Science says it’s no accident that puppies reach their peak of cuteness at 8 weeks of age, which is just about when they are ready to leave their mother and go about the process of becoming a dog. We humans can’t help falling for the little furballs. Science says cuteness is nature’s way of making us more empathetic and responsive to helpless creatures like babies and puppies.
That’s a good thing, because puppies are a lot of work. Fortunately, they learn quickly. With proper training and lots of patience from you, most puppies sleep through the night by the time they are 16 weeks old. Here’s how to speed the process.
Give them plenty of exercise during the day
The more physical and mental stimulation you can provide during the day, the more likely your puppy will be to sleep at night. In addition to normal indoor playtime, consider using daylight hours to introduce your puppy to walking on a leash in the backyard. When you feed him treats during the day, offer them in a puzzle toy that stimulates his curiosity and problem-solving skills.
Create an inviting place to sleep
Besides his nightly slumbers, your puppy is going to do a lot of sleeping — as much as 20 hours a day. Play is a puppy’s way of learning about his new environment; sleep gives his brain the opportunity to make sense of it all. And although it seems your puppy crashes in the most bizarre places at the most random times, it’s best to create a quiet place for him to rest and replenish.
Where to sleep
Your puppy will probably be less frightened if he can sleep in your bedroom at night, although not necessarily in your bed. This also helps you hear your puppy whine or cry when he needs a potty break.
In the beginning, consider crate training. This gives you an opportunity to leave the crate door open during the day for naptime. Closing the door at night lets your pup know it’s time to go to sleep and prevents him from wandering throughout your room to play or potty at will.
Even if you’re not agreeable with having your dog sleep in your bedroom, plan on sleeping near him for at least the first week or so. Your puppy is used to sleeping with his mom and littermates, so being all alone at night is new and scary.
Wherever you decide to locate his sleeping area, make sure everyone in the house understands not to disturb your puppy when he’s in his space. As he grows, he will learn to retreat to this area when he wants to take a nap or simply escape the household chaos.
What bedding materials to use
Puppies like to chew, so regardless of where you set up his resting place, make sure the bedding is made of inexpensive material that can be easily cleaned or discarded. Suitable materials include fleece and soft cotton. Stay away from fabric that frays easily, like wool, which may shred into long strings that can be a choking hazard.
Establish a bedtime routine
Puppies learn best when they are on a strict schedule, which includes a bedtime routine:
- Feed him dinner at the same time every night.
- Shortly after dinner, take him outside for a potty break.
- Remove all food and drink at least three hours before bedtime.
- Try to keep him awake until you go to bed.
- Take one final potty break before retiring.
Count on a potty break … or two
Even with the most diligent bedtime routine, it’s important to remember that puppy bladders are small, and it’s likely your puppy will need to empty his during the night at least once. Since you want him to learn not to potty in the house, it’s best to prepare for these events.
- Gather the items you’ll need for a nighttime trip outside — robe, slippers, flashlight, leash, poo bags — and place them in a convenient location.
- When your puppy wakes you, try not to fuss over him. Instead, quietly go outside to the potty area and bring him back inside without fanfare once he’s finished.
- Put him back in his bed immediately. Although daytime potty breaks include lots of praise and playtime, nighttime potty breaks should be all business. This helps him learn which behaviors are acceptable at night.
Be firm, but patient and kind
After you put your puppy back in bed, be firm. Know that he may whine and cry for a time before he falls back asleep. Try not to give in or reprimand him. If it helps, include a piece of your clothing or a small blanket that smells like his mother in his bed area to comfort him.
Remember, while your puppy is learning good bedtime etiquette, he is also learning that you respond when he calls. Any habits you establish now will be difficult to break later on. With patience, kindness, and consistency, it won’t be long until you’re both sleeping soundly through the night.
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