Trying to settle a new puppy into a bedtime routine and sleeping through the night can feel a lot like looking after a baby. And just like human babies, your puppy will probably wake up every few hours in the night. You should expect a few sleepless nights while your puppy is getting used to their new home, their new routine, and learning how to hold everything in so there are no accidents in the night.
It can also take you by surprise how much sleep these fur-baby’s actually need. You’ll soon realise that puppies only seem to have two settings, zoomies or sleep mode.
Luckily, good habits can help your puppy to settle into sleeping all night, and it won’t be too long before you and the puppy can enjoy a good night’s rest.
So how much sleep do puppies need, and how can you create the perfect bedtime routine and help your puppy to sleep through the night?
A typical puppy will sleep for about 18 hours a day. That means they’re only awake for 6 hours in a 24 hour period!
So even if your puppy is sleeping through the night, they will still need lots of naps during the day to top up their rest so it is important to let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t keep your puppy awake in the day to “tire them out”, because it will probably overtire and overstimulate them which could lead to bad behaviour. You should let your pup sleep whenever they need to.
If you’ve never had a puppy before it’s very easy to believe that something is wrong because they seem to be sleeping all the time. It could be slightly less or more than the 18-hour average. But if you’re worried, check your puppy for any other symptoms such as low mood or lack of appetite and if there are any other indicators of ill health, contact your vet for advice.
Newborn puppies need the most sleep and spend about 90% of the day sleeping. However, you probably won’t bring your puppy home until they are at least 8 weeks old, and at this point, they should be sleeping for about 18 hours each day.
Your puppy probably won’t be able to sleep through the night until they are 16 weeks old. (Around 4 months old.) This is about the same time that they develop enough muscle and bladder control that they can hold everything in long enough to last all night without a trip outside to the toilet.
Most puppies wake up a few times in the night because they need the toilet. However, as they grow bigger and get used to housetraining these trips to the toilet become fewer until eventually, your pup can last the night without waking up whenever nature calls.
However, small breeds and toy breeds do take longer before they can sleep through the night because they have smaller bladders, so it takes them longer before they reach the point that they can hold it in all night.
As your puppy gets older, they will need less and less sleep, but even an adult dog spends about 12 to 14 hours a day sleeping. Adult dogs also spend 30% of the day “resting”, which is essentially awake but chilled out.
It is very rare for puppies to get too much sleep, and it’s actually more likely that they aren’t getting enough sleep. Puppies should sleep about 18 hours a day. (Some for up to 20 hours!)
If you’re concerned about your puppy’s sleeping habits, monitor their behaviour and check for other symptoms. If they’re happy and playful when they’re not asleep, they’re probably perfectly fine. But if they show any symptoms such as increased urination, lethargy, low mood, or lack of appetite, they might be sick and you should contact your vet right away.
You need to give your puppy a safe place to settle and sleep that helps them to transition from their old home to their new one. Be patient and realistic, it can take a puppy a while to settle into their new home and routine.
It can be useful to sleep in the same room as your puppy for the first few days because it builds your bond and helps to make your puppy feel secure and teaches them your routine. If they can see that you are sleeping, they realise that they should be too. Once your puppy starts to sleep well, simply move them out of your room. (Or you move to your own.)
You should get a blanket or toy with the smell of your puppies mum, littermates, or previous home which you can put in their bed to help soothe them. The smell on this will gradually fade so your puppy becomes used to the smells of their new home and family.
You can also buy soothing dog toys with heat packs and sounds that mimic heartbeats which simulate the feeling of your puppy’s mum and littermates. Alternatively, for a similar effect, put an old analogue clock near their bed as the ticking can sound like a heartbeat, and warm a towel or blanket on a radiator or in a dryer (but not too hot!) and bundle it up for your puppy to snuggle against like they would with their littermates.
To stop your puppy from feeling lonely and help them to settle down, give them a shirt, towel, or blanket with your own smell which will help to comfort your puppy when you’re not there.
You also need to make sure their sleeping area is quiet and dark because having too much light could affect their sleep cycle and keep them awake. Although playing white noise or calm classical music has also been found to help puppies to relax.
Crate training is useful for making puppies feel more secure and helps with housetraining as well as getting puppies to sleep. You can cover the sides with a blanket to create a “den” which is sure to help your puppy relax. If you are crate training your puppy, introduce the crate as their special safe place from the day you bring them home.
Most puppies will cry in the night at some point, and if they do you should go and console them. In these early days, you want to build their trust in you. Although when comforting them, don’t give them too much fuss or start playing with them as this will wake them up and also reinforce the crying behaviour as a means of getting your attention. They might need to be taken out to the toilet!
It will probably take a few weeks for your puppy to start sleeping through the night, and to do this you need to help your puppy to develop a healthy sleep routine. That means sticking to the same bedtime and wake up time every day.
As tempting as it might be to try and keep them awake to get them to sleep at night, it won’t work. A puppy that isn’t sleeping enough can develop behavioural problems and being overtired can be detrimental to their development. As the saying goes, let sleeping dogs lie! Make sure everyone in your home (especially the kids) know not to wake the puppy up or bother them when they’re resting. Plus, puppies don’t know when to stop sometimes and will keep playing when they should be napping instead, so lead them to bed if they show any signs of tiredness.
Puppies tend to sleep after activity, so designate nap times in the day and let them rest after walks or training. Giving them some gentle exercise or training a few hours before bed can help to tire your fur baby out so they are more likely to sleep through the night.
Remember, toilet training has a big impact on whether your puppy sleeps all night or not. Your puppy won’t be able to sleep through the night for a few weeks just because they don’t have enough bladder control to stop them from waking up needing the loo.
As soon as your puppy wakes up, whether in the night or in the morning, you need to take them outside to go to the toilet. Most accidents happen after your fur-baby wakes up.
Puppies need regular toilet breaks and can generally only hold it in as long as their age is in months is plus one. EG: a 2-month puppy you just brought home can’t go longer than 3 hours without needing the toilet overnight (during the day they will need more regular toilet breaks). By the time your puppy is about 4 months old, they should be able to start sleeping through the night without needing the toilet. (Although small breeds take longer as their bladders are smaller.)
If your puppy wakes up in the night needing the toilet, keep calm and don’t give them too much attention. Just go straight outside, let them do their business, praise them, and put yourself and the puppy back to bed. Being boring is important because you don’t want to get them excited or think it’s playtime and wake them up.
If you want to find out more about toilet training, read our toilet training tips.
Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS
Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.