Puppies are arguably the most adorable things on the planet. Sure, your best friend who just had a baby a month ago may argue her drooling infant is the most aww-inspiring being in existence, but deep down, we all know puppies have even babies beat paws down.
Whether it’s the teeny tiny feet, the puppy breath, or their littlest teeth, they have us wrapped around their toes from the moment they walk into the house, which is why many people find themselves struggling to get their pups to sleep alone and not on the bed.
Sure, at first, it seems sweet that your new puppy loves you so much it can’t nap without you, but what happens when the first infatuation wears off, and you realize you need to start training your pup to be a little more independent?
This article covers exactly why your puppy may not want to sleep without you and what you can do to remedy the situation.
There are various reasons why a puppy may not want to sleep alone, but the two most common are they aren’t used to being by themselves, they suffer from separation anxiety, or you let them sleep on the bed for a few nights, and now it’s become a habit.
We all know the symptoms. You put your puppy in their own bed for the first time, only for the sad whining, howls, and jumping up and down at the foot of your bed to start.
You tell yourself to be strong, that they’ll tire out in a few minutes, and that it’s necessary to teach them to be independent, only to cave and pull them up onto the bed beside you, either because you felt sorry for them or got so annoyed you did it so you could finally get some shut-eye.
No one wants to hear it, but the most common reason a puppy will exhibit this behavior is because it slept on the bed one or two nights, loved it, and now wants to continue sleeping in what it perceives as a warm, safe space close to its human.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with letting your dog sleep on your bed unless you plan to train it to be a working dog. In fact, allowing your dog to sleep with you may have many benefits, like reducing anxiety and building a stronger bond between you and them. However, you do need to make this decision early on.
Puppies are a little like toddlers. If you give the pinky, they’ll take the hand. There’s no scenario wherein letting your puppy sleep with you on the bed seamlessly merges into your puppy sleeping on the floor or in its own bed away from you. There will always be training and a few bumps in the road involved if you decide to take this pathway.
Another reason your puppy may not want to sleep without you is that it’s not used to being alone. From the day your puppy entered the world, it had constant companionship, whether from its sisters and brothers or its mom. It would sleep next to its mother, huddle with its siblings, and spend every waking second of its day with the knowledge that bedtime meant everyone sleeping together.
Then, at around eight weeks of age, it is plucked from that environment and goes home with a new family who decides to let it sleep in the living room or kitchen, far away from any warmth or companionship.
It’s not difficult to see why a situation like this could result in your puppy refusing to sleep unless it’s cuddling you.
The truth is that dogs are social animals and take comfort in having other animals or people around them. Unless you put its bed in your room or have your hand hanging down the side, it’s likely your puppy may vehemently protest being left alone.
In this case, you should be cautious as well, as leaving your puppy alone to whine or scratch at your door isn’t the sort of tough love you expect, but could very well lead to separation anxiety, which could make your sleeping arrangements an even bigger problem.
If your puppy exhibits bad behavior at night when you’re trying to sleep, they could have separation anxiety. Many bad or destructive habits like peeing on or chewing furniture, howling, and whining are caused by anxiety, not because your dog is willingly naughty.
The full list of symptoms of separation anxiety include:
- Peeing or defecating indoors, especially if this doesn’t happen while you’re around
- Chewing things that aren’t toys
- Trying to get into your room or out of the room it is sleeping in
Puppies with separation anxiety should not be punished, as this could worsen their condition. Instead, owners should take them to the vet or a behavioralist so that a treatment plan can be put together to help your puppy overcome its anxious behavior.
How To Teach Your Puppy To Sleep Alone
If you are 100% for having your puppy sleep alone but you’re struggling to achieve this goal, these methods may help.
1. Crate Training
Crate training is one of the best ways to teach your puppy to be independent and well-behaved. It’s not only useful for teaching your puppy to sleep alone but could aid in potty training and obedience training too.
Crate training involves teaching your dog that its crate is a safe, comfortable space for it to sleep, nap, and relax. Building up a routine around crate training is essential, and sticking to your crate training plan can greatly benefit your puppy and the relationship between it and you.
When starting crate training, follow these tips:
- Choose a spacious crate, pen, or cage that has lots of open space and excellent ventilation.
- Start slowly. Introduce your puppy to its new crate gradually by throwing toys inside it, feeding them inside it, or getting inside it together if it’s big enough.
- Fill the crate with blankets and toys. Make it a space where your puppy wants to be and not somewhere it feels confined and jailed.
- Start putting your puppy inside the crate for a few minutes every day. Alternate these periods with you either sitting next to them or leaving to another room.
- Once they’re ready for longer periods inside, move the crate to your room and let your puppy sleep inside it.
- Regularly let your puppy out of the crate to relieve itself outside. Puppies can only hold their pee for so long and need to be let out to potty every three to four hours.
- Praise your puppy every time it goes into the cage by itself.
- Leaving at least a week between moves, start moving the crate closer to its final destination in incremental steps.
2. Sleep Training
If your puppy doesn’t want to sleep without you or seems to wake up a lot at night when sleeping alone, it may simply be that it is not sleep trained.
Sleep training can help you and your dog improve your sleep time and overall quality and could also help your puppy learn to sleep alone.
Usually, a puppy will start sleeping through the night at about four months old, but this goal could be reached even sooner with the right training.
Some tips to help your puppy learn to sleep alone and through the night include:
- Create a routine: Dogs are creatures of habit, so teaching your puppy to go potty outside at a specific time and then letting them go straight to bed could help build the habit of sleeping at the same time each day and make sleep training and sleeping alone a lot easier.
- Switch off the lights when it’s time to sleep: Combined with a bedtime routine, making sure your puppy knows that darkness means it’s time to sleep could be a huge benefit in trying to teach them to sleep alone.
- Don’t play before bedtime: Playing less than half an hour before bedtime could make your puppy whine and want attention while you’re trying to sleep.
3. Be Consistent
Whatever your plan for your puppy’s sleeping arrangements, stick to it. Don’t let your puppy sleep on the bed one night, then try to let them sleep alone the next. This will not only confuse your pup but make it almost impossible to teach them to sleep alone and through the night.
4. Tire Them Out
If your puppy seems energetic before bedtime, and this leads to it wanting to play or be up on the bed next to you, try tiring them out. Go for an extra-long walk, play outside for longer than usual, run around your backyard, or even take them to the park for longer than you normally do.
All these activities not only make your puppy happy but could leave them so tired they forget they were worried about sleeping alone in the first place.
5. Try Natural Remedies
If you suspect your puppy has separation anxiety and that’s why it doesn’t want to sleep alone, trying out a natural remedy or anti-anxiety chew could help calm your pup down before bedtime.
Anti-anxiety chews for dogs usually feature ingredients like chamomile, melatonin, valerian root, and even CBD. Given 30 minutes before bedtime, they can help your dog calm down enough to be able to sleep without having a bout of anxiety. Just make sure the calming chews you buy are made for puppies, as an adult dose may be too much for your tiny pup.
Essential oils like lavender have calming effects on humans and could also benefit dogs, although the research isn’t extensive.
6. Replace Yourself
Many times a puppy will whine, bark, or refuse to settle down at bedtime because it needs some sort of comfort. Like children sleep with teddies, puppies want to feel safe and warm. They will also look for something with a familiar scent to help them feel protected and calm. Placing one of the following items in your puppy’s bed or crate could help it feel more relaxed and doze off without throwing a tantrum:
- A hot water bottle with an item of clothing wrapped around it: The warmth combined with your scent may send your puppy straight to sleep.
- A plastic bottle filled with lukewarm water, wrapped in a dirty sweater or shirt: If you don’t have a hot water bottle, a normal plastic bottle filled with warm water and wrapped in a soft, worn clothing item could help provide the same level of comfort.
- A ticking clock wrapped in a piece of clothing: Some people believe the ticking of a clock sounds like a heartbeat to puppies and that wrapping the clock in something that smells like you could trick your puppy into thinking you’re right there next to them.
- A stinky sock: Even something as small as a dirty sock could be enough to fill your puppy’s senses with your smell and help it not feel lonely while sleeping in its bed or crate.
7. Get Another Dog
This may sound counterintuitive as two puppies could be twice the difficulty in getting them to sleep alone, but oftentimes having more than one dog eliminates any anxiety surrounding bedtime for both, especially if they’re both housed in the same crate or bed.
Being able to cuddle each other and be reassured they’re not alone or abandoned can help puppies get over any sleep-related anxiety and be comfortable sleeping without a human once again. After all, sleeping with other dogs is what they’ve been used to since birth.
8. Vet or Behavioral Specialist
If your dog still shows signs of separation anxiety or refuses to sleep alone after trying all of the above tips, the problem may be medical, and you should take your pup to a vet or animal behavioral specialist for a check-up.
If your puppy is diagnosed with anxiety, a vet may prescribe medication to treat its symptoms, which could help your pup remain calm and sleep alone without any issues.
9. Separation Anxiety Medication
Medication used to treat anxiety in dogs can be extremely effective in helping your puppy overcome its fear of separation and sleeping alone. The most commonly prescribed drugs to treat anxiety in dogs include:
You should only give your puppy this medication if prescribed by a vet and always follow the dosage instructions to the letter. Giving your puppy too much of any of these drugs could be dangerous to its health.
Separation anxiety medication should also only be used when entirely necessary. Training, patience, and support should always come before seeking a medical solution.
10. The Alternative
If you’re not bothered by your puppy sleeping on your bed into adulthood, and possibly for the rest of its life, there’s no harm in allowing it to do so. However, you should still continue with crate training until your puppy is at least four months old and ultimately house-trained.
Treating your dog like a dog and not a human or a child is majorly beneficial to both you and your puppy. Teaching structure, habit, and discipline will help your puppy become well-behaved and independent while ensuring that sleeping on the bed doesn’t lead to other dominant behavior or disobedient tendencies.
You may also be interested in learning how to enforce puppy naps.