I don’t have any human children, but I have it on very good authority that for new parents, sleep quickly becomes nothing but a foggy and indistinct memory. Baby puppies grow and mature much faster than human infants. By the time your new puppy arrives home, he is at least 8 to 12 weeks old. By this point, he’s already learned quite a bit from both mother and littermates, including a thing or two about sleeping.
Your anxiety as a new puppy parent, though, is just beginning. You have a load of items on your checklist to worry about, like house training, food selection, chew toys, play time, and bedding, among many others. You’re exhausted with all the new responsibilities, but is your puppy getting the rest she needs? What can you expect when it comes to your puppy’s sleeping habits? How long do puppies sleep? Where are they supposed to lay their tiny heads?
Dogster is here to provide the basics on puppy sleeping. We’re going to cover:
When you picture a young dog in your mind, you think of boundless puppy energy; we tend to think of cats as big sleepers — which they are — but that only reveals our species biases. Regardless of breed or mix, the typical puppy sleeps 16 to 18 hours a day, and like any infant mammal, the younger they are, the more they sleep. Why is that? The primary responsibility of a baby of any species is to eat and grow. It is the parent, or in this case, dog owner’s charge, to provide quality food and security during rest periods.
Growing requires energy, which is replenished through constant eating while awake, and recovered during sleep. You probably know that proper rest is crucial to all of us, regardless of species, and it’s even more important for a puppy’s physical, mental, and emotional development. Consider that human babies mostly flop around, and that is sufficient to exhaust their bodies. Puppies, who are ambulatory from a much earlier age, expend and thus must recover more energy. This is precisely why puppies sleep so much.
Anyone who has owned a puppy, or spent a lot of time cooing over cute photos of puppies sleeping on the Internet, knows that a puppy can and will sleep anywhere. For house training — also given the somewhat callous name of “housebreaking” — purposes, it is important, as early as possible, to accustom a puppy to a particular spot. Finding a low-traffic spot in your home where the puppy feels comfortable and can get uninterrupted rest is key.
Like human babies, sudden noises or constant racket can disturb a puppy’s sleep, increasing the chances that they get tetchy or misbehave during waking hours. Finding a bedding material that the puppy likes — dog bed, blanket, pillow, or otherwise — is also important. If you are crate- or kennel-training your puppy, the placement of the crate, along with a bedding they like, can make all the difference to establishing a routine that works for both of you.
If your puppy is whining or whimpering, you may be tempted to have her close to you, if not right next to you.
Is it okay to have a puppy sleeping in bed with you? Not until the puppy is completely house trained. This is not because of bed wetting, or the virtually nonexistent risk of disease transmission, but because lapses or inconsistencies in training can affect a puppy’s behavior down the road.
The biggest concern for a parent of any living creature, human or puppy, is not whether they are sleeping too much, but whether they seem to be spending too much time awake. When a puppy starts whimpering in the middle of the night, you’re probably less likely to jump out of bed yourself than you would for a human infant, but the temptation is certainly there. How do you deal with problem sleepers, though, and what can you do to get your puppy to sleep through the night?
Bed wetting, for instance, is normal for a puppy who is still gaining and developing his musculature, including the muscles that control bladder function. If the puppy is a regular bed wetter, less water before bedtime and an opportunity to pee before you retire to bed is one possible solution. As for sleeping through the night, setting up and sticking to habits and routines is key. Exercise should be as regular as meal time.
Even if your ultimate intention is to raise a running partner, puppies — especially breeds who are prone to hip problems in later life — should not run distances until they are 18 months old. Before that, though, a puppy who has got her legs under her can easily take a 20-minute walk. If you can do that together a couple of hours before bed, the puppy will have time to get tired and settle down from whatever new stimulation — scents, sounds, and so forth — that she encountered on the walk.
One thing that should concern you is a puppy who seems to be sleeping normally, but who remains lethargic during her waking hours. If this is the case, examine her mouth, particularly the gums. Do they look pale or greyish-white? Your baby puppy may be anemic. Anemia is a symptom of several blood-related conditions that sap energy and oxygen.
A puppy who is sleeping a lot, day and night, is great. It’s a sign that she is growing and developing as nature intends. So don’t worry: Depending on the breed, a few years of high energy are just around the corner.
Have you ever experienced problems or anxieties about how much or how little your puppies sleep? Share your experiences in the comments!
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.