There are a number of things you need to do in the first few weeks of your puppy’s life to be sure your new pup stays healthy and to establish good behavior habits. Dogs need structure and routine in their lives, and a well-developed daily schedule makes your life and your dog’s life much easier.
Getting your puppy in to an established sleeping routine is one the most important things you can do.
There are sleep requirement differences among the various breeds. Chihuahuas and Yorkshire terriers tend to sleep more than other small dogs. While most dogs get by on around 14 hours a day, puppies are busy growing and taking in information, so they’ll require 18 to 20 hours of sleep a day to recharge. You want to get your dog used to sleeping at night when you do, rather than snoozing all throughout the day.
Depending on how your puppy plays, schedule several play times throughout the day for healthy exercise and to wear him out.
The importance of a sleeping routine
Most puppies aren’t able to sleep through the night when they first come home to their new owners, but almost all puppies sleep through the night by the time they’re 16 weeks old. With proper training and scheduling, you should be able to teach your puppy to do it even earlier.
What you do with your dog in the evening will have a big impact on how well he’ll sleep (and how well YOU’LL sleep) at night.
- Don’t let your dog sleep too much in the evening; run around in the yard with him, play with him, have your friends come over to visit him and keep him busy. You want him to be good and tired by the time bedtime rolls around.
- Your dog shouldn’t have food or water before going to bed, either, for obvious reasons. If he goes to bed with a full belly and bladder, you’re pretty much guaranteed a rough night. Generally, it’s best to avoid giving a dog food or water for 2-3 hours before bedtime.
- Be sure to give your puppy a few chances to empty out during the evening and make sure the very last thing you do before going to bed is take him out to potty, even if he’s asleep and you have to wake him to do it.
- Confine or crate your puppy so he does not roam around the house all night. It also helps them feel secure and calms them down.
Establish a designated area for sleeping
When you bring a new puppy home, it is important to establish boundaries so your dog knows where he can and can’t go in the house. Establish consistent places for him to eat, potty, play and sleep.
In order for your dog to feel safe and secure, he needs to know where his space is. Will he be sleeping in your bedroom or in another room? Will his space be a gated pen with a bed or in a crate or in your bed with you?
- Allowing your puppy to sleep in bed with you can have unwanted side effects. Puppies get restless and want to walk all over the bed and you. Puppy bladders are weak and they cannot hold it in all night, so may wake up to find that puppy peed in the bed. Puppies need lots of sleep but you may not be able to lay down with the puppy every time he/she needs to sleep.
- If you choose to let your puppy sleep in a gated enclosure, make sure the space is small. Big areas make puppies feel displaced and lonely and they may chew or potty out of anxiety. You also want to be sure the gate prevents the puppy from getting into other rooms or stairways. Lay down a flat mat or old quilt. Avoid towels or blankets for puppies that have strong chewing tendencies as they can ingest fibers, which cause serious intestinal problems.
- Puppy crates are particularly useful in the training stages as they help the puppy fell safe when you are away and encourage bladder control because puppies do not like to potty where they sleep. Wire crates allow for better airflow and are fairly lightweight. They can be easily placed in a corner in your bedroom with a towel or blanket over the crate to give you puppy a feeling of safety and block out the light and distractions.
Nighttime potty breaks
You don’t want your dog waking you up by howling or whining in the middle of the night and hoping that you get him out the door soon enough before he pees or poops. You need to plan for overnight potty breaks.
- Prepare ahead of time for an overnight potty break by putting slippers, robe or jacket, leash, poop pickup bags and a flashlight where they are easily accessible.
- Take control of overnight potty trips by setting an alarm to wake you up every 2-3 hours. (Every night, increase the time by 15 minutes). By three or four months of age, most puppies are able to get through the night without a potty break.
- Take your puppy directly to his potty area and give him a couple of minutes to go.
- When he goes, calmly tell him he’s good, take him back inside, put him in his crate or pen and go back to bed.
- When you’re up with your puppy in the middle of the night, avoid talking much to him, playing with him, taking him for a fun walk, or giving him treats, food, water or a chew bone. If he gets to do fun stuff when he wakes up in the middle of the night, he’ll start waking you up because he wants some attention or a midnight snack. You want him to learn that nighttime is for sleeping.
(If you are having trouble with the stereotypical potty training routines, give this article a read… it might help you to establish better routines for your pup in the day that will also help them sleep longer throughout the night.)
Control the temperature
Dogs like the comfort of a clean environment that is neither too hot nor too cold. Most dogs are very happy indoors. Dogs especially enjoy the comfort of the indoors during extreme heat or cold temperatures. Keep the thermostat at a comfortable range.
If your dog is an outdoor dog, they should have access to warm shelter and bedding in the winter. If temperatures get extremely low (Below 40 degrees), they should be brought indoors. Make sure they have access to shade in the summer with constant access to fresh clean water. A small dog’s ability to withstand extreme temperatures is affected by the thickness of their coat and whether it is wet or raining. Chow chows and Tibetan terriers are known for their thick coats.
Establishing a sleeping routine for your small dog will keep your dog healthy and make your life much easier.