, it’s fine to have your wife sleep with her to keep her calm. If that is what she needs to feel safe, that is the most important thing when they first come home. She will start to learn your routine and feel more comfortable in your house. Unfortunately, there are going to be a lot of sleepless nights most likely for a couple months, but she will get there before you know it. Good luck!
Until next time,
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