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16 week old puppy won't sleep at night
We've been following along on the forum for quite a while, having done loads of research in the year leading up to getting our puppy, and since we brought him home age 10 weeks on April 29. He's gorgeous, loads of fun, very affectionate and brings us a lot of joy, but we're really battling with nighttime sleeping and don't know what to do anymore.
We read everything we could about crate training in advance and we were (we thought) prepared for the worst, but he's now been with us for six weeks and we seem to have made no progress at all.
Initially, we had him in the crate in our bedroom, where he was fairly settled - up and down a few times but no worse than we expected. After a week, we moved the crate to the kitchen, and it's been a disaster ever since. We were prepared for three or four nights of barking/howling, but as it carried on (and on) we had to make concessions to the neighbours - we live in a terrace and both sides have small children. We spoke to the breeder and a few other folk who suggested going in, settling him down, putting him back in the crate and walking away. We did this, and it worked initially, but then seemed to create a bigger monster - he was soon barking and howling every hour or two and refused to settle for at least 45 minutes every time (very tired dog parents). We relented and tried him in the bedroom again with no luck - he did exactly the same thing, every hour or two, all night long. Whenever we went to calm him down, he'd jump all over us, desperate for cuddles and attention.
After a few tearful chats with the breeder, friends with Vs, our gundog trainer and a behaviorist, we decided the best course of action was tough love, so we went to stay at a friend's (vacant) cottage where he could be in his crate downstairs and we could sleep in the loft upstairs. We added a crate cover, which he seems fine with (before he wakes up barking, at least). Everyone said to give it three or four nights and he'd soon learn that barking doesn't equal attention and settle down. We stayed for four, and because we couldn't hear him, his crate was unsoiled and he seemed more willing to go in there during the days and hang out/nap, we thought we might have had some success.
No such luck. We then came down to our holiday cottage on the coast (he has been here before) - after 7 nights, we're still here and officially losing our minds. We had one or two nights where he woke up, barked for 15-20 minutes then went back to sleep (so again, we thought success - he's self-settling and will keep improving) but the last handful of nights, he's been willingly going into the crate at 10.30pm, curling up and going to sleep, then waking up at midnight and hysterically barking for hours and hours solid. How he doesn't pass out from the relentless barking is beyond me - he barely takes a breath and can go for three hours at a time (usually this is our limit - despite trying to be strong, we've ended up getting up again and trying to settle him).
We knew crate training would require effort and a sleepless week or two, but six weeks seems insane. What are we doing wrong? He seems to love the crate otherwise - he happily has chews in there, he goes in there for naps, and he'll even take himself off to bed in there (only to wake up an hour later going nuts). He has loads of physical and mental stimulation (puppy school once a week, gundog training once a week, games/brain training daily, romps around the beach/fields off lead, playtime with other dogs - the only thing we're restrictive on is too many on-lead pavement walks, as we're conscious of growing bones/joints). He gets plenty of interaction and attention. I work from home almost all the time (at most I am in the office two days a week once or twice a month) and my husband is home based as well. We've practiced leaving him for short spells at home alone in the crate every day (with mixed results) to help build up his tolerance. We'd try the crate back in the bedroom, but it made no difference last time. We'd try a bed in the bedroom, but we're concerned he'll roam and just try and get onto our bed all night (the sofas are fine, but our bed is strictly off limits). We just feel completely hopeless and lost. We're exhausted, work is suffering and being this tired makes the normal puppy stuff (sharkies, etc) so much harder to deal with.
Apologies for the long winded post - has anyone had experiences with Vs that just won't settle at night? Anything else we could try?
Thanks so much.
It sounds like you have been going about it the right way. For whatever reason, he's just not improving.
A few things I have tried over the years.
Putting a shirt in the crate, that I wore that day.
Playing classical music on low.
Favorite treat, that they only get in the crate. Try for one that lasts a long time.
Moving the crate to different places.
Having it covered, or uncovered.
Taking my own pillow, and laying next to the crate. Yes, I was really tired when I did that.
Big stuffed animal in the crate with them.
Thicker dog bed.
Over stuffing the crate with (not hay) straw. It's messy, so don't have the crate on carpet.
Every V is a little different and sounds like you are doing a lot of the right things. V's are very intelligent and they are also need a lot of personal contact, especially when young. That said, a couple of suggestion might be to keep your crate in your room. The sounds and smells of you in the room with him will likely calm him. Also, could it be that you are inadvertently reinforcing a bad behavior by going to check on him or going to quiet him down? If he learns that if he makes a lot of noise, you will eventually come, that might be what is happening. Again, by keeping the crate in your room, you solve that. Our V, did not do well away from us at night, we put his crate in the corner of our bedroom and he sleeps great. I know that may not work for everyone's space but it seemed to work for us.
I think you may have positively reinforced the crying by going to calm him every now and then, he could have thought that you will be going with him at some point if he howlls.
As mentioned by @skillingsworth y would move him inside the bedroom and put some smelly clothes, something old that really smells like you (no socks, my V ate two of them, better if it can not be swallowed). But if nothing works -and I know this might be not very well recieved but for desperate times, desperate actions- you can have a water spray bottle by your side and spray him every time he howlls. But you need to be very careful to not make the crate an unpleasent experience, only spray him right at the time of the crying, never when he gets inside it, on the contrary, reward him every time he gets there. Timing is essential so it may take a couple of tiring nights more, he needs to learn that the spray comes when howlling beggins, so use the water right when he starts. You have to take some time to reward the silence moments too, if you hear silence give him a soft, kind word (not so much so he doesent get to excited, just the necesary for him to feel he did good) and maybe a treat. If after the reward he cryes... water, silence... reward and so on.
Also remmember that Vizslas are very sensitive, so the less he looks the bottle the best, because after that he might be affraid to spray bottles and they are very useful.
Again, some people may find this as a not very kind method, but if getting in the crate is not the problem and he actually can be in it, the problem is the sleeping time, so...
The other thing is just to not put attention AT ALL, not even talk or look at him and wait some more nights.
Oh and ideally you shouldn't move the crate until he learn to sleep there perfectly.
I hope this is usefull and you can sleep good again.
I found the perfect solution, bring your V into your bed, snuggle under the covers and all is good. I tried the kennel solution for 7 weeks, no go. He is a great snuggler and sleeper. My Vizsla is now 3 years old!
Thanks guys! We decided to move the crate into the bedroom next to the bed - he's happy and sleeps from 10pm to 5-6am without a peep. I guess our only worry is whether we're setting him up to be anxious long term - our breeder said by letting him sleep in the bedroom, he'll never be able to be left/kennelled/stay with other people. Have others found this? Thanks so much for the tips.
My advice is more derived from my two children. 'If it's working for you, don't change it. If it isn't working for you, try something else'. I don't have much V experience, but I'd say that if your V is happy and settled in your bedroom, just leave him in there. Worry about the supposed separation anxiety only if/when that becomes an issue.
Best of luck. It is obvious you are doing your best for him with good intentions, so I'm sure it will all work out in the end.
^^^ I have to agree with Clara T's statement.
All our dogs the past 20+ years have always been crated trained and slept in our bedroom. Two labs and now our first V.....9-mo old male Milo.
As a matter of fact two books by The Monks of New Skete (The Art of Raising a Puppy and How to be your Dogs Best Friend) "recommend" that your dogs sleep in your bedroom. Both of my labs used to be tethered to the bed post with an 8' lead and slept in a blanket. And now our male V sleeps in the crate full time. We used to have to lock the crate door. But now he simply goes into the crate on his own with the door open all night. He never jumps on the bed or ever sleeps directly with us.
I'm no expert by any means on this subject natter. But it's my understanding that all dogs want to sleep with "their pack". And I would assume, given V's personality traits, would want to sleep with us. I could be wrong. But our male V has been an absolute treat at night and has slept clean through the night for months now.
Btw: we had our male V professionally trained since 8-weeks old and there are many ways to deal with separation anxiety. One we have been taught is to not say goodbye to them and flower them with love hugs and kisses directly when leaving. We've been instructed to say goodbye to them and play with them 10-minutes prior to leaving the house. And then when you're ready to leave (10-15 minutes later) simply walk out the door without hugging and kissing, etc. Has worked for us flawlessly. And when they are scared for whatever reason do not grope or coddled them to death. Simply stand tall and put them alongside you or behind you. Again, this has helped immensely with our V during training exercises or at home when greeting new people at the door, etc.
I strongly recommend seeking professional help while your V is young and nipping in the bud now...if you haven't done so already. FWIW
Hope this helps......
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