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Is Your Dog Getting Enough Sleep? Tips for Better Doggy Bedtime Routines

Is Your Dog Getting Enough Sleep? Tips for Better Doggy Bedtime Routines

Lessons from a Lifelong Puppy Parent

If you were to take a cursory glance into my life from about 1995 to 2013, you would see a world of perfectly synchronized suburban chaos. Kids in school during the day, two in after-school sports and activities, two working parents, community events and gatherings, and a photography studio staffed with employees who depended on me. Everything about my life during this time screamed, “RIGID SCHEDULE MUST BE ADHERED TO AT ALL COSTS!”

From the outside, those 18+ years may not have looked like a lifestyle geared toward puppies. And yet, I had them. Puppies were as much a part of my children’s growing up years as learning to ride a two-wheeler, trick-or-treating, or exchanging Valentine’s Day cards at school. Puppies took time, dedication, and sometimes the effort felt eerily similar to spending a long night making a cardboard-construction-paper-heart-covered mailbox the day before an elementary school-sanctioned Valentine card exchange.

Puppies have been as much a part of my life as waking up and going to bed each day! One of my non-negotiable points, every time the talk of a new puppy came up in our household, was that the puppy would always keep to a regularly scheduled bedtime routine. Human kids went to bed at 8:30, and the poodle puppy went to bed at 9. While I wanted to keep to this routine mainly for my own sanity, it turns out the experts agree: bedtimes and bedtime routines are great for a puppy’s health and well-being.

The Science Behind Puppy Sleep

By the time a puppy reaches four months of age, they will spend about 10 hours a night in uninterrupted sleep. In my house, hitting that four-month mark (I gauge it by weeks, so right around 16 weeks of age) is a time to raise my hands to the heavens and sing “Hallelujah!” However, until reaching that magical age of sleeping-through-the-night, younger pups will usually need to get up at least once in the night to go potty. A puppy’s bladder simply isn’t strong enough to “hold it” straight through the night.

Just like with a human baby, I feel good about preparing myself to get up at least once a night to take my new puppy out to potty. After all, I’m a huge fan of safe places for dogs. In my home, a crate is a den – a sacred space that belongs only to that particular poodle, complete with its own bed, water bowl, and toys. Every poodle has their own “bedroom” that they share with no one else in the house.

Crafting the Perfect Bedtime Routine

Bedtime for my puppies always starts with a crate. Once my puppy is old enough to sleep comfortably through the night and knows how to alert me to go outside to potty, we tend to graduate to allowing poodles on the bed to sleep. (Yep, I’m that girl!) But as a baby puppy, bedtime is in their very own personalized crate.

I like to start bedtime for my puppies at 9 pm. This tradition is so ingrained in my poodles that even as adults, they tend to put themselves to bed at about 9 pm. It’s a great habit, and I’ll say this honestly – probably the smartest training habit I’ve ever taught my dogs, right behind the “stay” command.

About an hour before bedtime, we’ll do one more exercise routine. Usually, this takes place outdoors in the yard. I take the puppy out to go potty, play a little game of fetch, walk around the yard together, and toss in some easy training such as sit-stays or heeling – just some basic stuff to get the brain and the body sleepy.

If the weather is bad or I have a puppy during the winter season, we play some games in the living room and do a quick potty break outside at the very end of our exercise time. Then it’s off to the crate for bedtime.

Crate Training for a Calm Bedtime

There was a time when leaving a puppy to cry, whine, bark, or sometimes howl in a crate was the generally accepted tactic to get the puppy used to her crate. I’ve never been very comfortable with this practice, and as such, have been horrible at attempting to enforce crying-it-out for my puppies in their crates.

Luckily, canine behavioral science today tells us that crying-it-out adds unnecessary stress to a puppy. This isn’t good for the puppy’s physical or mental health. Galavanting poodle puppies are let out of their crates if they cry or whine. The whole process is made to feel very boring and uninteresting. I don’t talk to the puppy or otherwise try to comfort the puppy. Instead, I open the crate door, pick up the puppy, take her outside to potty (always praising her when she does), and then it’s right back into the crate.

“Crate Games,” by renowned dog trainer Susan Garrett, is my go-to training routine for teaching my puppies to love their crate. I’ve been using various versions of Crate Games since about 2012, and I tell you what, these games have completely changed the way I and my dogs look at crate routines. Seriously, the class is absolutely worth the $19.99 price tag… and then some!

Waking Up Ready to Tackle the Day

I wake up and get the puppy out of her crate first thing! Before I brush my teeth, get dressed, visit my day planner, or have a cup of coffee… the puppy gets out of her crate first. She’s out, we visit the potty outside, we do some quick cuddles and morning greetings, and then we’re off to our regular daily routine – happy, well-adjusted, well-rested, and ready to tackle the adventures of a brand new day!

So, do you have a bedtime routine for your puppy? What’s your favorite tip for getting a rambunctious puppy ready to sleep at night? I’d love to hear what works for you! And if you’re in the market for a furry new family member, be sure to check out – the perfect place to find your next canine companion.

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