Nothing is more disheartening than finally getting your puppy settled and on a schedule only to have them regress just a few weeks or months later. Having a new puppy can be a lot of hard work, it often seems when you finally feel like you got the hang of it is usually when things go haywire.
If you are reading this article today, then you are probably wondering why your puppy who has been sleeping through the night all of a sudden is starting to wake up wanting to play or crying for your attention.
Puppy sleep regression certainly is real. Many owners report their puppies who were once sleeping soundly through the night are waking for no apparent reason. Many things can cause puppy sleep regression including teething, growth spurts, outgrowing their crate, strengthened bond with their owner, or going through a fear period.
Much like human newborns and toddlers puppies go through different milestones that may interrupt their regular patterns of behavior. Let’s take a look at some of these milestones and what might be causing a puppy to have a sleep regression at different stages in its life.
Newborn Puppy Sleep Patterns
This stage of life is very short and full of lots of shut-eye! For the first week of their life, Newborn puppies will be sleeping anytime they aren’t nursing. Newborn puppies generally nurse every 2 hours but even while doing so they will have their eyes shut and look as though they are eating in their sleep.
As they grow, they will slowly start to spend more time awake. Around 3 weeks old they will have around 2-4 hours of active time a day broken up into small spurts of energy and exploring their world.
Puppy Sleep Patterns
Puppies are quickly growing and changing. They need plenty of sleep to fuel and recharge their growing bodies. From 2-5 months old, puppies will generally sleep around 18-22 hours in a 24-hour period. This includes sleeping at night and daytime naps.
Most people bring their puppies home at around 8 or 9 weeks (2 months) old. It will take some time for your new puppy to adjust to its new home and environment.
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Puppies will generally sleep through the night by about 4 months old, but it can range from 8 or 9 weeks old all the way through 6 months old.
Fun Fact: Senior dogs, as well as puppies, tend to twitch more in their sleep! This is due to a part of their brain called the Pons which regulates muscles and keeps them still while they sleep. This part of a puppy’s brain is underdeveloped and for older dogs, it works less efficiently.
When do Puppies Sleep Through the Night?
Your puppy will sleep in longer stretches at night but will still need to get up to relieve its small bladder and stretch. He may even have a burst of energy and seem like he wants to play. With some patience and guidance, your puppy can learn to sleep through the night by about 4 months old, maybe even sooner.
Older puppies from around 6-12 months old will sleep about 14-18 hours throughout a 24 hour period. At this point, they should be more active and inquisitive during the day and will be better about sleeping through the night in 6-9 hour stretches.
They will also take multiple naps during the day, as well as times of rest when they appear to be just lying around, but somewhat alert as well as high energy awake time when they will want to play and train.
Puppy Sleep Regression at 3 Months (8-12 weeks)
So why would a puppy who has been sleeping wonderfully through the night all of a sudden start waking up? There are many reasons and the cause may not always be known, but rest assured that it is completely normal.
Puppy sleep regression at 3 months old may be caused by your puppy getting used to their new environment, hitting a growth spurt, or going through a fear period.
From 4-12 weeks old, your puppy is in a socialization period. At this time they begin to recognize others and create lasting bonds. They are generally curious and interested in learning and exploring.
Even though puppies are generally curious at this time developmentally it is normal for a puppy to go through a fear period sometime around 8-12 weeks. They become a bit more timid a fearful and while socialization is still extremely important it needs to be done carefully to help them overcome these fears.
This fear period could explain a sleep regression at this time in a puppy’s life. Waking up to noises it’s not used to or a desire to be near you can be motivation for your puppy to get your attention in the middle of the night. Take care to comfort your puppy while still setting boundaries to accomplish your training goals.
Puppy Sleep Regression at 4, 5 & 6 Months
Many owners face the problem of having their puppies who have been with them for several months sleeping perfectly well all of a sudden begin to have trouble sleeping around this time.
A puppy sleep regression at 4-6 months old is most likely to be caused by your puppy teething or going through a growth spurt. It could also be that your puppy is more attached to you and wants to be close to you at night.
Between 4 and 6 months old is when your puppy is losing all 28 of its baby teeth and gaining its 42 adult teeth. If you have ever taken care of a teething baby or toddler you know that it can be very uncomfortable and even painful.
Teething for puppies can also be difficult and cause your puppy to wake at night in pain. Even if your puppy is waking up seeming to want to play or go to the restroom it could be the teething pain that woke them in the first place.
Some owners report that after they have been able to develop a strong bond with their new puppy that their puppy goes through a sleep regression. This most often happens with dogs that are being crate trained.
Puppies desire to be part of a pack and when they have bonded with you and discovered that you are essentially their pack leader, they may start to wake at night and be upset if they can’t detect that you are close to them.
It can be hard to decide whether to forge ahead with crate training or give in and let your puppy sleep in your bed with you. This article can help you think about the pros and cons of both. Letting Puppy Sleep with you? (How to Do It Safely)
Puppy Sleep Regression at 7-18 Months Old
Depending on the size and breed of your dog most dogs start to go through adolescence at this stage.
A sleep regression at 7-18 months old can be caused by painful growth spurts. This can also cause your dog to outgrow their crate or bed. Puberty can disrupt your dog’s normal sleeping patterns and may cause them to wake up at night for no apparent reason.
Oddly enough when a puppy goes through a growth spurt it can cause them to sleep more during the day and wake more at night. Growing takes a lot of energy, it can also cause growing pains that may come on at any time during the day or night.
Growing pains could be waking your dog up causing them to bark or howl or want to play. Getting your attention may be their way of coping with the pain. Generally, these growth spurts won’t last more than a few weeks at a time. Trying to be consistent with bedtime routines can help you and your puppy get through this transition easier.
Your dog may also be displaying some typical adolescent behavior and testing its limits. A surge in hormones can sometimes make your male dog seem more aggressive, and make female dogs need to urinate more.
Owners may be surprised that some dogs can go through another fear period at this stage of their life. They may become more cautious or fearful of the vacuum, loud noises, or other stimuli. This could cause a dog at this age to wake up at night.
Typical Causes of Sleep Regression in Puppies
knowing that it is completely normal for puppies to go through a sleep regression (or several), it still doesn’t make it easier. There are many forums and Facebook groups where owners commiserate together about the challenges of sleep deprivation caused by their puppy.
Not only can puppies go through sleep regressions they may also go through training regressions as well. You may have had a skill down pat and then it seems as if your dog has all of a sudden forgotten how to do it.
House training regressions are also normal. A fully house-trained dog may start to have accidents in the house during certain developmental stages.
Whatever it may seem, your puppy is not waking up at night to be rebellious or to annoy you. Understanding the true causes can help gain perspective and realize that it is likely just a stage that won’t last forever.
Let’s review the typical causes of sleep regression in puppies.
- New environment
- Going through a fear period
- Growth spurt
- Crate too small, outgrown it
- More bonded to the owner
- Lonely or scared
- Adolesenct hormones changing
Puppy Sleep Regression Solutions
Most of the time just being patient and remembering that your puppy is going through a stage that will not last forever is enough to get owners through the challenging sleepless nights of their puppy’s sleep regression, but sometimes it can seem positively overwhelming.
For owners who live in apartment complexes, have young kids or busy families, or work demanding jobs during the day having a puppy awake at night howling crying, or barking is extremely difficult.
Here we have compiled a list of tactics other owners have used and found success with helping them to manage during their own puppy’s sleep regression.
- sheet over crate
- sleep in bed with you
- clock on top of the crate (the ticking noise is soothing)
- snuggle buddy
- car ride
- lay down next to the crate
- dark room
- sound machine
- calming music
- CBD treats
- calming treats
- exercise in the evening
- check with the vet / UTI
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Here are some more in-depth solutions you can try to help your puppy sleep better.
- Have a routine and schedule:
If your puppy knows what to expect and has specific cues to alert him that it’s time to wind down and get some shut-eye it can do a lot to help them easily get settled at night. This routine can include using the restroom, bringing the noise level down, dimming the light, creating a relaxing and calm atmosphere.
It’s important to keep this schedule as consistent as possible. Going to bed around the same time each night, and having set patterns will not only signal to your dog’s brain it’s time for bed, which will in turn help to increase the production of melatonin (your bodies powerful natural sleep aid) it can also help you fall asleep more easily as well.
- Give them plenty of exercise:
Even though your dog may be pretty chill, puppies need plenty of stimulation and exercise each day. If they have been bored and laying around all day chances for a good night’s rest are minimal. At least an hour a day for exercise should be set aside for your dog.
The best time for a good exercise session is about 2 hours before bedtime. Try to include high cardio exercise as well as engaging brain activities so that your puppy will be both physically tired as well as mentally tired.
- Have a specific sleeping area and make it inviting:
Whether it’s in their crate in the living room, their doggy bed (Amazon affiliate link to a comfy warming bed) next to your bed on the floor, or even in your own bed. Having a designated area to go to will help create the routine and let your dog know that it’s sleep time. If your dog sleeps in his own bed, or in a crate, having something that smells like you and a small stuffed animal to snuggle with can help him feel more safe and secure. This is especially true for puppies.
- Try changing meal times or limiting food and water:
Take up their water after a certain time of the evening. If your puppy seems to need a bathroom break in the middle of the night all the time you can try changing his meal time to be a few hours earlier (so he will get the poop out before bed) or a few hours later (so he can hold it until tomorrow).
You can also take up the water dish a few hours before bed so that he isn’t filling up his bladder just before dozing off.
Either way, you may want to slowly adjust the time of his meals to see if that will help with the late-night bathroom breaks.
- If early morning waking is a problem, try figuring out what it is that may be waking them up?
Is the sun coming up? Try adding some darkening curtains. Are there noises such as birds or early morning traffic? Try adding some white noise by using a noise machine like this one from Amazon. (Amazon affiliate link).
All it takes is some investigative work to try and figure out what may be causing the problem. It can be easier to do this if you keep a log or journal of your dog’s sleeping and eating patterns. This doesn’t have to be something that you do long-term, but just long enough for you to notice a pattern so you can address it.
If nothing seems to be working, your dog has changed his sleep patterns suddenly, he seems very lethargic and low on energy all the time, or he has other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, blood in his stool, or other concerns then you should take him to the vet immediately to get checked out.
If you have a puppy and all its needs are met and it is still crying just remember it is common for it to whine and cry especially for the first week or so that you have him in your home. You can try a soothing stuffy like this one from Amazon (affiliate link).
An older dog who is new to your home may experience this as well. If you must check on him make sure that the lights stay dim, and you are as un-intrusive as you can be. If you are working with your puppy to sleep in their own bed or crate, make sure to not give in and then expect smooth sailing after that. You need to start the expectations as you mean to go forward.
So what can you look forward to as your puppy enters adulthood?
Adult Dog Sleep Patterns
Your adult dog will normally sleep around 12-16 hours in a 24-hr period, but more as he ages. In this study, researchers found that older and middle-aged dogs slept more during the day than young adult dogs.
This was because they took more naps, not because their naps were longer. They tend to run out of energy and need to rest more often than the younger group. Older and middle-aged dogs also slept more at night than younger dogs because they had long stretches of sleep at night (waking up later) and woke up fewer times during the night.
It’s important to remember that this can greatly differ depending on the personality and temperament of each dog as well as the atmosphere/lifestyle of your home.
Senior Dog Sleep Patterns
Your dog is considered a senior (depending on the breed) sometime between 7 and 12 years old. At this time, you will probably start to see your dog slowly increasing the amount of time it is resting and sleeping.
It won’t happen all at once, but just like humans as they age, they tend to slow down and not have quite as much energy as a young pup. Senior dogs will sleep 14-16 hrs a day on average as they get to be 10-14 years old and older, they could be sleeping up to 18 hrs a day.
At an older age, your dog’s sleep patterns may change as well. It’s normal for your dog to take more naps during the day and have a few wakeful periods at night. This change will probably happen slowly and should be nothing to worry about unless it’s a sudden or significant change.
If your puppy or dog has sudden or significant changes in its patterns of sleep, it’s best to consult your vet. For older dogs, these could be signs of more serious issues such as dementia, arthritis, hypothyroidism, or other conditions associated with older age.
Does your dog sleep a lot more during winter? Check out this article next: Do Dogs Hibernate? (Winter Weather Questions Answered)
While we strive to give the most accurate and helpful information about your pet’s health that we can, this article is meant to be informational only and not medical advice. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your veterinarian or other qualified veterinary health care provider regardless of what you have read on this site or elsewhere.