You know the saying, ‘early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise’? Yeah, right. But you’d agree that’s all well and good when you choose to do it like that, if the situation is firmly in your control. Wouldn’t you?
It isn’t much fun, though, when something wakes you at 6am – every morning. Even if the puppy is real cute and cuddly, when she whines at 6am, seeking attention and wakes you up, it’s time to do something about it!
This article will help you to overcome the misery of a wide-awake puppy at the dreaded early hour of 6am. It may be OK, just about, if you’re working that day, but not so much if it’s a weekend. So, here is my solution to the problem of how to get your puppy to sleep past 6am:
1 – Check her physical health
First of all, eliminate the possibility of a serious problem causing your puppy to wake you early every morning. Take her to the vet to check that something like a urinary infection, for example, isn’t causing her to wake early, desperately needing to go out and pee.
Assuming all is well health wise, it’s likely that your puppy simply wakes early full of energy and seeking attention. She could just also be needing to do her toilet, which is quite natural. There are ways to counteract both situations to give you that highly desirable extra time asleep.
As a rule of thumb, a puppy will manage to hold in her toilet needs for about the same number of hours as her age in months, plus one, more or less. The younger the puppy, the shorter the time she will be able to wait. If you’re wondering how to get puppy to sleep longer at night without needing to go, she needs to be around six or seven months old at least.
2 – Tire her out before putting her to bed
A tired puppy will sleep longer – and better. If you have the time, exercise her throughout the day. Aim for three or four exercise routines spread out over the course of day, making sure the last one takes place close to her bed time.
Long walks, games of fetch, swimming in a pond, and racing along a beach – these are good examples of the kinds of exercise that can tire out a puppy. This level of activity will also leave her a much more content puppy.
It’s usually boredom that makes a puppy do destructive things, like chewing the furniture, for example. Giving her plenty of exercise through the day will keep her busy with not enough time – or energy – for chewing up the furniture.
3 – Make the last toilet call a late one
If you are in the habit of taking your puppy out for toilet needs at regular times, make the last one of the day as late as is practically possible. Don’t go for 2am or 3am – that’s too late, but some time like 10pm or 11pm, or even midnight, is late, but not too late.
When a puppy wakes up early, and then tries to wake you as well, it’s often because she needs to go. Puppies can’t hold in for long, and sometimes not at all. An older dog will learn to hold for quite a long time if pushed to, but with puppies, it’s usually an immediate need.
The later her last toilet call of the day can be, the later it will likely be before she needs to go again. But don’t expect instant results. It may take a bit of perseverance for a few days to get the result you want. Once the habit is established, things will get better.
4 – Make sure that her sleeping place is perfect
When her sleeping area is as comfortable as it can possibly be, she will be much more likely to want to stay there longer. Also, make sure it isn’t too hot or too cold where she sleeps. Avoid a sleeping area where there are lots of outside noises to distract her.
You already know how much you want to stay in bed when that alarm rings every morning. Try to create the same environment for her. Work towards making her sleeping area a place where she feels safe and very, very comfortable.
5 – Don’t let early morning sunshine wake her up
In winter it stays dark for much later, but in summer the sun rises early, and that can be the cue for your puppy to get up and be active. The solution is simple; keep the room she sleeps in as dark as possible, summer and winter, until it really is time to get up.
Do this as young as possible. It will train her to associate darkness, or dim light, with sleeping. Puppies train easily, and it won’t take long for her to know that it’s only OK to run around when it’s daylight.
Use light-blocking curtains, if possible. Normal window blinds are often made of thin material that will provide privacy, but still let a lot of light through. If possible, keep her room dark, even if it’s bright sunshine outside.
She won’t know that the sun actually rose at 5am, or whenever, as long as her sleeping room is kept dark, or dimly lit. As soon as it’s the right time for the household to get up, open the curtains in her room and let the light shine in!
6 – Make her sleeping area a place for sleeping only
If there are toys lying around her sleeping area, then she will likely play with them when she wakes up early. Her sleeping area needs to be as comfortable as possible, but also as boring as possible. It should be a place for sleeping only.
If that’s not really practical, then make sure you remove all playing objects at night, and only put them back during the day. She will quickly learn the difference – dark means sleep, light means play. Never mix the two and all should be well.
7 – Train her to sleep later
If all else fails, you can quite easily train her to sleep until you decide to get up. However, it needs to be at the same time every day, or close to the same time at least.
She needs to be able to hear an alarm clock ringing every morning. You need to get up as soon as the alarm rings. She will quickly get used to the association of the ringing sound meaning it’s time to get up.
If she wakes regularly at 6am, then start by setting the alarm to go off at 6.05am for a couple of mornings, and get up at that time. Then gradually set the alarm a little later every few days. Set it for 6.10am, then 6.15am, and so on, until you have trained her properly.
This could take a few weeks, and you will have to stay on top of the training for this to succeed. Switching off the alarm and lying in another five minutes on any day will only confuse her and undo all your previous hard work.
If you stick to the routine, your puppy will soon associate the ringing alarm with the time to get up. She may wake earlier, but should stay quiet, or reasonably quiet, until the alarm goes off. Then you get up, pull back the curtains in her room to let the light shine in, and another day begins!