Parents of small children know sleepless nights are bound to happen, but what about pup parents? Many dog owners learn the hard way that like babies, dogs don’t always respect your desired sleep schedule. You love them, but that doesn’t mean you love waking up multiple times a night to deal with their crying and acting out.
Puppies don’t sleep through the night because they’re still working on house training, but it’s also a common problem for adult and senior dogs. No one can be happy when they’re forced out of bed still exhausted, and solving the problem of your dog’s sleep schedule will help everyone in the household. Before you get started with a plan, first figure out what’s causing your dog’s sleepless nights.
Reasons Your Dog Doesn’t Sleep at Night
They need to go to the bathroom.
Owners of new puppies need to accept the fact their sleep schedule will be interrupted for at least the next few weeks. Like babies, puppies are still growing, and that includes developing the muscles and self control needed to hold their pee.
According to the Humane Society, puppies can control their bladder for about one hour for every month of age. That means a four-month-old puppy can go four hours before needing to go to the bathroom. With consistent house training and time, they’ll be able to wait longer between bathroom breaks and won’t need to wake up at night.
They’re not tired.
This one seems obvious, but it’s also one of the most common reasons why dogs don’t sleep through the night. Dogs that spend the majority of the day alone do a good amount of daytime snoozing. There’s nothing else for them to do, and it’s either sleep or find ways to get into trouble. Without the chance to exercise, all their energy continues to build. Sleep Advisor tells dog owners,
“Lack of activity is going to cause anxiousness and severe buildup of unused energy – this will undoubtedly result in the absence of sleep amongst other conditions of the kind.”
What’s more, older dogs showing signs of dementia may be experiencing disruptions in their sleep-wake cycles as a side effect of the condition. Learn more about dementia in dogs here.
Separation anxiety can affect dogs of all ages. New puppies sometimes cry if they’re forced to sleep away from their owners, and older dogs develop anxiety issues that lead to behaviors like whining, barking, and destroying things.
They’re in pain.
It’s hard for people to fall asleep when they aren’t feeling well, and dogs have the same problem. Stomach aches, joint pain, skin issues, and other side effects of injury or illness are more than enough to keep a dog from a good night’s rest.
How to Help
Once you figure out what the underlying problem is, you can move forward with a solution. For some dogs, a simple change to their routine will be all the help you need. For others, you’ll need to try different ideas to find what works best. Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Provide more mental and physical stimulation.
If your puppy or high-energy dog is roaming the house at night or doesn’t want to settle down once bedtime comes around, filling their day with more exercise will help. Dogs need a minimum of one hour a day of exercise, and they benefit from all the extra enrichment and stimulation you can give them.
If you work all day, consider hiring a dog walker to interrupt your pup’s lazy day of napping. That extra activity will help tire them out in preparation for bedtime. The amount of exercise a dog needs to reach the right level of tiredness will depend on their age, breed, health, and personality. You don’t want to force them into too much exercise, but it’s important to find the right balance. Brain games like puzzle toys and snuffle mats also help by engaging their minds.
2. Take bathroom breaks before bed.
When your pup is getting up every night to go to the bathroom, make sure their tank is empty before they hit the hay. Eating shortly before bedtime can help them fall comfortably asleep with a full tummy, but drinking too much water at night won’t help them sleep until morning. Make it a part of your daily routine to go out for a bathroom break right before bed.
3. Keep evenings calm
Before you take your dog out for their last-chance bathroom break, gradually lull them into a peaceful night. Dogs base their emotions and actions largely on what their owners are doing and feeling. If you’re agitated, for example, your dog will pick up on those vibes and act similarly. If you’re calm, they’ll take the hint and begin to relax alongside you.
You can’t expect your pup to flip their switch the moment you’re ready for bed. The hour or two before you usually go to bed should be deemed quiet hours to help your dog adjust to the end of the day.
4. Start crate training
Training a dog to sleep comfortably in their crate will deter them from getting up and wandering the house. Many pet parents prefer to have their dogs sleep in bed with them, but crate training can help stop bad habits like waking up in the middle of the night. The key is to make being in the crate a positive experience for the dog. It should never be used as punishment, and instead, it’s the place your pup feels safest.
With time, your dog will be content to stay in the crate as part of their nightly routine. Once they’re sleeping soundly through the night without getting up, you can try having them sleep in bed with you.
5. Make them comfy
Whether you choose to have your dog sleep in a crate, on a doggy bed, or somewhere else, they need to have a designated spot that is nice and comfy. Give them soft blankets to snuggle with, and if they have an emotional attachment to a particular toy, make sure they have it before you fall asleep.
Different dogs like different things, so experiment with your dog’s sleeping arrangements to find what they like. Test having the lights off versus having a night-light and determine whether they like cool surfaces or something with extra warmth.
6. Address medical issues
If you suspect an injury or illness is keeping your dog up at night, it’s time to visit the vet. In some cases, pain medication can be used to help ease soreness and help the dog relax. Restless nights could be your hint that your dog is suffering from an undiagnosed medical condition and needs your help. There’s also the chance biting pests like fleas or mites are irritating them. Either way, your pup won’t sleep soundly until you find and treat the root problem.
Sometimes not sleeping through the night is a phase your dog will grow out of. Other times, some new habits need to be made or broken in order to get you and your pup on a healthy sleep schedule. It will take more than a few days, but consistent training and effort will make a difference. Once you determine the reason behind your dog’s wakefulness, experiment with these different methods to help you both start snoozing all night long.