Puppy sleep training is similar to newborn sleep training. Puppies often need attention at night, which can be draining for owners. But with good training, you and your puppy can get the sleep you need.
As with most aspects of dog training, positive reinforcement is key to encouraging good bedtime behavior in puppies. It’s important to establish a regular sleeping area for your dog. Once you’ve set up a kennel, crate, or bed for your dog, the American Kennel Club encourages owners to:
Help your dog find his bed using a treat. Keep dropping treats to him in bed until you’re ready to release him, using a word to indicate release such as “ok” or “free.” Repeat this process a few times.
Call your dog’s bed by name, such as “place” or “bed.” Use this word when your dog goes to bed and reward him with a treat.
Continue practicing, increasing the duration of time spent in bed and with you physically farther away from the bed.
Things to Do
Give your puppy a comfortable bed. Like humans who benefit from a mattress well suited to their needs, one size doesn’t fit all for puppies. Donut beds might be a good choice for puppies that enjoy curling up, or cushion beds may be a better choice for larger breeds that may prefer to stretch out. If you’re in a colder climate, consider a warmer bed, or one that’s breathable in warmer weather.
Choose a bed location that has a little light, but is mostly dark. The temperature should be slightly cool. Consider leaving a few comfort items or toys so your puppy’s bed is a more interesting place to be, but remove toys if your puppy stays up playing instead of sleeping.
Take care of needs before bed. Your puppy may need to go out to relieve himself at night, feel hungry, or need comfort. Before bed, give him plenty of exercise and stimulation to wear him out, along with plenty of attention. Consider a snack or treat before bed to get something in his belly, and make going outside part of your bedtime routine.
Things to Avoid
Although it’s acceptable to share a bed with your dog if that’s your preference, it’s not a good idea to do so when your dog is in the puppy stage. Your dog may whine or cry during the night, disturbing your sleep. And you want to avoid allowing your dog to associate your bed with sleeping, or you may find it difficult to keep your dog out of your bed in the future.
While you shouldn’t keep your puppy in bed with you, it’s also not a great idea to put his bed far away from you. A good compromise is putting your puppy’s bed in your room. This can make it easier to respond to needs during the night with minimal disruption.
However, you shouldn’t respond to every small whimper, as doing so may train your dog that you’ll jump to their every need. Give them the opportunity to self soothe.
Training a puppy to sleep in their own bed isn’t always easy. But with positive reinforcement and smart strategies, it’s possible to create healthy sleep habits early on.