Bringing home your bundle of fluff can be exciting at first, but you’ll soon find yourself asking how to tire out a puppy. Despite their small size, puppies can be exhausting. Like children, they function like little tornadoes of energy, busying around, stopping for a quick power nap, then getting right back to causing trouble.
Whilst very young puppies sleep often, as they get older they’ll sleep less and less. A 6-month-old puppy won’t need many daytime naps, and will quickly cause trouble if left to his own devices. And dogs left to sleep all day are often up and about keeping everyone awake at night-time. 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 generally fairly easy, but learning how to get a puppy to sleep through the night is a little harder. Firstly, you’ll need to make sure your puppy is tired. Try not to let them nap in the evening so that they’re 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.
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, then put him to bed. A crate can come in very handy with building these sleep associations.
Whilst your puppy is young, they don’t have the ability to hold their bladder all night and you’ll have to let them out. It’s best to do this with an alarm 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 the morning.
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. When thinking of activities to do with your puppy, remember to combine mental stimulation with physical exercise. Like children, young puppies don’t tend to tire out from physical exercise – but learning and using their brains is much, much harder. Here are three of our top ideas for indoor activities with a puppy
- Find the treats – I’ve recently taken to doing this once a day with my adult dog in order 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 their brains to solve the puzzle.
- 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.
- 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 5 minutes at a time, so make sure to intersperse with other games.
Ways to tire out a puppy outdoors
There’s something extra-tiring about fresh air, so get outdoors to tire out your puppy if you can. 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.
- 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.
- Dog parkour – Essentially dog agility on the fly, this 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 much harder than usual, which is much more tiring than following his own whim!
- New experiences – One thing that’s surprisingly tiring is having new experiences. Whilst the ‘socialisation 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. Make sure they have a positive experience though – treats and plenty of distance until they are confident.
How to tire out a puppy without playing
Sometimes you can’t play with a 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 is very tiring, and it’s possible to tire out your dog without doing any exercise at all.
Try training a new command, or practising 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, as otherwise you can frustrate your puppy, preventing him from learning properly.
Whether you’re tiring out a puppy at night to get a good sleep, or you want to tire him out before a big event like a vet appointment, a combination of mental and physical stimulation is the best way to ensure your puppy behaves himself and sleeps well at night.
Dr Joanna Woodnutt is an experienced vet with an interest in companion animals. She recently left full-time practice to work as a relief vet and write articles about pets.
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