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Your new puppy: the first few nights

JoanneF

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I'm posting this as part of a series of helpful articles for common problems. If you have more information to add (or disagree with anything in this post) please do so in this thread, but if you have a specific question relating to your dog, please start a new thread.

Your new puppy: the first few nights.

Many people who have worried about their new puppy settling at night breathe a huge sigh of relief when he crashes out in his crate in the kitchen or utility room on the first night, and sleeps through until morning (for helpful advice on crate training, this guide was written by the behaviourist Emma Judson and is shared with her permission - Crate Training, by Emma Judson)

But then, night two begins. Lots of pups sleep well on night one because they are physically and emotionally exhausted from the move. Night two is a different matter. Your puppy is not only unhappy to be put to bed, he is letting you know all about it. At the top of his voice.

You may have read advice about using tough love, and ignoring a puppy when he is crying because that is ”rewarding” his crying. But that is quite old-fashioned advice which we now know to do more harm than good. In time, as you and your dog learn to communicate with each other, you will learn the difference between his different cries - the ”I'm literally starving to death and you must feed me dinner an hour early” cry (knock it off mate, not going to happen) and the ”I have found a scary monster in the living room and I need you to save me” cry (on my way, hold tight).

But that is for the future. When you first bring your puppy home, there are two important reasons why you should respond to his crying. First, he is distressed; and second, you want him to learn that you are listening to him and looking out for him - this is how you will start to develop your bond and engagement with him, things that are vital to support your relationship and for when you work on training.

Remember too that at this stage, he is an infant who has just been separated from mum and littermates; and meeting his emotional needs is just as important as meeting his physical needs. When he is crying, it is because he is alone in the dark and is anxious. You are not ”rewarding” his crying, you are meeting a fundamental need of an infant.

Hopefully you wouldn't leave a child who was afraid of the dark to cry themselves to sleep, alone. Your puppy is the same. The dogs that stop crying don't do so because they suddenly realise everything is OK, they do it because they have given up hope. It is an extreme comparison but in trauma victims, it's the silent ones who are most damaged.

This article explains the science behind it.

Self Soothing & Cry It Out Are Neurologically Damaging Here Is Why - Simply Behaviour Dog Training Courses

You being there for him won't make him clingy; in fact, quite the opposite. You will help him develop his confidence by protecting him from the scary night time and he will get braver as he learns there is nothing to fear. Having a secure, self-assured puppy is an important step in developing him into a confident adult.

For the first few nights at least, it is a good idea to have his bed in your room (or you sleep in his) so he knows you are close by. It doesn't have to be forever. You can put a hand down to stroke and comfort him if he gets distressed. Also, in your room you are more likely to hear him if he moves and needs out to toilet. Young puppies can't be expected to hold on all night - it's too long for them (see our helpful article on house training here - House training ).

If you have a partner, you could try alternating "on duty" nights so that you each get a full night's sleep (or at least get to roll over and stick your head under the pillow) at least every other night.

Once he is sleeping through, you can start gradually moving the bed towards where you want him to sleep - start with outside the bedroom door for a few nights, then the top of the stairs for a few nights, and so on. With puppies learning, everything is done in little steps, so if he cries at any stage you have gone too fast. Just go back a step and stay there longer.

It is a good idea, though, to start helping him develop independence soon, and Emma Judson's Flitting Game, described here, is a good place to start.

Flitting Game... In Full, Extra Shiny...
 
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