An appropriate puppy sleep schedule isn't usually at the top of the list of concerns of new dog parents. House training, the right amounts of food and water, keeping them away from unsafe things like electrical cords, not to mention biting (oh do puppies love to bite!) are usually higher, more urgent worries.
So unless your puppy struggles to go to sleep at night (which is every puppy, at least for the first couple days in a new environment), you probably haven't thought much about your puppy's sleep patterns. Even still, you probably haven't thought much about your puppy's daytime sleeping patterns, and understandably so since sleep usually takes care of itself.
There are some aspects of a puppy's sleep needs that may surprise you though, and learning about them may help you on your long and fun journey as a dog parent.
How Much Sleep Does a Puppy Need?
Puppies need a lot more sleep than you might think! Most experts agree puppies need between 18 and 20 hours of sleep a day.
Just think about that for a moment. Your puppy might only be awake for 4 hours a day—which, honestly, just makes their ability to get into everything, pee on everything, and bite everything that much more impressive. What efficient little workers they are!
Keep in mind, this is the typical amount of sleep for a puppy that's already been weaned from its mother. By the time you've brought the puppy home, it's usually at least 7–8 weeks old. Puppies younger than that might have different needs.
When Should Puppies Sleep?
Puppies will sleep at various times throughout the day, plus for a long stretch at night. It's usually for as long as they can until the need for a potty break wakes them up.
These daytime sleep sessions, or puppy naps, might last less than 30 minutes, or they could last for a couple hours. What determines how long a puppy nap lasts is usually the length of time they're left undisturbed. In other words, if left alone, they'll sleep as long as they need to.
Conversely, even if you don't leave them alone, they might sleep as long as they need to. A puppy deep into a nap might be hard to wake up!
Nighttime sleep sessions are a similar story. While you may find it difficult to get your puppy to relax (more on that below) and accept their bedtime, once they're asleep they won't wake up again unless there's a loud noise or until the need for a potty break wakes them.
How Do You Get a Puppy to Sleep at Night?
The first couple nights are one of the most difficult times for a new puppy parent. The trick to helping puppies get to sleep quickly is first, making sure they understand that leaving the crate is not an option and second, making them feel safe and comfortable by staying with them until they fall asleep.
If you aren't expecting it, you'll be shocked to learn just how long your puppy will cry, whine, and bark when you try to put them to bed the first time. Some puppy parents report to Harper that the whining can last longer than 20 minutes.
Obviously this isn't ideal for you or the puppy. In your case, it can be disruptive to your own sleep schedule, and, f you live in an apartment, the late night sound could upset your neighbors too. Perhaps even worse though, this behavior means your puppy is stressed. While we can't remove all the stresses from our dogs' lives (nor should we try, lest we leave them unprepared to handle the real world's many surprises), we certainly don't want to put them in a situation where they're so scared or unhappy that they're willing to bark for 20 minutes.
The good news is, there are a number of ways you can make your puppy's bedtime routine easy on both you and your dog. At Harper, we recommend your puppy sleep in a crate since it's the safest place for them when you can't watch them. We also recommend a bedtime method we call The First Nights.
The idea of First Nights is simple. First, you're going to help your puppy understand that no matter what she does, she's not getting out of the crate. This is important. One reason your puppy whines is because she thinks that if she can get your attention, you'll let her out. First Nights teaches her that's not the case by having you open the crate door and then closing it again if she tries to leave. You repeat this process until your pup stops trying to leave the crate.
The second aspect of First Nights is staying with your puppy until she falls asleep. Again, this is critical. One reason your pup doesn't want to go to bed is because she's scared. She doesn't want to be left all alone in this scary new environment. At the very least she wants to be with you. This is where the First Nights method comes in. Once your pup has accepted she can't leave the crate, just stay there with her, laying next to the crate if you have to until she falls asleep. Once she's out, quietly leave the room and turn out all the lights. Most puppies will fall asleep within 30 minutes.
What Should My Puppy's Sleep Routine Be?
We recommend setting strict bed times and morning wake up a times that correspond with your puppy's age and how frequently they need potty breaks. For day time sleeping, it's best to remain flexibile, but to make sure you schedule a handful of 2-hour naps to ensure an adequate amount of rest.
A puppy's bedtime and wakeup time are largely determined by how old they are and how long they can go between potty breaks. As a general rule, a puppy can hold it for 1 hour for every month they are old (for example, a 3 month old puppy can go 3 hours between potty breaks). In most cases, you can also add an hour at night since they're mostly sleeping.
Puppy Bedtime and Wakeup Time
|8-weeks old||12am → 6am (potty break around 3am)|
|12-weeks old||11pm → 7am (potty break around 4am)|
|16-weeks old||12am → 6am (likey good through the night)|
After the age of 16-weeks, pick a bedtime and a wake up time that works best for you. If you like to go to bed later and wake up later, then your puppy can certainly adjust to that schedule.
Puppy Naps are hard to schedule, but the good news is it's easy to find natural places where they fit into your routine. The biggest mistake first-time puppy owners make is not giving their puppies enough time to sleep. The urge to play with them is just too strong!
Most people have an 8-hour work day where their puppies are forced to be alone for much of the time. Even when you break the day up with potty breaks, play breaks, and meals, the puppy is still alone for 6+ hours of an 8-hour work day. This is good news though, because it allows the puppy time to sleep.
If you don't have a work-day that forces you to leave your puppy to sleep, we recommend these guidelines:
|8-weeks old||At least five 2-hour naps|
|12-weeks old||At least four 2-hour naps|
|16-weeks old||At least three 2-hour naps|
Your puppy will need to sleep more than that, but if you make sure they get at least that much nap time throughout the day, it's likely they'll find other ways to get the sleep they need.
Tips to Make Sure Your Puppy Gets the Right Amount of Sleep
Don't wake a sleeping puppy
The more freedom you can give your puppy to decide when she sleeps and how much, the more likely she is to get the right amount of sleep.
Make sure your puppy has a quiet place to nap during the day
Puppies can sleep anytime, anywhere but if you want to make sure they're getting enough sleep, they should have a quiet place where they can go that's free from exciting distractions.
Teach your puppy to love the crate
The easiest way to give a puppy a quiet place to sleep is to teach her to love her crate.
Follow the First Nights method
This is the quickest way to get your puppy to sleep confidently on her own. After a few weeks of this method, it's likely you won't need it at all and your puppy will go right to sleep at bedtime. It's in the app!
Want to learn more about your pup's ideal daily schedule? Check out these other articles from Harper: