Cat is the vet for petstreet.co.uk an on-line social networking site for pet lovers.
This afternoon I had a consult with a women who had recently bought a Bichon Frise puppy and was at her wits end. The pup was refusing to settle at night and she hadn’t slept properly for several days. But, she wailed, as soon as she cracked and took the pup upstairs to bed with her, she settled down quickly and slept though the night with no problems. And there in lay the problem.
Leaving the litter and their mother is a very stressful time for a new puppy; not only have they been taken on by a completely new set of people and moved into a new home, it is also likely to be the first time they have ever been left on their own. So, it is very common for them to not settle well for the first few nights. However, there are several things you can do to help them; the most important of which is to NOT give in! It may seem unkind, leaving the pup to cry but trust me, if you go to them just once, the whole process will be much harder and you may end up with a dog who never sleeps alone. It might be cute to have a small puppy sharing your bed but just think what it will be like when they are fully grown and have been out in a muddy garden all day!
One of the most successful methods for getting pups to settle is to use a puppy crate. These can be easily purchase from pet stores and come in various sizes. They should be big enough for a bed, a water bowl, and a clear area for them to toilet if they need to. Position the crate in a downstairs room, the kitchen is usually best, and leave the door open during the day. The crate should be the pup’s own space, somewhere where they will go when they want to rest and somewhere where they feel safe and secure. Encourage them to use it from day one by showing them the bed and giving treats and praise when they use it. It is very important you never send a pup to the crate as a punishment, it must always be a positive space for them. Crates help the pup to learn independence as they are on their own when they are in there and they can also be very helpful for toilet training as dogs will naturally try to not toilet where they sleep. They are are very useful for you as an owner as you know when the pup is shut in the crate, they are safe when you leave them.
Another product which can be used very successfully to help puppies to sleep at night, or to settle whenever they are left are DAP diffusers. DAP stands for Dog Appeasing Pheromone, it is a synthetic pheromone identical to the once which a nursing bitch releases from her mammary glands. For a dog of any age, but particularly a pup, it is an extremely comforting and reassuring scent which makes them feel relaxed and secure. DAP comes as either a plug-in diffuser (just like the ones containing household scents) or an impregnated collar. The plug-ins should be positioned somewhere close to where the pup rests and last for about 6 weeks. Humans cannot detect the smell so don’t worry! The collars are also very effective for pups and research has shown that they can help them be more confident and out-going in all areas of their life, which can really aid their development into happy and well balanced adults. Both the plug-ins and collars are available from your vet or larger pet stores.
All pups will give you some sleepless nights at the beginning, they are only babies after all and it is all part of the experience of being a new dog owner. It is very important at these early stages to start as you mean to go on and this means, unfortunately, leaving them to cry if you want them to sleep alone. Giving in, even once, will make things much harder as then the pup will know there are other options and, as dogs don’t have much concept of the passage of time, they will be able to keep crying for a very long while if they know that eventually you will come for them! Also, learning to be independent and to cope on their own is an extremely important skill for a young pup and the dogs that never master this are often the ones which suffer from over-attachment and separation anxiety. So, stay strong, right from the beginning, make sure everyone in the family knows the rules and it won’t be long before you are back to a full nights sleep. However, it might be worth investing in some ear plugs, just for the start!
For more advice on how to look after your dog, please visit our Pet Care Advice pages. If you are worried about any aspect of your dog’s health, use our interactive Dog Symptom Guide to help decide what to do next.