Why do puppies wake so early in the morning?
Puppies often wake early in the morning because they need something, or something has disturbed them.
They might also have learned a habit of expecting food very early in the day.
Luckily there are lots of ways puppy owners can lay the groundwork for more civilized morning starts in the future!
Why Do Puppies Wake So Early In The Morning?
Sleep is essential for growing puppies’ development, and young puppies sleep more overall than adult dogs.
That sleep is vital for supporting learning, memory formation and even the formation of their immune system.
But, frustratingly, they don’t tend to be much good at saving up their kip for night time.
Besides getting up for nocturnal toilet trips, they’re also earlier to get “up for the day” – often hours before we’d usually consider getting up ourselves.
And such short-lived, broken night time sleep can really take its toll on new puppy parents.
Puppy owners report that tiredness caused night time disturbances and early mornings has a negative effect on their physical and mental health, puts strain on family relationships, and sours their general mood.
Reasons Why Puppies Are Early Risers
Why do so many puppies rise and shine so early?
There are a few reasons, and luckily, most of them are linked to their stage of life.
Which is to say, your puppy will grow out of them in time!
1. They are polyphasic sleepers
This is a fancy way of saying that they don’t do all of their sleeping for a 24 hour period in one go.
In fact this is true of most baby animals, including humans.
Sleeping mostly at night isn’t an innate habit of many newborns – it’s actually something that lots of species have to learn and adjust to as infants.
Luckily, puppies pick it up quicker than human babies. But there is an element of just having to wait, while their body clock learns what’s what.
2. They need to pee
This is probably the most overwhelmingly common reason for puppies needing to get up in the morning.
Their bladder capacity is small, and it needs emptying regularly.
Puppies often wake up two or three times in the night needing to pee, but there comes a point when they’ve slept enough, that they struggle to get back to sleep again.
And so they’re up for the day, even though the day hasn’t officially started yet, by any decent standards.
As there bladder capacity matures, their need for an early morning toilet excursion diminishes.
3. They’ve been disturbed
Did your puppy pee at 4am, but now they’re up again at 5am?
Perhaps something they’re not used to sleeping through has disturbed them.
This could be the sun coming up, if they’re used to sleeping in darkness, the hum and whirr of your central heating coming to life, or the sound of your neighbors setting off for work.
Anything which is unfamiliar to your puppy when they arrive home with you can startle them too far out of sleep for them to settle back down.
Many of these noises will eventually become background noise to your puppy, and disturb their sleep less.
4. They’re hungry
Newborn puppies have tiny tummies. They can’t even hold enough milk inside them to survive a whole night without running out of calories.
So at first they rely on having lots of small meals per day, including several at night.
As they grow up, and wean off mom, they can start having fewer, larger meals.
But some patient dams (mother dogs) will let their puppies go on nursing right up until the point they leave for their new home.
So, some puppies wake up early because they’re used to getting a pre-breakfast snack.
This habit can be unlearned, and we’ll come back to that in a moment.
My Puppy Is Waking Up Too Early
Don’t worry, we can help you!
First, rest assured that lots of puppies wake up early, but by the time they’re grown up they’ll do more of their sleeping at night, and sleep in longer.
Here are some simple steps to take to help instil good habits.
1. Keep them in your room for their first few nights at home
This has lots of advantages.
One of which is helping your puppy to feel safe at night times in your home.
Another is helping them feel secure in their bond with you. So that they know you’re committed to looking after them.
These feelings will help them relax and sleep longer at night, without needing to make regular checks that you’re definitely still there
2. Play games and exercise two hours before bed time
Puppies have energy to burn, and burning it off through play time, training games, and exercise during the day is a good way to lay the groundwork for a long night’s sleep.
Dedicate some time for this a couple of hours before your puppy’s bed time, so they’ve still got time to wind down again afterwards.
Bear in mind that puppies don’t need much in the way of walking, and too much leash walking on hard surfaces may potentially damage their growing joints.
Training games which encourage them to use their problem solving skills are a more effective way of tiring out their brains too!
3. Keep their room dark
If you live in a region where it gets light before you’re ready for your puppy to wake up, invest in heavy drapes or shades to keep their room dark.
Try to raise them at a regular time every morning, so that their body clock can adjust and predict what time to expect the day to start.
4. Be boring when they wake up
So your puppy is up for the day too early. You’ve taken them out for a toilet break, but they’ve got no interest in returning to bed.
Luckily, puppies are social animals, and will take cues for how to behave from others around them.
This is why people who keep their puppy with older dogs are more likely to find that their puppy sleeps through the night and wakes up later, sooner.
It also means that if you keep your behavior restrained, maybe make a drink in silence and curl up under a blanket on the sofa to drink it, your puppy probably go back to sleep with you, until you’re ready for the day to begin.
In time, provided this bit of the day isn’t very fun or engaging, then they probably won’t bother getting up for it (especially when their bladder isn’t full at 6am anymore).
In fact you might even come to miss those dawn cuddles!
What Not To Do When Your Puppy Wakes Up Too Early
We’ve looked at how to teach you pupy good morning habits.
But here are some surefire ways to undo your work, which you need to avoid.
1.Don’t punish them
Being exhausted sucks, we get it.
And it’s hard to stay patient and level headed when we’re physically and emotionally wrung out.
But punishing a puppy for waking up early isn’t going to fix the problem.
Punishment, generally, is very counterproductive for teaching dogs anything. When dogs are frightened, it inhibits their ability to learn and make connections between actions and consequences.
Your puppy is also unlikely to understand what they are being punished for. Is it for being awake? Is it for not waking up sooner? Is it the way they’re standing, or the fact they were thinking about going outside to pee?
Additionally, punishing a puppy damages their bond with you. It breaks down the feeling of trust that you’re going to look after and protect them.
But they need someone to look after and protect them. They’re tiny and vulnerable and they know it, so their instincts tell them to do more to make sure you notice them.
Which, you’ve guessed it, is likely to mean more night time noise, and even earlier mornings.
2. Don’t start the day with breakfast or games
Depending on their age, puppies need three or four meals a day. Or, you can serve fewer meals, and use those rations as training treats.
Decide before your puppy comes home when breakfast time is. And resist the urge to feed them before that.
A puppy who gets used to breakfast at 5am will continue to wake up expecting breakfast at 5am!
Even worse, a puppy who gets used to having breakfast as soon as they wake up may starting waking up earlier and earlier, because they’re excited about that food!
3. Don’t try to keep them awake too long during the day
When you’re desperate for a puppy to sleep later in the mornings, then keeping them up later at night, or preventing them from taking one of their daytime naps seems like a logical and tempting strategy.
But it’s not wise.
Sleep is vital for puppies’ health and development.
The sleep schedule they keep in the early days is gruelling for us, but it is temporary.
Why Do Puppies Wake So Early In The Morning – Summary
Early starts are just one of the things which can catch new puppy owners by surprise.
Luckily, it’s something most puppies naturally grow out of, with just a little patience and gentle coaching.
We cover all aspects of puppy rearing, including instilling good sleep habits, and trouble shooting common problems, in our Puppy Parenting course.
Is your puppy an early bird?
Let us know the ways you’ve found of coping in the comments box down below!
Chur-Hansen et al. The Experience of Being a Guide Dog Puppy Raiser Volunteer: A Longitudinal Qualitative Collective Case Study. Animals. 2015.
Duxbury et al. Evaluation of association between retention in the home and attendance at puppy socialization classes. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2003.
Gaultier. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone in reducing stress associated with social isolation in newly adopted puppies. Veterinary Record. 2008.
Kinsman et al. Sleep Duration and Behaviours: A Descriptive Analysis of a Cohort of Dogs up to 12 Months of Age. Animals. 2020.
Lawler. Neonatal and pediatric care of the puppy and kitten. Theriogenology. 2008.
Taylor & Mills. The control of puppy disturbance of owners at night. Current Issues and Research in Veterinary Behavioral Medicine. Purdue University Press. 2005.
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