Puppy’s First (and Subsequent) Nights

By Sally Bradbury

It doesn’t matter where puppy sleeps at night as long as it’s with you. Your new puppy has left his mum and siblings and everything he has ever known in his short life so far. He’s never been alone before, and you need to provide comfort and security until puppy is confident enough to be alone if this is your goal.

Well-meaning friends and family (and maybe even the breeder) will tell
you to put puppy in the crate and leave him alone to cry. There is simply
no need to cause a puppy to get upset in order to teach him to be OK alone. It will have the opposite effect to the one you are looking for. Leaving a puppy to ‘cry it out’ will result in an anxious, less healthy, fearful dog. Studies have shown that infants of any social species who have their needs met are far more likely to become confident and independent and that ‘crying it out’ can lead to dependence and, ultimately, an adult dog with full blown separation anxiety. Be prepared for this to take several
weeks or even months with some puppies. Do not rush it as a puppy will
have several false starts in confidence.

For the best possible night’s sleep all round, take puppy to bed with you once he has eaten supper, been out to the toilet, and is ready to fall asleep. For those first few nights, sleep while puppy sleeps.

You may choose to cuddle puppy to sleep and then place him in a crate
once asleep. This can be on the bed (against the wall), or next to the bed,
either raised to your bed height or on the floor beside you. You will then be able to reach the crate to dangle a reassuring finger in it.

You may find it preferable to cuddle puppy on the bed if he needs the
close contact. He’ll be safe between two people or against the wall with one person. If you are a heavy sleeper then a soft crate on the bed is an option.

You will wake up if he wakes needing the toilet, but the more contented
and soundly puppy sleeps, the less likely he is to wake.

If you do not want puppy in the bedroom because you co-sleep with children, or perhaps it is the cat’s territory, then one of you can sleep on
the sofa with puppy, or with puppy in a crate or pen next to the sofa.

You will be right there for him when he wakes to take him out to the toilet and to cuddle him back to sleep again if it’s still dark outside. If the sun is up then you may decide, along with the puppy, that the day needs to start!


Here is how I do it with my pups at 8 weeks old:

Day 1: Before bedtime, pup has had supper, been out to the toilet a few times, had a play session, a cuddle, another play session, and toilet again. Rinse and repeat until the puppy can no longer keep his eyes open. Then, pup is carried up to the bedroom, and placed in a nice warm cosy crate. I sit there with the door open stroking a puppy that is dropping off to sleep. As soon as they are in the land of nod, I shut the door, put the light out, and grab some sleep myself.

At some point before the sun comes up, puppy is going to wake needing the toilet. I put on my slippers and dressing gown, pick puppy out of crate, go downstairs, and outside where pup is guaranteed to pee as soon as those feet hit the grass. Then, scoop up puppy and back to bed, helping him to settle down, before getting back into bed myself, grabbing some more sleep before the inevitable early morning alarm call.

Day 2 is pretty much a repeat of day 1. The evening must be spent entertaining the puppy, so that come bedtime, we are ready to sleep.

And so it goes on. Puppy falls into a routine of falling asleep when he goes in the crate, waking briefly for a wee, and then going back to sleep. I have done this with every single puppy, and every single rescue dog for the last 40 years. It has never failed.

If you prefer, it is also OK to take the puppy to bed with you, or to sleep on the sofa downstairs with him. The former is probably more comfortable. Most pups will sleep soundly all night this way.

Leaving a puppy to cry in a crate, or downstairs alone, is teaching the puppy to associate the crate and night time with being distressed.