Welcoming a new puppy into the family is a fun, and exciting occasion, but it can also be a frustrating one sometimes, as both dog and pet parents adjust to living one another and the puppy makes the transition from tiny fluff ball to adult dog.
One of the things that can be most frustrating is trying to get a puppy to sleep (much as it is with a human baby.) Not only do pet parents want a break sometimes, but they also often worry that their puppy won't grow up strong and healthy if he does not get all the restorative rest he needs.
One of the ways you can help your puppy sleep, especially at night when everyone else is (trying) to sleep too is by finding her the best dog toys to send her to sleep.
That is a part of what we are looking at today, along with the reasons why certain dog toys can be so helpful at this time and how to get your dog used to sleeping in her crate in general.
What is a Behavioral Aid Toy, and Why Would a Puppy Need One?
Maybe you have heard the term behavioral dog toy and never understood what it meant.
Maybe you've bought a toy labelled this way for an adult dog but not a puppy. Maybe you have never heard of behavioral dog toys at all (likely if this is your first experience raising a pup).
Whatever the case may be before you consider buying one it's helpful to understand what they are and what they have to offer to help a growing young pup.
The term behavioral dog toy refers to any dog toy that can help correct an undesirable behavior and/or encourage 'good' new ones.
These toys can help distract chew happy dogs from destroying your home out of boredom, help encourage a dog walk better, help them learn more complex obedience training concepts and, in the case of a puppy, soothe them to sleep.
The class of behavioral dog toys that any pet parents have found most helpful when trying to soothe a restless - sometimes crying and distraught - puppy to sleep are dog toys with 'heartbeats'.
These are not as gruesome as they might sound (as we'll explore in a moment) and we simply mean dog toys that have a mechanism that mimics a heartbeat!
Why are these toys so great for restless puppies?
When a puppy arrives in your home it is usually not too long since they left their mother. They have been used to sleeping curled up with her, and having her warmth and heartbeat soothe them into a secure feeling sleep.
Once that is no longer the case it's little wonder that a puppy struggles to get to sleep sometimes.
Even if they love their new home and their exciting new family, along with all the new fun experiences and yummy treats they are enjoying sleeping 'alone' can be very scary for a puppy but having a soft, soothing toy to cuddle up to can really help, especially if it has a 'heartbeat' that reminds them, subconsciously at the very least, of sleeping securely with their mom.
The Best Heartbeat Toys for Puppies
There are lots of options - more than you might imagine before you begin shopping - if you are looking for a dog toy with a heartbeat to help your puppy get a better night's sleep (and maybe you too.)
And while many are very good, here's a look at four that we have found to be particularly so and worthy of inclusion on a shortlist of the best dog toys with a heartbeat.
1. Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Dog Toy
This cute toy was one of the first to make use of heartbeat technology and has been on the market for over two decades.
At first the toy simply looks like any other cute stuffed toy. It too is a 'dog' and has soft brown 'fur' and big cute eyes. The secret to its soothing powers however is the small electronic heart hidden in a pocket in its belly.
The 'heart' - which is powered by two AAA batteries - can be set to beat for up to 24 hours a day for two weeks on a single set of batteries, or programmed in shorter bursts (6-8hours is often ideal).
The toy also comes along with a reusable heat pack that can be placed alongside the heart to help create an even more comforting 'replica' of a puppy's mom, something that may be especially useful when trying to soothe a very young puppy to sleep.
- Pros: ofers both heartbeat and heat functions to better replicate sleeping with mom, programmable and adjustable, tried and tested by pet parents for over twenty years
- Cons: some pet parents report that their lively puppy chewed the toy up very quickly
2. ALL FOR PAWS AFP Sheep Pet Behavioral Aid Toy Plush Toy
This very plush toy resembles a friendly sheep and it has two 'hearts' and therefore two heartbeats.
The mechanical pulsing hearts are powered by cell batteries (the kind you use in watches) and while it does not feature a standard heat pack it does boast a microwave warmed lavender sachet.
Lavender is proven to help animals and humans relax and so it can add an extra soothing mechanism to calm an anxious pup down.
- Pros: a very fluffy and soft toy, two heartbeats so that a puppy feels it however they snuggle with the toy, makes use of aromatherapy, via a lavender sachet - to help soothe anxious puppies even more.
- Cons: some pet parents complained about short battery life, stating that the cell batteries needed to be replaced after just a few nighttime uses.
3. PetZu Heartbeat Pillow
This, as its name suggests, is a pillow rather than a classic dog toy, but as an addition to your puppy's crate it can not only add a soothing heartbeat but also extra sleeping comfort in general.
The pillow comes along with both a removable heartbeat mechanism and a microwavable reusable heat pack.
The heartbeat simulator is powered by two AAA batteries and the pillow is machine washable, so that the soft fleece stays clean and comfortable.
The mechanism is programmable and can be set to run for up to 12 hours at a time.
- Pros: pillow design adds an extra comfortable sleeping surface for pups to enjoy, heartbeat can be programmed to pulse for up to 12 hours at a time, pillow cover is machine washable.
- Cons: some pet parents reported that they found the heartbeat sound to be too loud.
4. Moropaky Puppy Heartbeat Toy Puppy Bed Mat for Anxiety Relief
This super cute mat resembles a thick plush blanket, but it has a puppy's 'head' attached to serve as an extra pillow. It's also generously sized so can accommodate even larger puppies with relative ease.
The heartbeat simulator, which is tucked into the center of the mat, is powered by three triple AA batteries and can be turned on and off via an easy to press button on the side of the mat.
- Pros: large mat that can accommodate bigger breed puppies with ease, machine washable, can run for as long as you need it too, won't turn off while your puppy is sleeping.
- Cons: some pet parents said their very small puppy looked 'lost' on the larger sized mat.
How to Make a Puppy Stop Crying at Night in 5 Steps
A crying puppy can not only be very distressing to see and listen to but she can disturb the whole house's sleep as well, not a great thing when you have to get up for work or school in the morning.
So how can you stop a puppy crying at night?
Try these five steps, as most puppy parents find them to be effective:
Some pet parents are tempted to soothe their puppy by taking her to bed with them, but that is not ideal.
Instead, invest in a good, appropriately sized dog crate when they come home and begin crate training early.
To help get your puppy used to the crate feed her her meals there instead of outside on the floor.
It helps if you choose an easy to clean flooring for the crate though as puppies can be messy eaters!
When it's time for bed give your puppy her soothing toy - see our list for some excellent options - give her a small treat and a goodnight pet and then close the crate door and walk away.
She may very well cry at first, but stay tough!
If your pup continues to cry- again this is tough - much as you would with a human baby let her cry. If she has a soothing toy and is warm and comfy usually she will eventually soothe herself to sleep.
Repeat the process every night. Most pet parents find that their puppy goes to sleep faster and faster every night until it becomes second nature.
If however despite your best efforts your puppy still won't stop whining and crying at night take her for a check up at the vet to not only rule out any physical problem but also to get some additional expert advice on how you might help her (and the rest of the household) sleep better.
Puppy Crate Training FAQs
As we mentioned above, ideally a puppy should sleep in a crate.
However, if you have never crate trained a dog before it can be an intimidating experience.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions pet parents have about the process and some answers we hope you'll find helpful.
1. When (what age) to start crate training a puppy?
Most breeders start crate training their puppies at eight weeks old.
If your puppy came from a breeder you may find that they are used to a crate already, but if not when they first come into your home, provided they are at least that age, is an ideal time.
A puppy younger than eight weeks should ideally not be away from their mother, and if yours is younger you should consult with a vet about all aspects of their care, including their sleeping arrangements.
2. Puppy crate training – how long the first night?
Just as is the case for parents of a human baby ideally, you'd like for your puppy to sleep all night in their crate right away. The chances are that this is not going to happen.
There is no real set time limit for how long you should try to make an anxious puppy stay in their crate for the first night though.
A good rule of thumb?
If they seem very distressed and you've given the whole thing a good try the best course of action may be letting the puppy sleep where she likes and then trying again tomorrow night.
If still in doubt, here's what some experts recommend:
- The Humane Society of the United States of America recommends no more than 3-4 hours at a time for puppies under 6 months old
- Here are more specific guidelines recommended by SPCA (San Francisco):
- 8~10 weeks – 1 hour
- 11~12 weeks – 2 hours
- 13-16 weeks – 3 hours
- 20 weeks and up – 4 hours
3. How long does crate training a puppy take?
There is no set timetable for crate training.
Some puppies get used to the idea very quickly, in just a few days, while for others it may be several weeks before they sleep through the night in their 'bed'. You might consider investing a calming dog bed to help your pup rest at night.
4. What toys are good for puppies when crate training?
Heartbeat toys like the ones on our list can be a big help.
They simulate sleeping with Mom and many puppies find that comforting enough that they drift off to sleep easily, even in their new crate.
5. When crate training a puppy where should the crate be?
Ideally the crate should be some place where your pup can be separate, but close to, the rest of the household and provide them their own space.
A bedroom is not an ideal spot as even a very young puppy will see and understand that their humans are right there and won't settle in their crate to sleep when a warm human bed is just feet away.
6. How long should I let my puppy cry when crate training?
Some might say as long as you can stand.
Ideally you should not run to your puppy as son as they start to cry but if the crying goes on and on, and toys aren't helping, it's better to let them out and try again a different day.
Don't let this become a habit though, consult with your vet if your pup is struggling to sleep, as they will be able to offer you individualized suggestions for your unique pup that should help.
Have you tried any of these behavioral aid toys to help your puppy sleep through the night? We love hearing your feedback.