Skip to main content

How to tire out a puppy

How to tire out a puppy. A puppy sleeping on the sofa
(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to tire out a puppy is one of the first questions you may ask yourself after bringing home a new furry family member. Despite their small size, puppies can be exhausting. During their waking hours, they are constantly on the go and getting into mischief as they explore the world. Like children though, they will have to intersperse this with naps to recharge their batteries, before starting all over again.

While young puppies sleep often, as they get older they will crash for a nap less and less. A six-month-old puppy won’t need many daytime naps, and will quickly cause trouble if left to his own devices. So, how can you get rid of some of that energy so that you can have some peace and quiet? Let’s take a look.

How to get a puppy to sleep

Getting a puppy to sleep is fairly easy, but learning how to get a puppy to sleep through the night is a little harder and can be something many owners struggle with during those first few weeks of owning their new puppy. 

Firstly, you’ll need to make sure your puppy is tired. Try not to let them nap in the evening so that they are ready to sleep when it comes to bedtime. You’ll also want to try out tips for tiring out your puppy using play, food puzzles, training, and other forms of mental stimulation. If they have had a busy day stimulating their developing brain, they will sleep more deeply at night.

Secondly, it’s important to set a good bedtime routine so that your puppy knows what’s expected of him. Let him out for ‘last wees’ just before bed, so he has a chance to empty his bladder. Make sure your pup has somewhere cozy and inviting to snuggle up in. A crate can come in handy with building these sleep associations. Consider using a command word like ‘bed’ or ‘night nights’; to indicate that it’s bedtime now.

Whilst your puppy is young, they can’t hold their bladder all night and you’ll have to let them out. It’s best to do this by setting yourself an alarm during the night rather than wait for your puppy to cry, as this teaches him how to get attention. Don’t be tempted to play with him or fuss him too much – take him out, let him relieve himself, then take him straight back to bed until the next time, or in the morning. 

Also, know that it is completely normal for puppies to sleep less at night than older dogs. A study by the Dogs Trust confirms this, but the good news is that most dogs will settle into their owner’s sleep patterns as they get older. Hopefully, some of our tips will help to speed up this process.

Ways to tire out a puppy indoors

When the weather is bad, thinking of ways to tire out your puppy inside can be tricky. Combined with the shorter days, it can be hard to tire out a puppy during the winter months in particular.

However, when thinking of activities to do with your puppy, remember that mental stimulation is just as important as physical. Like children, young puppies don’t seem to tire out from running around – but learning and using their brains is much harder. Here are three of our top ideas for indoor activities with a puppy.

  1. Find the treats
    I’ve recently taken to doing this once a day with my adult dog to tire her out and help her (and us!) sleep through the night. Hide treats and then get your dog to find them. This allows them to use their nose and brains to solve the puzzle.
  2. Tug
    Most puppies love a game of tug, and it’s a great bonding experience for both of you. It doesn’t require much space and physically isn’t too strenuous on young joints, especially if you play on a carpet or rug to provide good traction.
  3. Training
    Teach your puppy a new skill, such as ‘touch’ or ‘target’, standing on his hind legs, ‘bow’, ‘speak’, or ‘roll over’. Working on new tricks is so tiring it’s best not to do it for more than five minutes at a time, so make sure to intersperse with other games.

Ways to tire out a puppy outdoors

How to tire out a puppy: two puppies playing outside

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Whilst the weather may put pay to things sometimes, it’s always best to get outdoors with your dog when you can. The fresh air, change of scenery, and new, exciting sniffs help to stimulate your dog the most. Most dogs don’t mind a bit of rain, so invest in a good coat and umbrella and head out whenever possible. Aside from the usual walks and playing in the dog park, here are some ideas of games to play with your puppy to tire them out mentally.

  1. Hide and seek
    Hide and seek not only practices recall, but it activates your dog’s senses and encourages them to solve problems. Get one person to hold your dog whilst you hide. Call your puppy to you, helping him to find you. Give him lots of praise – and a tasty puppy treat – when he figures it out, then let the next person hide.
  2. Dog parkour
    Essentially dog agility on the fly, parkour involves looking for walls to jump on, poles to weave, and benches to jump over whilst out on a walk. Your dog will have to focus on you and your expectations of him, which is much harder than usual – making the walk much more tiring than just following his own whim.
  3. New experiences
    One thing that’s surprisingly tiring is having new experiences. Whilst the ‘socialization period’ is up to 16 weeks, even after this you should continue to expose your pup to new experiences. To tire them out, consider taking them for a walk near cows, or taking them to a train station. Even doing your usual walk in reverse can open up new experiences and make him think differently. Just make sure your puppy has a positive experience – treats and plenty of distance until they are confident.

How to tire out a puppy without playing

There may be certain situations where you can’t play with your puppy to tire him out. Perhaps playing gets him too riled up, or maybe he’s had a recent operation and is supposed to be resting. What now? Luckily, mental stimulation can still be tiring, so it is possible to wear your dog out without doing any exercise at all.

Try training a new command, or practicing old ones. Puzzle feeders are a great way to push your dog to use his brain with minimal effort from you. Other brain games for dogs are great for mental stimulation too. Just take care that you make any games and puzzles as easy as possible to start with, until he gets the hang of it, otherwise, you can just end up frustrating your puppy.

Conclusion

Whether you’re tiring out a puppy at night to get good sleep or you want to tire him out before a big event such as a vet appointment, a combination of mental and physical stimulation is the best way to ensure your puppy behaves himself as well as allowing you to get some rest too.

After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands. She quickly developed a love of consulting and helping clients with medical problems such as dermatology, behaviour and nutrition - anything that involved helping clients understand their pets better. Jo started writing about pet health in 2017, realising that it meant she could help even more pet parents. Since then, she has written for countless online and print publications and is a regular contributor for Edition Dog Magazine. Jo now lives in the Channel Islands with her husband Ian and terrier Pixie, and they are expecting their first child very soon.