Puppy training starts the minute that they are born.
I may be thrown right out of the dog community for this piece but I’ll take my chances. Hear me out. Seriously, I know I’m not alone so for those of you on the same page…your puppies and I are very grateful.
Puppies sleep in a puppy pile because there is a sense of security in sleeping on top of each other. This is how it is in the womb; warm, quiet and peaceful… HOME!
We all remark about the sounds puppies make and how endearing they are, just like a human baby. In fact, the need for security in puppies is similar to that of babies. There have been many studies done about the need for physical contact in a babies first year and without it some have died.
What I am getting at is that a puppy sleeps in this puppy pile right up to the time you take your puppy home. Even though you are witnessing a happy, goofy puppy playfully engaging with your family, this pup is traumatized. It’s true. They have just left the only home they’ve known and now they are in a completely new environment. When the dust settles and it’s time for a nap the puppy is looking for a warm body to snuggle up to only to find it’s locked in a cage all alone… no warm litter mate, no puppy sounds, no heartbeat, no warm breath, nothing. Quiet, cold and harsh. A cage with bars on it keeping her from the only friends and world she’s ever known.
Those adorable sweet little puppy sounds we love so much are sounds of music to a puppy’s ears. It means warmth, snuggles, safety and peace.
Bringing a puppy home can be one of the most joyous times of our lives yet for many it is fraught with anxiety, sleepless nights, standing out in the cold in the middle of the night only to have the puppy screaming when we put her back in the cage. It doesn’t have to be this way for you or for your puppy.
I never have those sleepless nights or a screaming puppy in the middle of the night and my pups are sleeping through the night from their first night home. Yup, you heard correctly. From 8 wks old my pups sleep through the night.
Here’s my secret. I sleep with them. I throw out all the stuff I’ve heard about cage training and I let the puppy sleep with me in my bed. Remember, they are used to sleeping in a puppy pile and feeling a warm body, so when they stir in the middle of the night, it’s usually because they have slipped away from the warmth and scoot around feeling for that warmth/safety again. As soon as they find it.. they are sound asleep once again. The sounds we love so much? They are the pups rooting for their litter mates. They aren’t waking up because they have to go potty. They are really half asleep looking for each other. When they find the warm body they fall right back asleep, secure in the touch. When they are in a cage half asleep looking for warmth and don’t find it they begin to get fully awake and now are in a bit of a panic finding themselves alone in a completely new place without their litter mates. This is scary and traumatic for them . They begin to wail in a frenzy for their litter mate and now they DO have to go potty for sure. They are up and just like us, the first thing we have to do when we wake up in use the loo.
Little by little as the dog feels more secure in her new environment the need for constant connection wanes and we are well on our way to a having a secure well-adjusted puppy.
I’ll sleep with them for the first 2-3 weeks and then begin to transfer them to a dog bed right next to mine on the floor so I can reach down and touch them when they wake up looking for warmth. I don’t talk. I breathe deeply as if I’m sleeping and lay a hand on them soothing them back to sleep.
I realize that for some of you, sleeping with a puppy may be completely out of your comfort zone. This is okay and understandable. However, there are still ways to help your new puppy adjust without closing them in a cage. You can take the top off the cage, putting cushy blankets in so you can reach the puppy when she awakens in the night, touching her quietly, soothing her back to sleep or you can make a bed for you and your pup on the floor in the guest bedroom snuggling together for the first couple of weeks moving back into your room when it’s time. You can even share this task with your partner/spouse. The point I’m making is that you don’t have to have sleepless nights with screaming pups while you are teaching them to hold it through the night.
I can hear the questions rolling around in your minds. What if I have a 2 lb Maltese pup? I don’t want to roll over her and smother her. Of course you don’t. Still you can have her in a cage, door open, top off where you can reach and breath right next to her but she can’t get out and fall out of bed or get smushed. This is only for the first couple of weeks. When your pup knows her new home and that she is loved and less traumatized you can make the transfer to whatever you’d like, a cage, a dog bed, whatever you desire.
No, you won’t spoil her if you do this. You are making her more secure and if you are a leader when you make the change she’ll go along with it.
That said, my motto is “You can have a spoiled rotten, disciplined dog”. Why else do we have them? I love my dogs but they aren’t robots. They know their boundaries and they are free spirits and safe in our domesticated world.