To bring a puppy home is exciting but it also heralds the beginning of several months of training, sleepless nights and accidents. Having a better idea of her sleep routine helps.
Getting to know your puppy takes time, especially when you consider that over a 24-hour period she may be asleep for as many as 19. In the few hours she is awake her world must be gentle, friendly, understanding, and devoid of stress and anger.
Puppies need their sleep but like the human baby they don’t want to go to sleep. Instead, they have a tendency to run around until they cause an accident or until they go out like a light. Unlike the human baby, a puppy is given a relatively short space of time to learn what we want to teach her and, crucially, if she is overtired she will not be capable of learning.
It may be tempting to try to wear out your puppy in the early months, but such a ploy does not help her mental development. Her capacity to learn, especially things like toilet rules and manners, is much reduced to such an extent that you may even find her untrainable. Furthermore, the quality of her sleep may end up poor, which makes her even more fidgety, bad-tempered and destructive.
Why do puppies sleep so much?
Studies of the sleep patterns of young dogs reveal just how sleepy puppies are. On average dogs have 23 sleep/wake cycles over the course of eight hours.
The question why so much sleep? is asked of human teenagers as much as it is of puppies and the answer is the same: puppies (like young humans) are growing, and as new cells are made, the body’s need energy to grow. A puppy needs her sleep to enable her body and mind to grow healthily. In addition to these physiological demands the psychological exertion of their daily life exhausts them.
Learning to feel safe when she is alone
In order to teach your puppy to sleep (for that is what you must do) you need to be prepared to take away her stimuli. These include noises, people and play times. A puppy should not be put to bed nor be expected to sleep when there are people and toys around her. Your first task, should you choose to accept it, is to teach her that falling asleep alone is safe and normal. Follow these few rules to teach her to sleep alone:
1. Let her run, play and learn
2. Take her into the garden to learn some toilet manners
3. Feed her and let her run off some more energy
4. Take her to a quiet room and place her in her bed
5. Close the door to the room and let her sleep
6. Do not disturb her during her sleep
7. When you hear her awake, open the door and let her come to you
A sound sleeping routine
In nature, wolves in a pack sleep when they have eaten. If food is plentiful they sleep more often than if it is scarce. Allowed to return to its instinctive behaviour a puppy would eat when it could and then sleep, and repeat the rhythm endlessly. However, dogs rely on us for our food and therefore their sleep pattern is determined by us. The trick here is to have your puppy’s sleepy stage fall in line with yours (i.e. at bedtime).
It is not always possible to bring your puppy’s sleeping pattern in line with yours but it can be done with careful planning. Importantly, her exercise-feed-exercise-sleep regime should be regular and well-timed to coincide with the close of the day. Your puppy needs to have a structure to follow otherwise she will begin to feel anxious and you may find that she becomes more restless at night when the house is quiet.
If she becomes restless at night you must attend to her. Do not allow her to whip herself into a frenzy and do not berate her on the basis you are showing her ‘tough love’. Ignoring her cries is also frowned on by some behaviourists for two reasons: 1) Ignoring the problem often makes matters worse. 2) If you have ignored the problem but keep going back to her, your puppy will know that she can ‘call’ you any time she wants.
To deal with excessive night-time separation anxiety the only successful way is to bring a temporary bed into your room. In a few weeks her night-time stressing will have gone and you can begin to train her to sleep further away from you.
The process of structuring your puppy’s sleep takes time. It is not natural for a dog to have the sort of waking and sleeping rhythm that we have. It takes time and patience to achieve a positive result, and it is important that your puppy gets enough sleep and the right kind of sleep. Her body and mind need rest, and sufficient sleep aids her healthily development. As tempting as it is for us to endlessly play with a new puppy we should take care to not disturb her sleep, over-excite her or over-tire her.