Some simple steps to help you and your pup survive their first few nights
Flying the coop is scary stuff. Especially for puppies.
In the space of a day, your new bestie goes from living with their mum and littermates in the only home they’ve ever known to a whole new world.
It’s a massive transition. And at no point will it be harder than on your puppy’s first night.
When the lights turn out and the house goes quiet, there’s bound to be some whimpering and whining. That said, there’s a number of things you can do (and should do!) to make your pup’s new sleeping setup a little more soothing.
Position your puppy’s bed or crate away from any direct sunlight or any chilly draughts.
Dogs are social creatures. So it’s always a good idea to let them sleep close to your bed for the first new nights. Once they get more comfortable in their new digs, you can start to move their bed in the area of your bedroom or house where they will always be sleeping.
If using a crate, cover the sides with a blanket at night time so your pup feels cosy and secure.
Consider using a pheromone diffuser like Adaptil to help soothe your puppy during their first few weeks. These are plug-in adaptors that diffuse synthetic pheromones that mimic the chemicals that puppies’ mothers release during the time of birth. While they won’t address the underlying cause of any emotional distress, they can help puppies to feel calmer.
Always feed your puppy their dinner at least one hour before going to bed. This way, they’ll have more chances to go to the toilet before saying goodnight.
Try to limit stimulating games and toys in the hour before going to bed.
If you were given any soft toys or blankets from your puppy’s breeder or shelter, place these in your puppy’s bed at nighttime. The familiar smell may provide comfort during those lonely wee hours.
If you notice your dog shivering at night, or if they happen to be a breed that’s prone to feeling cold (like Italian greyhounds or whippets), set them up with a lukewarm hot water bottle to help keep them cosy and warm.
If your puppy cries out in the night, don’t panic. This behaviour is all part and parcel of the process of leaving their mum and littermates for a new home. Within a month, your best bud should be sleeping easy.
Try not to over-comfort your puppy when they cry at night. Puppies need space to build confidence and adjust to their new surroundings - something that won’t be possible if you’re constantly lavishing them with cuddles.
Instead of rushing to your puppy’s side every time they whimper or whine, provide comfort by just being there. Sometimes sticking close by is all they need.
Last but certainly not least, don’t forget to take your puppy out to the toilet regularly during the night. Between the ages of 8-12 weeks - when puppies’ bladders are especially small - this will need to be as often as every 2-3 hours. (*Heaving sigh*)
If your puppy continues to cry during the night, consider what may be causing this behaviour. Common triggers and fixes include...
If you suspect your pup is suffering from separation anxiety, try moving their bed closer to yours for a few nights. Once the midnight tears clear up, slowly start inching their bed back to the area in your bedroom or house where they will permanently be sleeping.
Puppies learn faster when they have a routine. So where possible, try to feed, walk and put your four-legged friend to bed at the same time every day. Creating this kind of consistency will help them understand what’s expected of them and when.
Oh, it’s 10pm? Guess that’s my cue to go catch some zzz’s!
If your home is located on a noisy road or near any loud restaurants or bars, it may help to play sound recordings of these noises during the day to help your pup get used to them. When doing this, always start out by playing the recordings quietly, and gradually increasing their volume over time. Also make sure you stick close by during these audio sessions so your pup doesn’t associate the sounds they hear with you leaving them.
Puppies learn quickly. And chances are, they’ll have the connection between crying and cuddles sussed out within a matter of days. To stop your pup from using their tears as a tool to get your attention, empower them to feel confident enough being left alone that they no longer feel the need to behave like this.
You can do this by training your puppy to sit or lay calmly in their bed and then gradually backing away to create more distance between the two of you. For most puppies, it will take a few days for them to feel comfortable not having you right by their side. But with a lot of patience and the help of a few long-lasting chew toys to distract your pup while you make your getaway, you’ll eventually get there.
As mentioned, puppies have tiny bladders that need frequent relieving. And if your puppy isn’t getting enough opportunities to do this, they will become distressed. (There’s nothing a dog hates more than going doo-doo in their sleeping area.) So do your best bud a big favour and take them out to pee and poo at regular intervals through the night.
If you try each of these steps and your puppy continues to cry at night after a month, contact your vet to discuss whether a referral to a behaviourist may be necessary.
As a new pet parent, there’s nothing worse than seeing your puppy fret. But come bedtime, it’s important to remember that at the start, this behaviour is completely normal. For some puppies, it may even take up to 4 or 5 weeks for them to feel surefooted in their new sleeping surrounds. In the meantime, try to provide them with as many opportunities to succeed in this big transition as possible. This means creating a cosy sleeping area where they feel warm and safe, establishing a strong routine and - we’ve saved the best one till last - taking them out to the wee and poo regularly throughout the night.