Having a new puppy is undoubtedly a wonderful and fun experience, but one of the biggest issues for many owners is the problems caused by the puppy not wanting to sleep through the night. Dogs can be very persistent when they want to wake their owners up, and this can be a big problem; nobody wants to be dealing with a hyper puppy when they are feeling sleep deprived and frustrated. This is particularly problematic if you need to go to work, and it’s even worse if your puppy used to sleep through the night but has suddenly stopped doing so.
It is extremely important to deal with these issues in the proper way, because puppies will quickly pick up new habits and will learn that waking you up brings a reward or doesn’t – which will prompt them to keep doing it, or to stop. However, it isn’t always easy to ignore a puppy at night, especially if you have concerns about toilet training or the puppy used to sleep well. Puppy sleep regression is pretty challenging to deal with, even for experienced dog owners.
If your puppy is restless or antsy during the night and keeps waking you up, remember that it’s important to stay patient and kind, even if you are feeling angry. Your dog is not behaving maliciously and waking you up for fun. Show it the same gentleness you would during the day, even if you are overtired.
What Is Puppy Sleep Regression?
Puppy sleep regression doesn’t seem to be a medically recognized condition, but many, many pet owners experience it with their puppy, even if it was originally well trained and happy to sleep through the whole night without a disruption, or with one or two quick toilet breaks. Many people find that at around five months, their puppy suddenly decides that it has had enough of sleeping and it wants to play at night instead. This is obviously a frustrating situation to be in.
If your puppy is waking you up because it needs to go outside, that may indicate you need to let the puppy go out once before bed, or that you should get up in the night to let it out, but it’s uncommon for a dog to regress in this way, as it should get better at holding its bladder as it gets older. It’s more common for a puppy to suddenly decide that it wants to wake up and play throughout the night, and this often seems like regression, especially if it used to sleep right through.
The simple explanation for this is that puppies need more sleep than adult dogs, so it may be easier for them to sleep for long hours at a time. As your dog gets older and needs less sleep, it might struggle to stay asleep for such long periods, and it may try to wake you up so that you will play with it.
How Long Does Puppy Regression Last?
It is hard to estimate how long this will last for, because every puppy is different and they will hit the regression stage at different ages – but many people seem to find that the dog has grown out of it by the seven month mark. Some people find that it only lasts for a week or two, provided they don’t reward the behavior by playing with the dog, while others will have to tolerate it for considerably longer.
It may also depend on whether your dog is a quick learner or not. Some puppies may quickly establish that there is no reward for waking up in the middle of the night and barking or trying to nudge you awake, and they should hopefully stop doing it. Other puppies might be more persistent and may keep trying to get you up so that you will play with them.
To a degree, it will probably also depend on how you respond to the puppy. If you consistently refuse to engage and you only offer it the option of going out to the toilet or going back to bed, the puppy should stop more quickly than if you cave and play with it, or allow it to play by itself. If the behavior is rewarded, the puppy will probably continue it for much longer, and it may be hard to put a stop to it.
Is It Common For A Puppy to Regress?
A lot of people seem to encounter this issue, yes, and it is challenging to deal with, especially if your dog barks loudly and you have close neighbors. You must be very consistent about not rewarding the behavior even once, or your puppy is much more likely to keep trying over and over again. The regression is likely to be caused by physical changes that your puppy is going through as it gets older, and is not due to something you have done wrong.
There are a few things you can do to try and deal with sleeping regression, such as exercising your dog more, especially in the evenings. You should aim to tire it out both mentally and physically, and while many puppies cannot go for really long walks, plenty of play and stimulation should help to ensure a more restful night (although there is no guarantee).
You can also try things like implementing a set routine, putting your dog to bed at a certain time, leaving the lights off, or even using a white noise machine if you think something is disturbing your dog. Even if these things fail, your puppy should grow out of sleep regression.
Puppy sleep regression is frustrating to try and deal with, especially if you have enjoyed peaceful nights with your dog in the past. Unfortunately, it is a common part of dog ownership; many puppies are good at sleeping and will happily spend the whole night curled up and dozing, but when they get older, their body clock seems to shift and they start looking for a play session in the middle of the night. Make sure you don’t reward this, and your dog should grow out of it.