We are having bedtime problems with our eight-week-old Miniature Schnauzer puppy – although we know this is normal behaviour. After about an hour, he starts to whine and whimper; he also barks, though not too loudly. We give him some attention and he settles down again for a while, but this can continue throughout the night a few times. He has quite a few toys to keep him company. If we avoid giving him attention when he ‘calls’, would he then settle down? Any advice you can give would be much appreciated.
Kirsten Dillon advises…
Congratulations on your new arrival! Yes, you are correct when you say this is normal behaviour; basically, he is a baby who has just been taken away from his mother and other sleeping companions, coupled with a change of home. If you get up to him each time he whines during the night, he will probably continue to do so, as he is basically teaching you to come when called!
However, I don’t ever advise totally ignoring very young puppies, as I believe it is too distressing – this is where your judgement and common sense will come into it. Don’t worry; you will get to know your new puppy very well in a very short space of time, and you will feel confident in your decisions. Also, he won’t yet be able to go through the night without needing to toilet, so you will also have to assess this need, too.
I would advise you to crate train your puppy, and put the crate in your bedroom, next to your bed at first. If he whines, offer your hand as comfort, and if he persists, take him outside to toilet. Don’t play with him or make a fuss; just toilet and back to bed. As each night progresses, and he gets more settled and mature, you can begin to move the crate away from your bedside in increments – first elsewhere in the bedroom, then on to the landing, and eventually ending up with the crate in the place you would like it to remain. Look at this taking about three to four weeks.
If you aren’t currently using a crate, I would recommend one. Don’t think of it as a cage; puppies simply see the crate as a ‘den’ or quiet, safe space for sleeping and downtime. A crate can also help with toilet training. If you don’t wish to use one for your puppy, however, simply use his bed and repeat the same protocol as above.