Do Puppies need a Routine?
At Happy Hounds for Life we are strong believers that routines can be helpful but should always be flexible. A well-rounded calm dog is often one that responds well to change and is willing to adapt to new situations.
Where puppies are concerned, establishing a healthy but flexible routine early on can be really important and help them settle into life really easily. In this post we are going to look specifically at the aspects of a sleep routine that are really important for a puppy and will especially help them to adapt and prepare them for when you are in a working life routine.
What does a Sleep Routine Look Like?
By a sleep routine, we mean regular periods of time throughout the day when you encourage your puppy into the crate, close the crate door, cover it over with a blanket as if it was night time and leave them to sleep. Once the crate has been introduced positively and gradually over a few days and they are happy to be in it with the door closed for short periods, we recommend beginning with an hour awake followed by an hour asleep and this is then built on over the next few weeks. crate
Why is a Sleep Routine Important?
Establishing a routine early on can be really helpful for your puppy for a number of reasons. It can:
- ensure your puppy gets enough sleep.
- teaches them to be happy alone without you.
- prevents unhelpful following behaviours from forming.
- reduce mouthing and play biting.
- helps them feel safe and secure in their safe space.
- keep you sane and prevent you from having to be on puppy watch 24-7.
- prepares them well for when you need to go out to work.
- it helps hugely with successful toilet training.
Puppies need LOTS of sleep. So many people let their puppies be on the go all day and wait for them to crash with tiredness. If you put a healthy sleep routine in place from 8 weeks old it can literally be a life saver. You can put them to bed before they get over tired and wake them up when they have had sufficient rest.
A well rested puppy in the day time will be much calmer and sleep much better on a night time.
When a puppy gets overtired, they get more mouthy. This can be being more mouthy when being stroked, they might jump up more or get over hyper charging around the room or picking up items they should not have. If you get the timing right and pop them to bed before they get to this stage, mouthing decreases significantly. The less it happens, the less likely it is to become an established habit.
Positive Association to the Crate
The first few days you have your puppy you will have focused on making the crate or safe space an amazing place to be, getting them used to walking in there, settling in there and getting used to having the door opened and closed for short durations. Giving them regular periods of time in the crate each day continues to associate it to positivity. When they are really tired and ready for a sleep, it is actually really rewarding for them to be in there to rest.
It also teaches them to be calm , settled and relaxed, alone without you which will set them up well for life. They learn to be content and to fall asleep on their own. A dog that is happy alone makes for a calm and relaxed family pet.
Establishing a Sleep Routine.
Routine at 8 Weeks Old.
By 8 and a half weeks you should be able to begin with a flexible routine of an hour awake an hour asleep. At sleep time you will need to:
- sprinkle in some treats and give a licky mat or small kong to encourage them to settle.
- cover with a blanket so it is dark and calm.
- ignore them until the hour is up.
- timings don’t have to be exact, it needs to fit in with your routine but the critical part is to not open the door or give them any attention if they are whining, always wait for them to stop whining before opening the crate door.
Routine at 10 Weeks Old.
Gradually you will start to see that they can stay awake for longer and they might start to be calmer in the house during their awake time. You can then start to work up to 2 hours awake and 2 hours asleep.
Routine at 12 Weeks Old.
It is important to progress at the speed of your puppy but every now and again, when you know they have had a good play/walk/ active session, you can try leaving them a little bit longer. We wouldn’t recommend doing this every time but perhaps one of the sessions in the day you might leave the, for 3 hours.
What happens in their Awake time?
The awake time is your time to have fun, train your puppy and keep them active. To begin with, your puppy will be tired and might try and cuddle up to sleep or sneak back into the crate so it can be helpful to close the crate door. Try and give your puppy full supervision during this time, practice recall with the puppy ping pong games in the house and garden, practice on the lead in the house and garden, practice basic commands, give them activity toys, play with tug toys, play in the garden, let them play with other dogs, try scatter feeding or leaving food trails to mentally stimulate them.
By the end of the hour they are ready for sleep so when they go into the crate they are tired and the rest time is hugely rewarding.
As they get older and you can take them out for walks, you can use off lead runs and loose lead practice to tire them out too but mental exercise is equally important.
Our Welcome Home Puppy Course is full of ways to keep your puppy mentally stimulated throughout the day.
What happens if my puppy barks or whines?
The important thing is to always make the crate an amazing place to be and to never open the crate door when they are whining as this teaches them that whining makes the door open and they will do it all the more.
It is quite common for them to wake up and whine/bark after the sleep cycle finishes often around 40 mins but if you leave them for the full hour they will either go back to sleep or learn to soothe or occupy themselves.
If they are fine with an hour but they only start to bark when left for longer, just keep throwing in some shorter 1 hour sessions and then try 1 hour 30 when you know they are tired and build up more gradually.
What Parts of a Routine are not Helpful?
It is important to expose your puppy to flexibility in the routine so they do not learn to predict exactly when you will be getting up or going out etc. This helps them to remain calm and excitement kept to lower levels.
Vary the times you put them to bed and the times you get up as this will avoid your puppy predicting when you will be up and make them more adaptable to down the line when you might like a lie in etc.
If your puppy wakes up in the morning before you and starts whining of barking, only get out of bed if you can do it without them hearing you and wait quietly until there is a pause for a few minutes before coming in the room and letting them out.
Ditch the Dish
Ditching the dish is one aspect of the daily routine that can be really beneficial. Instead of feeding 3 meals a day in a dish, delivering your puppy’s full daily allowance of food through activity toys, slow feeders, training, games, hide and seek, scatter feeding is a great way to use their awake time and engages their brain in the process.
Dogs LOVE working for food. For more ideas check out our 10 Ways to Ditch the Dish post here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it cruel for my puppy to be in the crate?
When the crate is introduced positively, it is THE MOST amazing thing and your puppy will love it and see it as their safe and happy place. Not sure how to introduce the crate? Enroll on our FREE Settle your Puppy in 24 Hours lesson today.
What if I only want to use the crate on a night time?
Expecting your puppy to be happy and settled for 8-10 hours on a night time is a big ask if they are not familiar with it in the day. It can cause anxiety and stress and they will learn to associate to long periods of time alone without you which is why regular use in the day time to teach them to love it, is really important for a settled puppy on a night time.
What if I work from home, do I still need to do this?
YES!! This is really important. If you only ever leave your puppy alone in the crate on a night time or when you go out of the house, your puppy will associate it to a negative experience so even if you are in the house they must have regular periods of time in the crate to sleep. This also frees you up to work or get your jobs done without having a shadow of mischief and when they are awake you have more capacity to supervise them and train them productively.
How do I Navigate working with a Puppy?
When an hour asleep an hour awake routine is established at weeks old, this can soon be extended to 2 then 3 then 4 hours and you can see how it will gradually fit into a work life routine.
When very young, a puppy will need 2 good home visits from a dog walker or puppy sitter during the day to allow you to go to work but this needs to be built up to using the tips in this post. But you can tweak the timings and progression of time alone accordingly to accommodate your routine and how it works best.
Establishing a day time sleep routine early on is really helpful for your puppy for putting in healthy foundations and teaching them to be happy alone. As useful as a routine can be, it is also important to teach them flexibility within that so they can adapt confidently to change.
Giving your puppy lots of opportunity and a safe space to rest and sleep in throughout the day makes for a calmer puppy, a better choice of behaviours and more restful nights sleep for every one in the family.