Bedtime Routines By Anne Rogers
Anne is a founding member of APDT Ireland and is CAP2 certified (with distinctions)
She works with a large canine welfare organisation, A Dog's Life, as a training/behaviour consultant and board member through which she sees hundreds of dogs and their people every year.
There have been lots of tails of woe relating to bedtime and new puppies. The same may go for any new dog or even an established dog experiencing a change in routine.
Ideas of 'crying it out' are still abound but there is a better way - instead of waiting for puppy to get distressed and then you getting distressed ignoring this prevent puppy from getting distressed in the first place.
This is important for a number of reasons - you want puppy to learn to be able to relax when confined and alone, you want puppy how to settle themselves rather than from exhaustion and distress and last but by no means least, why would you want puppy to be distressed?
Puppy is going through the most stressful time of its life having been separated from all he is known thus far at a crucial developmental stage.
Dogs are the only animals where, in a care giving context we are still consistently instructed not to comfort them when distressed e.g. "don't comfort them when they are afraid", "let puppy cry it out" - there is no founding in these instructions in relation to our current understanding of dog behaviour and learning.
So, what's the recipe to preventing distressing and to getting a decent night's sleep? Read on...
- Get a crate, ideally airline type, that fits puppy so they can sleep in there snuggly.
- Make a comfy bed in there for puppy. Use an old tshirt or towel of yours if you like.
- Get a couple of Kong toys. Get rid of food bowls.
- Get a variety of different yummy things to put in Kong toys such as rice pudding, peanut butter, cream cheese, cottage cheese, liver pate, anything else puppy loves.
- Have a little tub of kibble (or puppy's regular food) and a tub of yummy stuff with spoon beside the bed.
- For the first few nights set up puppy's crate beside your bed. It's sometimes a good idea to have the crate up on a table so level with you at first. This is a temporary position, puppy will soon be weaned away from you.
First off toilet puppy and reward for appropriate toileting- have about 15-20 minutes of settling time where you massage and help relax puppy- have a couple of Kongs ready, lined with lovely stuff- when you are ready to go to bed bring puppy with you- show puppy the yummy Kong and toss it into the back of the crate, close the door- tantalise puppy for a few seconds- then say 'crate time' and open the door- allow puppy in to work on the Kong- hopefully they may settle but if not you may need to help them- talk to them calmly and if they fuss talk quietly to them- when they stop fussing toss a couple of pieces of kibble in there or squeeze a spoon of yummy stuff in through the bars/door- if puppy stirs and fusses over night repeat this
Practice the naptime routine for all naps throughout the day too - puppy should be getting lots of regular naps.
You will need to get up at least once to toilet puppy. Many puppies will settle afterwards but you may need to go through a shortened version of the routine to go back to bed.
After a couple of nights, depending on puppy, move the crate to the end of the bed, and then after a couple of nights move the crate to the door and so on until puppy has slowly been moved back to a more permanent over night position.
I do this with all new dogs to my house, puppies and adults. I never allow a dog or puppy to get distressed in their crate because I want the crate to be a conditioned relaxer and if the dog associates it with distress then the crate will not act as an effective conditioned relaxer.
Just because a dog or puppy will use a crate themselves for napping etc. doesn't mean that the dog is crate trained.
A crate trained dog is one who sees their crate as a conditioned relaxer and as soon as the door is closed will settle straight away, often after a big sigh.
This routine helps to set this up and good luck!
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