Let’s be realistic. If you have a new rescue dog, you’re not going to get a ton of sleep over the next few weeks as your new dog will likely need to potty overnight from the stress of moving to a new home, or you might find that they are a bit fussy and worried. 

Remember, again, that rescue dogs have been taken from their last environment, maybe shuffled around a few times, so sleeping alone and in a new place can be positively terrifying for them. 

Just like with children, we no longer believe in self-soothing. There are studies now that show this can cause damage and it is better to simply tend to our dogs until they are old enough or comfortable enough to sleep independently or through the night.

If you are raising a dog who has been with you for some time or since puppyhood, not much needs to change here, unless you’re struggling.

Typical changes in sleep patterns and habits occur in adolescence and around season changes.

  • Some dogs get overheated at night and cry to be let out of their crate to sleep in a cooler spot
  • Some dogs emotionally or physically outgrow their crate and prefer to sleep on a dog bed or a cool floor
  • Some dogs are still not crate-trained or have a strong dislike for this level of confinement and need to sleep outside of it

You’ll have to assess the risk level to allowing your dog to sleep outside of a crate. A few alternatives: 

  • Let them sleep on the bedroom floor with the door closed or a baby gate up to block the rest of the home
  • Let them sleep on the same floor as you with a baby gate to the rest of the home
  • Let them sleep on the bed with you if that’s your preference
  • Let them sleep in the living room on a dog bed or on the couch

Either way, a loose dog needs a puppy-proofed and safe space where children cannot access them while you are sleeping. 

Sleeping near you will NOT cause separation anxiety later. There is no data that proves this…in fact, we do find that isolation when a puppy is young (under 4-6mo) can contribute to separation anxiety and other panic disorders. 

Can my new rescue dog sleep on my bed?

If you have a new rescue dog, sleeping on the bed right away is the least safe option as you do not know each other yet. Wait a few months before you take things to this level so that you can really learn about your dog and assess the risk. Many new rescues are fabulous in the first few weeks and then show signs of resource guarding or even sleep-aggression (aggression when woken from sleep) and that is not something you want to deal with! 

Same goes for a new rescue dog when you have school-age children in the home; kids often like to join parents in bed first thing in the morning, or come into the room in the middle of the night after a nightmare or when feeling unwell. This is often where new rescue dogs will be fine the first few times and then suddenly show aggression towards the kids when they come into the room or attempt to get onto the bed. A crate or penned area is safer when school-age kids are around. 

Here are some things you CAN do:

  • Be sure that you’ve done plenty of work with the crate before they are forced into it at night. Many rescues/fosters will claim the dog is crate-trained and you’ll be sorely mistaken when you bring them home. This is normal! 
  • Take your dog out for one last potty break before going into the crate or confinement area. 
  • Place the crate right beside your bed if possible – you can gradually move it away from the bed and out of the bedroom as your dog becomes more and more comfortable and independent.
  • If you live in a place that is a little noisier than where the dog was previously, consider using soft white noise to mute the environmental sounds and prevent noise sensitivities from developing. Not too loud or close to the crate! 
  • At first, if your dog fusses with minor whining, give it 30-60 seconds and if they settle and go to sleep, great! If they sound upset or frantic, speak quietly in a soothing tone and stick your fingers inside the crate so that they can feel you. 
  • If they are still upset after a couple minutes, you might have a dog who is not comfortable in the crate. This is where having a backup confinement area (LTCA) is key. An exercise pen and a soft bed (if they’re not chewers/ingesters of material) is a nice halfway point to full freedom. 
  • In the middle of the night or early morning, any vocalisations should be responded to immediately by getting up and taking them out for a potty break. New rescues often need to pee more often due to nerves from being in a new place with strangers.  
  • If it’s close to wakeup time, you can also pop them in the LTCA for the last little bit if they seem wide awake and ready to start their day. Some people even opt to sleep on the couch nearby until their dog learns to keep themselves busy for those early morning hours in the pen. This won’t last forever…you just have to get through the first few weeks. Over time you can push that time later and later until it’s your family’s wakeup time that your dog is adjusting to. Don’t expect that right away.

Here are some things to AVOID:

  • Avoid letting the dog sleep in a different room from yours, isolated from people if it causes them distress.
  • Avoid letting the dog sleep in the children’s rooms. 
  • Avoid letting the dog “cry it out”.
  • Avoid leaving anything edible (bully stick, pigs ear, bone) in the crate at night or when unsupervised.
  • Avoid smacking the crate, shaking cans of pennies, yelling at the dog, shushing them, or otherwise punishing them for fussing/vocalising. This will create a negative association with the crate, bedtime, and you. It will also teach your dog not to notify you when they are upset and potentially cause longer-term anxiety. 

Over time, they will start sleeping through the night and once they are, you can move the crate a foot or so away from the bed each week until your dog’s crate is in the ideal location for your household.  

But shouldn’t I let my dog cry it out? 

“Self Soothing” & “Cry It Out” are Neurologically Damaging. Click here to learn why: