If you just brought your new precious puppy home and you’re awake reading this at 3am because your puppy has just woken you up for the 3rd time and now is crying in their crate, and you’re just so tired and just wish it would all end...and now you’re wondering if it was even a good idea to get a puppy in the first place... just know, you’re not alone. I was in the exact same position that you are. My little puppy had a really tough time adjusting to crate-life. (Disclaimer: I do believe in crating my dogs so if you’re not into that, thats cool, just click into another post, here’s one about dog enrichment)
Having a new puppy is exhausting all on it’s own...but not getting sleep on top of it all is just a slap in the face. I know it’s hard. I’m here to help and I have a few reasons on what might be keeping your puppy to be awake or with energy through the night.
1. Your pup may not be getting enough physical exercise
Puppies are growing the most in their first year of life which means they can sleep anywhere from 18-20 hours a day so getting enough physical activity in the times that they’re awake is important. At this point, you won’t need to do much to tucker out your little pup. The approximate calculation is 5 minutes of play per every month of age 2 times a day. So a 2 month old puppy can handle about 10 minutes of play time per play session 2x per day, adding up to about 20 minutes of play per day. This will vary from puppy to puppy but it’s a good baseline. If your puppy is still bouncing off the walls when your playtime is over, adjust accordingly. You do not want to end playtime with your puppy exhausted...that means playtime should have ended already.
2. I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again...Mental Stimulation
But !MaRiSa! My puppy will never get tired if i don’t work them physically until they’re exhausted. I know it can seem that way but let me be the one to tell you, mental stimulation will exhaust your puppy if you do it the right way. Mental stimulation can look like so many different things for different people / puppies. You can also couple mental work with physical work as your puppy gets older. Some people call this “Canine Enrichment” and there are literally endless options on what and how you can do this. I made a list of my favourite Enrichment Toys that you can buy but theres also a ton of different mental stimulation games that you can play with things around your house. With an 8 week old puppy, mental work can look as simple as spending 5-10 minutes at a time learning how to sit. When I first got my puppy, I was feeding kibble so I used his kibble as training treats and would center his training schedule around his meal times, so at Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner time he would work for his food. Ultimately it was much more satisfying for him because he had to work for his food instead of just being given the whole bowl and it accelerated his training like crazy. Remember, they don’t speak our language and we don’t speak their language so they’ll be working hard to try and understand what you’re saying and what you want them to do! Seriously, don’t underestimate the power of stimulating your dog mentally.
3. They miss you (or their littermates)
This one sucks, big time. But your puppy might just be sad being alone. When your puppy wakes up in the middle of the night, they might remember the fact that they’re alone so they might start crying because of separation anxiety. This is OK! They will get through it and you WILL NOT ruin your relationship with your puppy trust me. In the midst of my challenges crate training my puppy, I decided to take to a dog-lovers facebook group and essentially ask for reassurance that I was doing the right thing by letting my puppy cry it out at night. I was hit with all kinds of ‘self proclaimed dog experts’ who told me I was “damaging my puppy” and that he would “never love me again”. Some people have rules when it comes to how long your puppy should be allowed to cry in a crate, others will say that as long as you take your puppy out to pee / poo (or at least try to pee or poo) they should be allowed to cry it out. You can take them out again if they are still crying a while later and try to pee / poop but make sure it’s strictly out to do business and then back in the crate. No emotions or cuddling or kissing (... ok ... maybe one kiss). If this is really a problem, please consult a professional dog trainer. You can also try one of those stuffed toys that have an artificial heartbeat. These can be super useful if your puppy is very young and still used to having their littermates around. (Funny story: when I bought one of these for my puppy, he was probably 4 months old and already used to being alone in the crate. So when I gave him this toy with a heartbeat, he looked at me wide-eyed as if to say “what in the world have you let into my den!?”...don’t do that)
Bonus: Set your dog up for success
Part of crate training is making your dog feel that their crate is somewhere they can relax. This means making the crate as relaxing as possible and using your crate during the day as well as at night. Your puppy needs to get used to being in their crate and needs to feel like their crate is their safe space, if you only put them in it at night, they’re likely don’t feel comfortable in it simply because they’re just not used to it. I wrote a whole post on crate training that goes into much more detail on how I crate trained my dog, even though the times where he cried and I really considered giving up.
To make a long story short, your puppy WILL eventually sleep through the night. It might take a little while for them to adjust but it will happen. And trust me on this, you might think to yourself “this would be easier if i just took him out and cuddled him”, you’ll be happy you didn’t when you have a puppy who will literally sleep anywhere as long as they have their crate.