By Megan Kriss | Dog Q&A
Is your puppy keeping you up at night with his seemingly boundless energy? Here’s how to tire him out so you both get a better night’s sleep.
One way minimize this is by making sure your puppy is actually tired at bedtime. Here are several ways to do just that.
Fetch is the classic game for exercising your dog. Just grab a favorite toy and throw it. Of course, with a young puppy, you’ll need to teach them how the game works, but getting them to return the toy is a great way to work on their recall command anyway.
Hide and seek is another great game for tiring your pup, as it provides both mental and physical stimulation.
Keep in mind that puppies need a lot less exercise than adult dogs though. The Kennel Club recommends no more than “5 minutes of exercise per month of age, up to twice a day.” More than this could damage your dog’s developing joints.
Additionally, it’s best to play these games at least a few hours before bed-time – especially if your dog gets hyper when playing.
Many dogs enjoy chasing bubbles. You can use this to your advantage if you want to tire your puppy without leaving the house.
You can even get a bubble machine to do the hard part for you, but you might need to catch a few first to show your puppy there’s no need to worry.
Some people use bubbles made for children, but I recommend picking up some bubbles specifically made for dogs. Their scents, like bacon and peanut butter, will be more alluring to your puppy, plus they’re non-toxic, so you don’t have to worry if your dog accidentally ingests some.
Note: If your puppy shows signs of becoming obsessed with bubbles, it’s best to stop using them. Some dogs can become fixated on bubbles, so use them in moderation.
You can also steal a game from a cat’s repertoire.
No, not laser pointers, even though they’re commonly recommended. While it might seem like your puppy enjoys chasing the little red dot, this can cause anxiety and obsessive compulsive behaviors.
Try a flirt pole, a rod with a rope attached to it and a lure at the end of the rope, instead. You can buy one at a pet store or make one yourself using a length of PVC pipe or a dowel rod, some string, and one of your dog’s toys.
Just flick the pole around while your puppy chases it. You can even do it from your favorite chair or spot on the couch.
Playing in the water with your puppy is a great way to wear them out, but it has other benefits as well. Getting your puppy used to water early makes bath time easier and prevents a future phobia. Water play also has the advantage of being gentle on developing joints.
A great way to introduce your puppy to water is with a paddling pool. Start with a thin layer of water and play some games with your pup, then gradually increase the amount of water until it reaches over the paws (do this over several sessions). The extra water resistance makes these games more tiring without putting excessive stress on the joints.
And if your puppy isn’t the biggest fan of swimming no matter what you do, don’t push them. It will just make them resist water even more. Instead, settle for playing with them in the hose or sprinkler.
Note: Your puppy must be completely dry before going to bed. Once a dog is confined for bed-time, it can take much longer for fur to dry. This can increase the risk of hypothermia or other illnesses.
Don’t underestimate the power of mental stimulation when it comes to tiring your dog out.
You don’t want to over exercise your puppy or you can risk bone and joint damage, especially for large breeds, so mental stimulation is a great option when your pup already had an active morning.
Mental stimulation is especially important for working breeds like Border Collies and German Shepherds, whose minds may be keeping them awake well after their little bodies have tired out.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to provide mental stimulation without leaving the house. Puzzles, treat hiding games, or training sessions, for example, can all help your pup to sleep. These don’t need to be complicated – something as simple as a homemade puzzle or Kong toy can do the trick.
Training sessions are also a great opportunity to bond with your puppy. Train in your home or on a short walk to work on leash skills, as this combines physical exertion and mental stimulation.
It may be tempting to try to exhaust your puppy before bed each night, but you’re better off establishing a routine that will help them be tired at the right time without needing to actively tire them out.
Remember, napping is also important for young dogs (puppies need to sleep 18 to 20 hours a day depending on age and breed), but try to time these so your puppy is ready to sleep again when you want to go to bed.
It’s a good idea to have your puppy sleep in the same place each night, whether a crate or a larger confinement space. Give them soft bedding and something that smells like you to help them feel secure. To help them wind down, dim the lights and have a cuddle – you’ll probably sleep better too!
These strategies can help make sure your puppy is ready for bed when you are.
However, don’t expect your puppy to make it through the night right away. Even once they stop waking in the middle of the night, they’ll probably still get you up early in the morning. After all, their bladder is the same size no matter how tired they are.
Have any questions about tiring your puppy out before bed that I didn’t answer here? Or any other suggestions for tiring out a puppy? Ask away in the comments!