How to Get Your Dog Used to Sleeping Alone

Getting your dog to sleep alone in his bed is essential so that he doesn't end up developing separation anxiety. We tell you all about it.
How to Get Your Dog Used to Sleeping Alone

Last update: 06 February, 2022

Did you just get a puppy and there’s no way to get them to sleep in their bed? Do they howl at night, refuse to sleep, or try to climb into your bed? Taking notice of them or allowing them to sleep in places apart from their bed is a mistake. In this article, we’ll tell you how to get your new puppy or older dog to sleep where they’re supposed to sleep and not where they want to.  With our help, you’ll soon get your dog used to sleeping alone!

The importance of puppy autonomy

From the moment a puppy enters the house, you need to work a lot with them. Teaching them to defecate in the right places when out for a walk, giving them new food and allowing them to explore unfamiliar areas are just a few of them. However, one of the essential keys to educating your dog is to teach them to enjoy spending time alone.

Although it’s tempting to spend all day with your dog, it’s never a good idea. If they don’t get used to being alone, they’ll end up developing separation anxiety. As indicated by the Nature magazine, this emotional condition occurs in 14-20% of all domestic dogs. Although there are many possible triggers, moving from a routine when they’re accompanied all the time, to one where thay have to get used to being alone is the main one.

The socialisation period, in which the dog exercises its autonomy and gets to know new things, is the most important period of a dog’s life. It occurs between 3 and 12 weeks after birth.

Why does my puppy cry at night and doesn’t like sleeping alone?

If your dog howls and barks at night and wants your company, it’s not being naughty or wanting to annoy you. It’s likely to be a consequence of having been separated from its mother and siblings and not being used to sleeping alone. This is quite normal, and all owners need to get their dog used to sleeping alone.

What you must do is to be firm and not shout or do anything that may show the puppy that we’ve heard them and that we’ll go to be with them when they cry at night. No matter how annoying it is, we must be firm.

Even if it’s difficult, both for the owner and the puppy, the best thing to do is to ignore them. This will make them realize that no matter how much they cry, they won’t get attention. They should soon realise that their basket is their bed and that at night nobody is going to play with them; they should soon end up getting used to it.

Besides, it’s good for their overall training to get used to being independent and not to be looked after all day long. They have to understand their place in the family. Despite having all this clear, the transition period is annoying for the guardians and the dog alike.

On average a puppy can take about 7 days to adapt to its new bed. This week will be full of howling, scratching and barking at night! We advise you to let your neighbours know that you have a new puppy, that they’re getting used to sleeping alone, and to apologise for any inconvenience they may cause them.

Although they appear very energetic at first glance, puppies sleep 18 to 20 hours a day.

A dog sleeping alone.

Why can’t my adult dog sleep alone?

If your dog can’t sleep alone and is no longer a puppy, it’s time to worry. They may have a physical ailment that prevents them from sleeping or, on the other hand, they may have developed separation anxiety. In this condition, the dog will feel dread, anxiety and helplessness whenever the owner leaves them, either to sleep or to go to work.

Some of the main symptoms of separation anxiety (beyond the inability to sleep alone) are as follows:

  • Urination and defecation inside the house and outside of their regular walks.
  • Constant crying, barking and whining when the owner isn’t there (especially at night and during working hours).
  • Biting and destruction of household furniture.
  • Coprophagia (ingestion of own feces).
  • Stereotyped behaviors, i.e., doing something repetitous and without a specific purpose. Going round in circles, chasing their tails and “biting flies” are some of the most common.
  • Changes in routine.

Sometimes this behavior resolves on its own or lessens in severity in a matter of weeks. However, the only possible advice on this front is to see a dog trainer. Pathologies can’t be treated at home alone.

Tips to get your dog used to sleeping alone

If your dog has just arrived and you have ruled out separation anxiety problems (or other psychological disorders), you can get them used to sleeping in their own bed in a matter of days or weeks with the right techniques. We’ll show you how in the following sections!

Prepare the home

The first and most important thing for your new dog to sleep well is to prepare the house and its own area well ready for its arrival. Above all, bring them in the morning so that they can recognize their part of the house, check out familiar smells, etc. If you keep the dog in a quiet and relaxed area before going to sleep and leave them a treat there, then this will help them to sleep better and more peacefully.

Anti-stress pheromones can be a good option, as long as they’re recommended by a veterinarian. These are non-sedating preparations that will help your dog relax before bedtime.

Take it one step at a time

Your puppy may not be able to sleep in a room alone for the first few days. This is normal, especially if they come from a foster home. They may be afraid of being abandoned again if they’re separated from you. Respect the emotions involved in any trauma they may have suffered, and let them stay by your side in the early stages of your relationship.

Once your dog has got used to the home, it’s time to train them and get them used to sleeping alone little by little. We recommend that you follow the steps on this list:

  1. Associate the command “bed” with your dog’s resting place by articulating the word and pointing to the exact spot where they’ll sleep. When they associate the term “bed” with your signal, reward them with a treat.
  2. Move your dog’s bed further and further away from yours. Once they get used to the training, they’ll go to sleep when you tell them to. From this point on, increase the distance between your bed and their resting place little by little.
  3. Be firm. It’s likely that when you move your bed away from you to another room, your dog will come back to you several times a night. Be consistent and repeat the “bed” command, always rewarding your dog with petting and treats when they listen to you. Over time, your dog will become accustomed to sleeping alone.

Exercise with him

It isn’t good to let your dog sleep all day. Take them out for regular exercise, because, in this way, they’ll get tired and sleep better no matter where. The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend not so much on their size, but on their breed, their general health, weight and age.

Some breeds are more restless and need more exercise, especially those that were originally used for sheep herding, such as the Collie or the German Shepherd. In any case, most dogs needs on average an 30 minutes to 2 hours of physical activity to feel sufficiently tired.

A dog eating.

Keep a routine

Dogs are extremely sensitive to rudeness, sensation or change. If something has changed in your dog’s environment recently, if there’s a new noise, or if they’re missing something, then they’ll find it harder to sleep. For example, if they’re used to sleeping in a small, enclosed space, such as a cage, they’ll find it hard to sleep in an open space. And, vice versa, if they have to sleep in a cage, they’ll refuse to go inside.

The solution in both cases is to be affectionate, but firm, and use positive tones of voice so that they don’t take it as a punishment and learn to sleep alone. A trick is to put a reward in their bed so that they’ll be happier to go to bed. This last method is based on positive reinforcement. Reward your dog when they do well, but don’t punish him if he don’t do what you want the first time.

Choose the right feeding time

An important aspect that’s often overlooked is that dogs get a boost of energy after eating, so if you feed them just before bedtime it will be very difficult for them. It’s best to feed them at least two hours before bedtime and then take them for a walk. This way they’ll expend the energy gained from the meal on the walk, where you can do running and jumping exercises with them to make them feel even more tired.

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