How To Sleep Through The Night
Puppies and newly adopted or rescue dogs often have difficulty being separated from their loved ones overnight. They will try any antics to convince you to release them; including making you think they need to go outside. At times, we have to stand strong and let them work out their disappointment in being crated.
Before trying anything we want to be sure we’re treating the right problem.
For this article, we are assuming you are not seeing any other signs of anxiety when you leave the home (example tearing up bedding, pools of drool, bent crate bars, etc). If this is true, I dare say what you’re seeing is not separation anxiety. If there are other symptoms or issues of stress during your absences from the home, it’s important to address them. Misdiagnosis of the problem could make matters worse.
Verify with your vet if necessary that there are no medical issues (example UTI) or something would prevent him from holding his bladder overnight.
You also want to be sure that he is old enough and has been through house training such that he should be capable of holding it overnight.
Assuming overall health, that he is well fed, has been out to potty before bedtime, you may simply need to let him whine, cry or bark to teach himself to self-soothe and calm. With some dogs it can be brief, as in a few minutes upon being crated. With other dogs, it may take a night or three. If your new family member is one of the more difficult cases don’t despair. There are a number of things you can to do ease the transition and train for better behavior.
Consider having the crate in your room. You can always slowly relocated it down the hall.
Play calming music outside his crate on a low volume overnight. (I once found that singing to my foster puppy put her out like a light within 5 minutes). A ticking clock often works as well with very young puppies.
Try essential oils (quality matters). We like the Seedlings line from Young Living, diffusing lavender, or a little Peace & Calming (https://www.welloiledk9.com)
Add a little chamomile tea to his evening water.
Remember no water or food within 2 hours of bedtime.
Once you put them in bed for the night -- don't take them out until their scheduled potty break (see House Training Guide for Puppies)
Waking Up Too Early:
If your dog has become your own little annoying alarm clock that sounds off before your real alarm clock goes off, you will need to teach him that he only gets out of the crate when the alarm goes off or you decide it’s time. It’s possible that something is waking him up that you don’t hear – a school bus, the newspaper, a barking dog, etc. He will need to learn to cope with that if that’s what it is, but training him to wait for the alarm can help that. You may lose a little sleep in this training method, but chances are you’re losing sleep anyway.
If he’s whining at 5 am and you want to sleep until 7 set the alarm to sound before he would normally wake up. Start tomorrow by setting the alarm at 4:45 am. Get up, take him out, tell him to go potty, and then put him back in the crate with no other interaction.
You can give him a toy, a treat ball, KONG®, chew-toy, etc with a little bit of his kibble in it when you put him back in the crate, or even have a non-food toy in there to start. Puzzle toys may keep him entertained longer. Just prepare it the night before, have it ready on the counter, and grab it on your way back in.
Do that for a day or two, then day 3 set the alarm for 5:00, day 5 set it 5:20, etc. You don’t get up and go in there until the alarm goes off. Period. You will be conditioning him to listen for the alarm. Eventually you should be able to work your way up to normal time to get up. He will also learn that he may have to go back to his crate and wait quietly. Keep in mind he might not be so quiet the first few days.
Going “hard core” and just making him wait it out from 5-7 if he is not fully potty trained may incorrectly teach him that when he’s sick his call for help is going to do no good. You want him to alert you when he really needs to go out!
Hang in there – ideally it is a few controlled nights of training that will help him learn to sleep through the night.