Inga MacKellar - MSc

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Is night crying normal and how can I prevent it?

Inga MacKellar - MSc
Reading time: 3 minutes

Night crying can be a completely normal puppy behaviour, but it may leave many owners upset, frustrated and possibly feeling as though they must be doing something wrong.

Thankfully it usually doesn’t last long. Time, patience, and empathy for all the changes your puppy is experiencing are the best way to help them through the first few nights of crying in their new surroundings.

Q. Why do puppies cry at night?

A. Being separated from their mother, littermates and familiar surroundings can be traumatic for young puppies. Every sound and smell is different and, because dogs are social animals, suddenly being alone is also unsettling. Therefore, night crying in the first week or so is understandable and is something both your puppy and you will have to work through.

This is a transition period for your pup until he learns that you are his new companion and carer. Fortunately, puppies are fast learners and should adapt to their new family and environment quite quickly.

Q. What can you do to help?

A. Create a cosy bed for your puppy that can be his safe space overnight. I’d recommend doing so initially in a high-sided, open-topped large, sturdy cardboard box  (so he is safely ‘contained’ overnight) and then a few weeks later in a crate, if you intend to use one as your young dog grows. Line the box with warm blankets or a vet bed, which is easily washable and quick to dry.

If you have not collected your puppy yet, give the breeder a blanket that you intend to put in the new bed. It should be placed with your puppy’s mother and siblings for a few days so that it picks up their scent. Placing this scented blanket in your puppy’s bed will help to comfort your puppy during the first few nights alone. Additionally, you could place a plug-in pheromone diffuser (which mimics the mothers calming scent pheromones) near to your puppy’s bed.

You can also try wrapping a warm water bottle in the scented blanket for your puppy to cuddle up to. It will provide two key comforts: warmth and familiar smells.

Q. Is it OK to let your puppy sleep near to you at night, or will this lead to bad habits?

A. It’s perfectly fine to sleep near to your puppy for the first few days, as your puppy needs you near them until they are settled. Either have the puppy in your bedroom or sleep downstairs with your puppy for the first few nights. If you hear your pup crying during the night, you can then just reach over and briefly stroke or gently talk to them. Your presence will be reassuring.

After about a week, once your puppy seems more settled, you can begin to gradually move his or her bed away. Start with only a few feet at a time, until you reach the space where the permanent sleeping area will be.

Q. Should you pick up and comfort your puppy?

A. It might be tempting, and can make you feel better, but try to only pick up your puppy, with no fussing, if it needs a night time toilet break. Lifting your puppy up for a cuddle when it is crying during the night may teach attention seeking behaviour. It’ll be hard at first but resist the urge to cuddle your pet and just give a quick, reassuring stroke instead.

Q. How long does night crying last for?

A. Usually around a week but, depending on your puppy’s personality, it can be longer or shorter than this. Some puppies will settle on the first or second night, but if the crying persists you just need to be patient and consistent. This will help your puppy to learn to sleep alone and build up his ability to adjust to the new surroundings and settle in.

If you find that your broken sleep is becoming a problem, it can be a good idea to get help from family members to take turns in sleeping near the puppy overnight.

Inga MacKellar - MSc

Inga was one of the first pet behaviourists in the UK accredited as a Certificated Clinical Animal Behaviourist for both dogs and cats. She is a Full Member of the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC), an organisation recommended by the RSPCA.

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