How To Teach Your Puppy To Sleep Through The Night

Use these tips for those puppies who might need help to settle down and snooze at night.

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Although puppies take naps throughout the day, they still should settle into a deep sleep at night. Mustang_79/iStock/Thinkstock
Although puppies take naps throughout the day, they still should settle into a deep sleep at night. Mustang_79/iStock/Thinkstock
Katherine Eldredge

In many ways, getting a new puppy is just like having a baby in the house. They are cute and fun to cuddle or play with, but also poop a lot and throw occasional tantrums. Everyone has heard horror stories about parents kept awake all night by an unhappy baby. Luckily for you, getting a puppy to sleep through the night is usually pretty easy!

Like their human counterparts, dogs are most active during the day and naturally prefer to sleep at night. Even if they take frequent naps, they will still usually go into a deep, extended sleep at night. Your puppy will already be started on this activity cycle when he comes home, although like other baby animals, he may not be able to hold his bladder very well at first.

What To Expect On Your Puppy’s First Night Home

Your puppy’s first night home will probably go one of two ways: he will be totally exhausted from the excitement of the day and go right to sleep, or he will have trouble settling in. Moving to a new home with strangers is a stressful event, even if all introductions go smoothly. Ask your dog breeder for a toy, towel or small blanket that smells like your puppy’s mother and siblings to put in his crate at bedtime. These familiar scents will help him to relax and settle in.

The younger your puppy is, the less likely it will be that he is able to sleep all the way through the night at first. Dogs don’t like to soil the areas where they sleep, so if your puppy needs a trip outside during the night, he will start to fuss and cry. When you hear him crying, take him outside for a short walk, then bring him back inside and put him back in his crate. Most puppies consistently sleep through the night by 3 or 4 months of age.

How Can You Help Your Puppy Get To Sleep?

Here are some tips for helping your puppy to settle in and sleep through the night.

1. Help him get plenty of exercise during the day.

One of my favorite sayings is, “A tired puppy is a good puppy!” Stimulate your puppy’s mind and body with age-appropriate activities during the day, both to bond with him and to use up his energy. As your puppy grows up, he will need more exercise.

2. Keep bedtime calm.

Try to avoid intense games of tug or other exciting activities that get your puppy aroused and amped up within the last half hour or so before bedtime. Many dogs enjoy routines: My dogs know that when I brush my teeth at night, it is almost time for bed.

3. Make sure he has peed and pooped.

Sometimes when puppies go outside, they get distracted by the sights and sounds of the world and forget that they are out there for a reason. An “empty” puppy will sleep much longer than one who needs to go.

4. Make his crate comfortable.

Many dogs enjoy soft blankets to curl up in at night, while others prefer a cooler surface. Consider the temperature and time of year when choosing the bedding that will be most comfortable for your pup: No one wants flannel bedding when it’s 90 degrees out!

5. Something to chew on.

Chewing is a calming activity that all dogs enjoy; even more so when your puppy is teething! Some people give their dogs a biscuit or an edible chew at bedtime, or you can give your pup a bone or toy. I recommend a toy that doesn’t have squeakers. Having a toy or bone in the crate will also help to keep your puppy quietly entertained if he wakes up before you do.

6. Keep your puppy’s crate close by.

I like to crate my puppies next to my bed so that they aren’t alone and I will hear if they wake up in the night. As they become housebroken, they are allowed more freedom.

Making sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise during the day and having a play session before bed can help tire him out and encourage sleep. Rolf Brenner/Hemera/Thinkstock

Making sure your puppy gets plenty of exercise during the day: Having a play session before bed can help tire him out and encourage sleep. Rolf Brenner/Hemera/Thinkstock

8 Common Problems And Solutions For Getting Puppies To Sleep

Problem No. 1:

My puppy fusses at night. What should I do?

Solution:

Try giving him a chew at bedtime to calm him down. Most dogs are ready for a nap after working on a chew for a while, and the quiet of the house will encourage him to sleep. If his fussing lasts less than half an hour or so and you’re sure he doesn’t need to go to the bathroom, you can also just wait him out. He may be overtired and cranky, or just doesn’t want the fun of the day to end.

One big thing to avoid is allowing late-night walks to become playtime. That will reinforce your puppy to wake you up. He probably thinks, “Ooh, if I whine and cry, Mom will throw my ball for me!” If your puppy cries, take him outside on a leash to keep him focused, then after he eliminates, bring him right back inside to his crate (a treat to settle back in is fine). Ignore any fussing after he has been taken out.

Problem No. 2:

How do I know if my puppy actually needs to go outside?

Solution:

Each dog has different ways of communicating what they need, so part of this will be trial and error as you learn to read your puppy’s behavior. Most puppies whine or cry if they need to go outside, with or without pacing and fidgeting in the crate. “Emergency” situations, such as needing to pee really badly or impending diarrhea, may cause your puppy to bark urgently. One of my dogs whines constantly when she needs to go out, while my other dog runs back and forth between me and the door (as a puppy she would fuss and stomp around in her crate). Until I learn a new puppy’s signals, I prefer to err toward the side of caution and always take them outside if they are fussing in any way.

Barking is usually in response to a strange sound that startled your puppy, especially if you have noisy neighbors or you just got your puppy and he isn’t used to the normal sounds of your home yet. Your puppy may also bark if he needs to pee but previous efforts to wake you haven’t worked. In my experience, these two types of barks sound different.

If you suspect that your puppy is only waking you up because he wants to play, make sure to keep those late-night walks all business. Take him outside on lead, then immediately crate him afterward. Don’t get angry, because you do want your puppy to ask to go outside when he needs to — just be boring. He will quickly learn that these nocturnal adventures aren’t much fun and will stop bugging you.

Problem No. 3:

My puppy sleeps during the day but not at night.

Solution:

Start by exercising him more in the afternoon and early evening to have him tired before bedtime. You may also need to go back through all or part of the crate training process to make it clear to him that crate time is downtime.

Problem No. 4:

My puppy used to sleep through the night but now is waking me up frequently.

Solution:

If your puppy suddenly needs to go out to pee a lot more often, he may have a bladder infection. This is very easy to check for and treat — your vet will look at a urine sample for signs of infection and, if necessary, your puppy will be put on a course of antibiotics.

Problem No. 5:

My puppy fusses a lot at night but doesn’t need to go outside.

Solution:

Puppies that are teething may be uncomfortable because of their teeth. If your pup is teething, offer him some soft toys or treats to chew on. Ice cubes or frozen treats are another popular option to help soothe sore gums. Be patient and know that this stage will pass!

If he is struggling to settle down and constantly fidgeting or scratching, check if he or his bedding has fleas or another biting insect. Even if you don’t find any bugs, wash his crate and bedding just to be sure there aren’t any unwanted guests.

Another possibility, particularly with very young puppies, is that your puppy is overtired. You know how tired toddlers get cranky and throw a tantrum, then fall fast asleep? Your puppy can do that, too. This will typically happen after a very big day where a lot of new or exciting things happened. Be patient and ignore him until he settles down.

You will know your puppy and his normal behaviors better than anyone else. If he is inexplicably fussing at night, you’ve tried several solutions, and things just don’t seem right to you, consult your veterinarian. Your pup may just be going through a difficult stage, but it can’t hurt to seek help if you are concerned.

Problem No. 6:

My puppy won’t sleep in his crate.

Solution:

I highly recommend revisiting crate training to get your puppy comfortable with being and sleeping in his crate. Crating at night is an excellent way to speed up housetraining, because your puppy will naturally avoid soiling his space, and it prevents messes or damage throughout your house. Crating is also a valuable life skill that your dog will probably need at some point in his life.

Problem No. 7:

My puppy won’t sleep in his bed.

Solution:

Most likely he is too hot, or doesn’t like to be right next to someone. Try having your puppy sleep in a crate with good ventilation and light bedding, or if he is house broken, allow him to sleep on the floor. In hot weather, many dogs prefer to sleep on bare tile or linoleum because it is cooler. Some of my dogs have loved to sleep next to me, while others prefer their own space to stretch out.

If it is a dog bed that you are concerned about rather than your bed, there isn’t much that you can do. Try washing the cover in case the new fabric has a weird smell that he doesn’t like. You can also teach your puppy to go to his bed on command, but there is no way for you to enforce that while you are asleep. If you would like him to be in a contained place at night, switch to a crate; otherwise, accept that your puppy prefers to sleep on the floor.

Problem No. 8:

My puppy won’t sleep unless next to me.

Solution:

If he is house-trained and you enjoy cuddling, great! If not, it’s time to establish ground rules. Practice crate training during the day, making it a fun game so he will think of his crate as a happy place. Then at night, bring his crate right next to your bed so you can reach down and assure him that you are close. He may have trouble settling down for the first few nights, but be patient and consistent — caving in and letting him onto the bed will teach him that whining is a great way to get what he wants.

Once he is comfortable sleeping in his crate right next to your bed, you can gradually move the crate farther away if desired. Your puppy may enjoy having an old shirt or something else that smells like you to sleep with.

Good luck with your new puppy!

Article Categories:
Behavior and Training · Dogs · Puppies

Comments

  • My puppy wakes up at the same time each night to go potty…. We take him out for around an hour before its time to settle down so he plenty of time to wear himself out and go potty. What do I do?

    Dailynn June 15, 2016 11:38 pm Reply
    • Hi Dailynn! How old is your puppy? If he is still just a little guy, he may legitimately need that extra bathroom break. If he is 4 months old or older, he should definitely be capable of sleeping all the way through the night, especially with that thorough walk right before bedtime. It is possible that he has a bladder infection, but the fact that he is waking you up at the same time says to me that this is more likely a habit than a medical problem (that said, if you have any concerns, a visit to your vet can’t hurt). Try skipping the extra outing – calmly tell him to go back to sleep, and maybe give him a treat or quiet toy as a distraction (there is a risk with this that he will start waking you up specifically for the treat, but in the short term it can help ease the transition). He may fuss a bit the first few times that you draw the line. Just try to be patient and wait him out. Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge June 19, 2016 5:23 pm Reply
  • My puppy gets up in the middle of the night for 2 hours to eat, poop, pee and play..help

    Caroline October 17, 2016 9:53 am Reply
    • dont feed you dog in the middle of the night..it will eventually learn to go without before instilling this bad habit

      Mercy October 18, 2016 8:30 pm Reply
      • Th#t1a82&7;s why I was giving you the tips. Now you’ll never have to read the books. Unless your girlfriend reads them and loves them and then as a condition of sex makes you read them. At which point you use one my tips and suprize! Front sex.

        Deena November 30, 2016 10:18 pm Reply
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      Jalen November 30, 2016 10:25 pm Reply
  • Heeeeelp my puppy won’t stop howling and crying almost all night long. I have her in her kennel in a separate room because it keeps our children up and they can’t go to elementary school on no sleep… And my husband works very early and it’s dangerous for him to be exhausted at work.
    We tried having her in our room but she still howls and She isn’t fully potty trained to be loose yet- I tried and even let her out to pee- she refused just laid down in the yard so I brought her inside and She almost immediately went on the carpet next to my side of the bed. 😫😫
    Please help- I’m seriously considering a shock collar at this point since she won’t stop. We have tried everything else even ignoring, squirtbottles, pheromone spray that supposedly stops the behavior instantly… Nothings worked and She will still cry and howl. We are at our wits end here and need to SLEEP.

    Courtney October 18, 2016 8:38 pm Reply
    • How old is she? Is she comfortable in the crate during the day? If not, see my article on crate training for ways to get her used to the crate. If this only happens at night, try making sure she is tired at bedtime and/or giving her something to keep her busy. Have a good long play session before her last walk of the night so that she is ready to sleep, and give her something to chew on in the crate – a fresh marrow bone (once she gets all of the marrow out you can fill it with peanut butter and other things, even freezing the filled bone to make it last even longer), a nylabone or something similar with a good scent, or ice cubes made with chicken broth (ice cubes are especially great when they’re teething). Make it something special that she only gets at bedtime. The treat will distract her from the fact that the day is over, and by the time she has worked on that for a while she should be calm and go to sleep. Another thing that sometimes helps is playing calm music or a talk show – it doesn’t need to be loud, just white noise. Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge October 19, 2016 2:09 pm Reply
      • Hello,

        We bought a half lab/half mastiff on Saturday, it is now Thursday and are having the exact same problem! I know it has been less than a week, and we knew it would be tough but up all night screaming.

        Kimberly DeBoer October 27, 2016 7:41 am Reply
        • 10 weeks old.

          Kimberly DeBoer October 27, 2016 7:43 am Reply
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        Lavinia November 30, 2016 10:19 pm Reply
  • Help I have a 8 month old puppy. How is sometimes hyper at night. I work part time twice a week. But on the days I am off I’m a night owl. He fuss’s at me play with him. I do try to tell him it’s bedtime and mommy needs her sleep.

    Stacey October 18, 2016 10:09 pm Reply
    • Hi Stacey – develop a consistent bedtime routine for him that is the same every night, no matter what time you go to bed. This can be as simple as walking one lap around the yard, coming inside, and putting him in his crate with a biscuit and saying, “Go to bed,” then brushing your teeth and such (or you can brush your teeth before his walk). Once you have gone through that routine, no more playtime is allowed until morning. He will quickly learn that you’re no fun after bedtime and he just has to wait.

      With his age, additional exercise during the day will also probably be beneficial. Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge October 19, 2016 2:55 pm Reply
  • I just got a new puppy he is 3 months old. I take him out to do his business and he runs around and tires himself up but the second bed time comes around he start howling and barking and whining. The breeder who I got him from said that is he starts to bark during bed time to ignore him. But it gets hard because I live in an apartment and I have already gotten complaints from my neighbors. I also have to get up early for work and I can’t go to work on no sleep. What should I do? He has a comfy bed, water, and a chew toy with him when it’s bed time.

    Sofia Rodriguez November 1, 2016 6:17 pm Reply
    • Try upping the ante with your chew toy – use a hollow bone or rubber toy, and stuff it with peanut butter or something similar that is really tasty and has a strong smell (you can also freeze these items to make them last a little longer). You want it to be something that he can’t resist and that will take him some time to finish eating – the process of licking and chewing will switch his body from active mode to rest mode, and between the house quieting down because you are going to sleep and his snack he should be ready to sleep by the time he’s done.

      Another thing you can do is have trial runs throughout the day. Go through your bedtime routine, put him in his crate, and sit down to read or work on your computer for a few minutes. When he settles, let him out of the crate. You can change up the length of time that he has to be calm and quiet before releasing him. Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge November 2, 2016 2:16 pm Reply
      • Thanks for shgrina. What a pleasure to read!

        Betsey December 1, 2016 12:19 am Reply
  • Hi, our 6 month old puppy has been crate trained during day and overnight since we brought her home at 11 weeks. Daytime crating is between 1-3 hours only. She never soiled her crate at night–we took her out once initially and that went away w time. We were happily surprised that such a young puppy could hold it all night. There have been a few times over the months where she needed to go out and she would do a very subtle growl and bark; I would let her out, and she would run straight for the dog door, do her business, and go back in the crate. In the last two weeks, she has pooped once (normal, solid poop) in her crate and peed all over herself once. I am confused! Why is she not telling us she needs to go out? Last night was the night she peed, and I did hear her fidgeting, but never her normal growling or barking. Any ideas?

    Chris November 5, 2016 2:00 pm Reply
    • Hi Chris – that is bizarre! Since historically her housebreaking has been incredibly good, my inclination is not to rock the boat yet. These may have just been random events. At 6 months old, she is starting to come into her “teenage” stage and may be testing boundaries a little – you might also notice relapses on things like her recall. If it continues, be extra watchful on her evening walks to be sure that she has peed and pooped enough. If just the peeing continues, or if you notice her needing to pee a lot more during the day, take her in to your vet to have her urine checked, because one of the signs of bladder infections is peeing more than normal. UTIs are really easy to treat, and you usually see improvements within days of starting antibiotics. Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge November 6, 2016 6:21 am Reply
      • Ok, thank you. She was not the easiest dog to daytime potty train. She picked up the dog door quickly, but still had daytime accidents up through 5 months. I will make sure we are sticking to her eating and eliminating routine before bed and removing all food and water 3 hrs prior to bed. I just wish she was more vocal when she does need to go out of her crate during the night. I guess it’s possible I may have slept through her subtle growl. Maybe we have taught her that she should be quiet in her crate?!? Or maybe she has learned that being vocal does no good, since we are not there during the daytime crating? I’m not sure how to teach her it’s okay to whine or bark (more loudly) to get out for a potty break. :/ (Since she uses a dog door, she never learned to bark or whine at the door to go out of the house…if that’s something they need to learn!)

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      Kaley November 30, 2016 10:40 pm Reply
  • Hi
    My puppy is waking up early, once it woke up it go to potty later it is not sleeping. After coming from potty it will ask for food.please tell how to make him sleep for long time.

    Chenna November 7, 2016 4:50 pm Reply
    • I have been so bediwlered in the past but now it all makes sense!

      Anisha December 1, 2016 12:32 am Reply
  • Hi I’ve been wanting a dog for a long time.. recently I got a 5 week old Yorkie puppy but I’m having a lot of trouble with him sleeping.. Pleaseeee help me!! I’ve never had a dog before so I don’t know what to do. He cries a lot at night and I feel bad.. What can I do?

    Danna November 7, 2016 9:48 pm Reply
    • Hi Danna – unfortunately, 5 weeks old is way too young for him to have been taken from his mother and siblings, so you’re going to have some extra work to do to help him grow up to be the best puppy he can be. I highly recommend getting some good books on dog care, such as “Your Yorkshire Terrier Puppy Month to Month” by Liz Palika, Dr Deb Eldredge, and the Groves. Also check out the American Kennel Club’s website to find a dog training club in your area for classes when your pup is old enough and also to connect with dog people in your area who can help you out in person. In the meantime, try some of the tips in my article and hopefully something will help your little guy! Good luck!

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge November 8, 2016 5:05 pm Reply
  • Hi there, I really need your excellent advice! I got a 9 month old puppy 4 days ago. He’s great during the day – very happy, playful, will sleep and keep himself amused – but when we go upstairs to sleep at night, he whines and howls. We’ve been closing him in our kitchen overnight, and we’ve put his bed, toys, food etc. in there. At his old house, he had literally 15 other dogs for company, and I think he might just not be used to it. He’d make noise for about 15/20mins for the first couple of nights and then sleep, but last night it kept going for much longer! I’m really worried about him disturbing our neighbours and I’m also shattered. I’m definitely going to try your idea about the chews, but when else can we do?! Thank you.

    Frankie November 7, 2016 11:36 pm Reply
    • Hi Frankie – it definitely sounds like your pup is lonely. Try setting up a crate for him next to your bed so he is close by and with his new “pack.”

      Katherine Eldredge Katherine Eldredge November 8, 2016 5:14 pm Reply
    • How ironic that we can thank Tom DeLay for his shameless gerrymandering for this faMOFid?ROoLcAt, Christopher! You KNOW the BUG Man wasn’t counting on his cheating gerrymandering to give a Black Man the White House!!

      Charlotte November 30, 2016 10:18 pm Reply

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