picture of 'Barney' as a puppy going off to sleep

What you feed your puppy has a huge impact on your dog’s sleeping habits

Many new dog owners, who may be desperate to know how to get a puppy to sleep at night, are given these same 3 pieces of advice over and over again.

  • Take your dog for a walk to make sure he’s tired.
  • Let him go to the toilet so he won’t need to go in the night.
  • Give him a shirt that smells like you to keep him comfortable, and so on.

While this all is definitely good advice to follow and well-intentioned, when it just doesn’t seem to be working, it’s frustrating. A run of sleepless nights is no fun for anyone. When you understand what’s happening, it becomes easier to stay positive and see the light at the end of the tunnel. There’s more to sleep training a puppy than most owners realize.

 

This is what you’re not told

Unfortunately for dog owners, there’s one very big problem with getting a puppy to sleep, and that’s a change in their everyday routine that comes at exactly the wrong time. From around 8 weeks of age a puppy will begin to notice differences between night and day, and may naturally start to settle in the dark as its owners and littermates do.

By 12 weeks of age the pup may be starting to sleep primarily at night. This is also the time that many dogs are moved from their litters into a new home with a new owner. Their routine is disturbed that is essentially undoing the natural progression from recognizing the quiet time to sleeping during this period.

Sleep training isn’t impossible, however. Here are 2 excellent pieces of advice that often go overlooked when it comes to sleep training dogs.

 

1. The importance of a puppy’s diet and DHA

a picture of very contented, healthy puppies

make sure your puppy’s nutrition is optimal

Believe it or not, what you feed your puppy (or, more importantly, what you don’t feed him) could have a huge impact on your dog’s sleeping habits, and on their ability to be sleep trained effectively. Studies have found that dogs are much more responsive to the concept of training if they’re fed a diet that’s high in Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) – a type of Omega-3 fatty acid that’s vital for the growth and development of a dog’s brain, vision, and central nervous system.

DHA is naturally found in a mother’s milk, which is why puppies who have recently moved into a new home may be lacking in the fatty acid. Fortunately, it’s easy to increase the amount of DHA in your dog’s diet. It’s often found in many types of dry dog food and is also found in large quantities in organ meats and offal.

Research suggests that 68% of puppies, on average, are likely to complete a training task successfully if they’re fed a high DHA diet, compared to just 30% of dogs fed a diet that’s lacking in DHA. I find that statistic eye-opening.

When thinking about how to get a puppy to sleep, however, it’s not just what you feed, it’s when you feed him.

 

2. How long before sleep should a puppy be fed?

Puppies should be fed their dinner approximately 3 hours before bedtime, which gives them enough time to digest their food so they won’t be uncomfortable as they try to sleep. This also allows dogs plenty of time to toilet, so be sure to take your dog for a short walk before bed to enable him to go to the toilet.

 

3. Where should a new puppy sleep?

Give your puppy some personal space

Many dog owners love having their animals sleep on or near their bed. One piece of advice that’s often given to new dog owners wondering how to get their puppy to sleep through the night is to place the dog’s bed near to your own bed. The reason is so the dog won’t feel lonely and can be close to you. This does work for some people. It’s not the best option for everyone, especially if you have the intent of successfully sleep training your puppy.

Why is it not ideal? Because we disturb our dogs!

Research suggests that more than half of all dog owners accidentally disturb their dogs during the night without even knowing. It could be from snoring, sleep talking, or from trips to the bathroom.

4. A dog’s sleep/wake cycle

This tends to happen because dogs have very short sleep/wake cycles – approximately 3 episodes per hour during the night.

The sleep/wake cycle is normal. It’s a period of sleep followed by a short period of wakefulness. Humans also have sleep/wake cycles, but these are much longer, and much less pronounced. Some dogs are quite alert during the ‘wake’ part of the cycle and may bark, while others remain drowsy and quiet. If they’re disturbed during a period of wakefulness, they’ll certainly let you know about it!

Sleeping options to help your puppy to settle

Dogs like to feel cozy and secure. A small, comfy space they can climb into works.

The good news – light at the end of the tunnel

The positive for dog owners is that with a little care and attention, (and a little patience), it’s not too challenging to teach a puppy to sleep. Once fully trained, research shows that dogs sleep primarily between the hours of 9pm and 4am when the sky is at its darkest, allowing you some much-needed rest.

Don’t worry about how to get a puppy to sleep through the night – it WILL happen!