Is your puppy constantly nipping? Barking for your attention? Jumping all over everyone? Eating everything in sight?
While, yes, your dog very well may need some training and boundaries, you can also ask yourself, how much sleep is my dog getting in a day?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, dogs sleep 12-14 hours per day and puppies can sleep 18-20 hours per day depending on their activity level during their waking hours. They need this sleep to recover their minds and bodies.
Due to the pandemic, people are quite clearly home a lot. Sometimes it can be two, three, four people home at a time. Children running around, going up and down stairs. People coming in and out of the kitchen for snacks. Families sitting down for lunch time and dinner time. Your dog is there for all of it. Wondering where you are going to go next and thinking they should be a part of it. This is really tiring for a dog. And, as a result, a lot of families are seeing overtired dogs doing behaviors they don't like. So if your dog is sleeping less than 12 hours a day, let them rest!
Create a Schedule
If you know your dog isn't sleeping enough, you should start by creating a schedule. Creating and sticking to a schedule is a lifelong skill that your dog will benefit from.
Dogs thrive on consistency. You take them on a walk every morning, they'll expect that walk. You put some cheese on top of their food, they'll expect that cheese! Consistency minimizes stress and anxiety because they have an idea of what to expect and what is expecting from them.
Create a schedule for yourself and your dog that allows them to rest throughout the day. You can put them in a room with someone working from home. You can utilize the crate or a play pen if they take to it. The important thing is that you communicate to them that it is time for them to rest by not engaging with them.
How do you communicate that it is time to rest? Here are a few examples:
- do NOT ask them to come with you every time you leave the room or go upstairs (this does not mean do not supervise your puppy and let them pee in your house!)
- do NOT interrupt their sleeping by petting them, especially if their tongue is out or they are dreaming
- do NOT get them excited when you walk into the room that they are resting in
- do NOT let your dog out every time they go to the door (going outside is stimulating, again this does not mean let your puppy pee in the house!)
- DO give them a place to rest
- DO redirect them to their resting place if they get up
Give Them a Place to Rest
In addition to knowing when to rest, your dog will also need to be told where to rest. A bed, bed, crate, or playpen are all good options. It will be challenging for them to stay in their spot because there are people home but you have a few tools you can use to build up their resting time.
Option 1: Reinforce them being in their bed
When it is time to nap, tell them to go to their bed and give them a treat. If they need help going to their bed, lure them there with the treat and then give them the treat when they get there. If they get up from the bed, repeat. You are communicating where they are supposed to be and reinforcing them for being in that place.
I use this option for when Max has his morning rest in the office with my husband.
Option 2: Tell them to go their bed and give them a treat when it is time to leave
When it is time to nap, tell them to go to their bed. Once it is time for them to leave, say your break word and give them a treat.
I use this option when my son is playing a game that Max doesn't need to participate in.
You will need to work on both of these options. Like I said, it will be challenging at first because your dog will want to be with you, but the more you practice and stay disciplined to your schedule, the easier it will be for your dog. You should start seeing longer stretches of time between reinforcements and they will start to know to go to their bed when it's nap time.
Tip: If you have a puppy, before they nap in their designated spot, set them up for success by taking them out to go to the bathroom. This will give you the longest stretch of sleep and help build up their bladder.
What if My Puppy Hates the Playpen?!
Your puppy and adult dog could very well be giving you a hard time when they go in a gated area. They may bark, jump or whine. I understand. They do not want to be away from you. My suggestion is to be creative about giving them different ways to rest WHILE training option 1 and 2 above. If they don't like the crate, you are going to do less time than a dog that takes to the crate. That's ok, keep practicing and build up the time. I recommend training option 1 and 2 at the same time every day. After your training, let them rest where you are both comfortable. You are trying to find a sustainable way to live in a house with dogs, give them a chance to rest, and have a Zoom call without a co-worker calling you out.
Lastly, be easy on yourself. Your dog sleeping is a break. Maybe that means you can sit on their floor with your infant without telling your dog "off" constantly, or your toddler can walk around with Cheerios without you telling your dog "leave it" constantly, or your elementary school kids can run around without your dog mouthing them, or your teenagers can do school virtually without your dog barking at them for attention! You can always train the unwanted behaviors simultaneously. The important thing is that you set your dog up for success, where every waking minute isn't a chance for them to poke their nose where it doesn't belong!
If you've discovered that your dog isn't sleeping enough, start by making some small changes. If your dog is sleeping ten hours and after a week of reading this article, he is sleeping eleven hours, be proud of your success and keep building. If you need help with training the unwanted behaviors or giving your dog a place to rest, then do not hesitate to reach out to TheTreat for training.