How Much Sleep Do Puppies Need?
10 min read
Last Modified 8 August 2022 First Added 30 April 2021
If you’re bringing a puppy home, you’ll probably be getting ready for a bundle of energy, keeping you on your toes for the next few months. However, new puppy owners are often surprised at how much puppies sleep. This can lead to questioning if their new family member is ok. But, just like human babies, sleep is very important for your pup’s development, so you can expect them to sleep a lot during both day and night.
Puppies need 18 to 20 hours of sleep per day to ensure healthy physical growth and mental development. Most puppies require this much sleep until around 5 months, when their sleeping requirement may reduce to 13-15 hours a day as the dog ages.
However, don’t think that this means you’ll not have to worry about getting up during the night! Puppies don’t sleep for the full 18 to 20 hours in one stretch. Instead, like babies, they need regular sleep and napping, and so adopt polyphasic sleep patterns meaning puppy sleep schedules are marked by relatively short bursts of sleep throughout the day and night.
Puppies are still babies, and so, are still developing. Just like human children and other young animals, a puppy is constantly growing. Puppies need sleep because sleep is vital for healthy muscle and bone growth, brain development and immune and central nervous system strengthening. This constant growth and development uses a lot of energy, and so your puppy also needs sleep to recharge.
Not only is it the physical growth and development that is tiring for your puppy, but also the mental development. Your puppy is constantly learning about the world; every day is a new experience. This constant learning is exhausting too, meaning your pup also needs to sleep to just be able to take it all in.
Whilst it may seem like your puppy is out for the count, during sleep your puppy’s brain is busy processing all the information it has gathered during the day. Sleep also helps restore your puppy’s brain by flushing out toxins that build up during waking hours meaning sleep for puppies also has a rest and recuperation function.
Puppies will start sleeping for 6 to 8 hours through the night as young as 3 months old. However, it may take pups up to 6 months to get used to this sleep schedule. But with a bit of training, routine and perseverance, your puppy will soon get into the rhythm of sleeping through the night.
The RSPCA notes puppies should be brought home at 8-12 weeks. If you bring your puppy home at a young age, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make it through the whole night without needing the toilet. So, expect your night’s sleep to be disturbed for the first few weeks at least. You may find our post on how to get back to sleep in the middle of the night useful for these times!
Studies have shown that as puppies age, their need for sleep reduces. Once they have reached adulthood at about a year old (depending on the breed), a dog only needs to sleep for between 8 to 14 hours. As a rule of thumb, larger breeds tend to need more sleep than smaller breeds. However, by adulthood, your dog should be able to nap less during the day and sleep through the night.
When a puppy will start sleeping through the night will depend on the individual puppy. Factors such as breed and personality will all affect when your pup will be able to sleep a whole night in one go, however, there are some things you as an owner can do to speed up the process…
For some puppies, sleeping through the night, in a new home, will come easy. For others, they will need much more training and encouragement. They are young and learning, so getting them used to a certain sleep schedule can take time. Here are some tips for helping your puppy learn to settle and sleep through the night so that you can get some rest too:
It may be tempting to keep your puppy awake so that they’ll be tired at night. However, it is natural for puppies to nap throughout the day. Preventing them from napping can lead to overtiredness, and just like a toddler, this can be counter-productive when getting them to sleep at night. Moreover, it can even be damaging to their growth and development. Trying to keep your pup awake and tiring them out will cause them to produce adrenaline, making it harder for them to settle down.
However, don’t let them sleep for too long during the day. If they sleep for a long 6 or 8 hours during the day, they’ll be wanting to use up their energy during the night instead. Try to find the right balance between exercise and regular short naps.
You need to ensure your new puppy has a set space set up for sleeping. This needs to be a safe, quiet space where they can get some rest. Use a crate (made comfy with a dog bed or blankets) or have a dog bed set up in a quiet room.
Make sure their bed or crate is inviting and placed in a quiet area. When your pup goes to bed or into the crate, give them a treat to encourage them so they begin to associate the crate with positive experiences. Make sure some toys are kept in your puppy’s sleeping space and when you first bring your pup home, it’s a good idea to have a blanket or toy that smells like their mum to reduce any separation anxiety.
If you use a crate in a room that you are often in, you can use a blanket to cover it and block out the light when your puppy is sleeping to help manage their natural circadian rhythm. If you’re in the same room, make sure the TV is turned down and the lights are dim. Quiet and dark will not only encourage natural sleep onset but also signal to your puppy that it’s sleep time, not playtime.
Keeping to a set routine will help your puppy recognise the times of the day when it’s playtime and when it’s time to sleep. A consistent routine includes everything in a pup’s daily routine including daytime napping, mealtimes, bedtime, and playtime. Make sure this fits in with your routine, however, as the routine is there to help both you and your dog.
A standard routine for a pup is once awake, take them for a toilet break, then feed them, then another loo break, then play/walk/socialising and then nap for 30 mins to 2 hours. Repeat this 3 times a day and they’ll be ready to sleep through the night in no time.
Young pups will probably want to sleep after playing and eating. Though they may find it hard to settle, you must get them to sleep so that they’re not overtired when it comes to bedtime. From the first day, you get your puppy home, have a set bedtime, food time and exercise time. Ensure your puppy has had plenty of exercise and playtime throughout the day so they are ready for sleep – although don’t play with them just before bed as that will increase their excitement rather than reduce it.
Before bed, let them out for their final toilet break and then settle them in their bed. In the morning, get your puppy up, take them out to relieve themselves and give them breakfast.
It can be hard for a puppy to be taken away from its mother and littermates to a new home, so they’ll want reassurance. However, they also need to learn to sleep on their own. So, when they’re sleeping, resist the urge to cuddle up with them. If they fall asleep in your lap, gently move them to where you want them to sleep i.e., their bed or crate. Or if you notice that they’re getting drowsy, take them to their bed or crate, praise them (quietly) for going in then leave them to sleep.
This will help them get used to the idea of being left alone throughout the night and when you may not be around during the day. When you first leave your puppy alone, whether during the day or for bedtime, expect some howling and whining. You mustn’t give in straight away and give them time to settle. Though if this goes on for some time and you are worried, you can go to them. Look at the next tip for how to do this without giving in fully.
Young puppies may find it hard to sleep throughout the night as 6-8 hours is a long time to go without the toilet, especially when you’re a young pup who hasn’t quite learnt the art of crossing legs. With time they will be able to wait for the morning but to begin with, you need to be ready for these interruptions during the night. However, it’s important to allow your puppy to go to the toilet calmly.
When your puppy wakes up needing the toilet during the night, don’t scold them as this is only natural. Instead, quietly take them to where their toilet is and let them do their business. Once done, quietly praise your puppy and take them straight back to their bed.
Be sure to do everything quietly, so that your puppy doesn’t get excited. Try to avoid eye contact and only talk with your puppy to praise them when they’ve been to the toilet. If your puppy doesn’t go and starts waking up too much, quietly take them back to their bed or crate.
The straight answer is no. As we have noted, sleep is crucial to the healthy development of your puppy and, therefore sleep is unlikely to ever hurt your puppy’s health.
However, too much sleep during the day can be problematic when it comes to them sleeping through the night. To prevent this, follow a consistent routine so your pup learns when it is time to play, and when it’s time to sleep.
It is when your puppy is not getting enough sleep that serious health problems can occur. Signs your puppy isn’t getting enough sleep are often shown when they are active. Symptoms of puppy sleep deprivation include:
If your puppy is showing any of these signs, it’s worth double checking with your vet to see if anything more serious is up and to rule out problems with your puppy’s health.
Bringing a new puppy home is exciting and they’ll soon be part of the family. However, it’s important to remember that, just like babies, puppies need a lot of sleep for their development. Not only that but to begin with you need to expect some night-time disturbances.
With time, training and routine, your puppy will be sleeping through the night. This can happen quickly, or take a few months depending on your puppy. But don’t give up, be consistent and your puppy will get there.