Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
Yes, many puppies get cranky when tired, and this can cause them to get barky, mouthy, nippy and jumpy, and sometimes they may even act aggressively in certain circumstances.
Spared from the gift of voice, it's not like puppies can tell you that they are tired because it’s the end of a busy day, or because they weren't able to snooze when the kids were home after school running amok and screaming around the house!
So puppies just react by doing what comes instinctively to them: they get cranky and moody because they're overstimulated, yet tired and in dire need of a nap.
Defining Crankiness in Puppies
When puppies are tired, they demonstrate their tiredness through behavior changes, and turning cranky is often one of them. But before delving deeper into puppy crankiness, let's first define crankiness.
Crankiness in puppies may be described as the puppy becoming more irritable, overactive or demanding. Some owners describe their pups as having a "tantrum."
However, these are just labels subjected to personal interpretations. Rather than describing puppies through adjectives, it's far more productive defining crankiness by providing some examples of behaviors that may take place when a puppy is being described as "cranky."
Here are some possible behaviors observed in "cranky" puppies:
- Chewing everything
- Biting the leash
- Running around (zoomies)
- Demanding attention
- Acting hyperactive
Why Do Puppies Get Moody When Tired?
Puppies and young dogs can get overstimulated when they’re around too much noise or activity and they may struggle to relax.
Overstimulation is something that may occur when puppies are swamped by too much activity, either in excessive amounts or at levels of intensity that they may struggle to cope with.
For example, a new puppy can get unsettled after being introduced to and cuddled by a lot of different people. A young dog may also act cranky after spending several hours at daycare or following a walk to the city where he was exposed to a variety of stimuli.
"This can be equated to kids spending all day at an amusement park and then are unable to sleep because they are so wound up and cranky from all the excitement," explains Nan Arthur in her book Chill Out Fido!
Some puppies may particularly struggle with winding down. It's as if they had no "off button" and they can't relax even if they are feeling tired. Perhaps, like children, they don't recognize tiredness, very well. They don't know that their busy brain needs sleep to function. They just get overwhelmed.
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Some puppies may therefore fight the tired feeling simply because they'd rather be awake and playing. They may be trying to sleep one moment, and then paw at toys and get up to play the next.
It's almost as if by falling asleep, they have a fear of missing out (FOMO) and want to be in tune with everything that's happening in their surroundings.
Overstimulated puppies tend to eventually feel tired and overwhelmed. When this happens, they need quiet time in a familiar, calm environment.
While it's true that puppies thrive when being provided with a variety of activities and exposure to different stimuli, especially during the critical window of puppy socialization, it is also true that they need quiet time in predictable and familiar settings to feel secure enough to calm down and start to relax.
Why Do Puppies Need So Much Sleep?
Puppies are balls of energy, but their energy drains very fast. One moment the puppy is active and hyper, the next his batteries are emptied and his body is craving some sleep (although his mind may think otherwise!).
It is estimated that young puppies require around eighteen to twenty hours for sleep per day. This may sound a whole lot, but it makes a lot of sense once you understand that puppies do most of their growing while sleeping.
While humans take about fifteen years to grow, puppies generally do pretty much most of their growth in under a year. Astounding, no? In general, the larger the dog breed, the more months they spend in growing.
And how much they grow! With large and giant breeds, it may feel like they're putting on almost a pound every day!
Not to mention the fact that puppies go through growth spurts, specific times when they are actively growing and may crave more food and may want to sleep more than usual.
10 Ways to Reduce Crankiness in Tired Puppies
You can help your moody, cranky puppy by reducing stimulation so to help him settle down, relax and nap. You can do this by taking the following steps:
- Bring your puppy to a quiet place where they usually sleep (crate, exercise pen). Remember though that puppies being very social, are always happiest being near you.
- Remove access to overly stimulating toys.
- Encourage calming activities by offering snuffle mats, Licki-mats and food puzzles.
- Provide a chew toy or edible chew to gnaw on top of a mat/ dog bed (these can act as pacifiers).
- Talk to your puppy in a quiet, soothing tone of voice.
- Act calm. This will help your puppy calm down too.
- Close all curtains and blinds.
- Turn lights off (or place a blanket over the crate).
- Play calming music (like Through a Dog's Ear) so to cut down on any residual background noise.
- For young puppies, provide a shirt that smells like you or a soothing toy like SmartPetLove Snuggle Puppy Behavioral Aid Toy.
Helping Puppies Cope With Overstimulation
Young puppies don't have the ability to self-soothe and settle. This is a skill that takes time to master. Puppies, just like toddlers, will be reluctant to put themselves to bed unless you help them.
The amount of stimulation your puppy can tolerate will depend on various factors such as your puppy's individual temperament. Some puppies are capable of coping with stimulating environments better than others.
Let your puppy be the guide on how much stimulation he can take and watch him carefully for signs of struggling. When you notice signs of trouble, remember that the environment can influence his behavior. A change in the environment can evoke a change in your puppy's behavior.
Of course, these aren't major changes such as moving furniture around or changing the color of your wallpaper. You may only just need to make some minor adjustments (like removing access to overstimulating toys, dimming the lights or having your puppy take a break from being around children) as described above.
Puppies certainly benefit from being provided with quiet forms of entertainment (like brain games rather than over-the-top play which only perpetuates the cycle of high arousal play, followed by passing out to sleep). This provides your puppy a smoother transition and also teaches him how to occupy himself independently and calm himself down.
Last but not least, consider that sometimes puppies can get cranky due to medical issues. Perhaps, your puppy is teething and his gums are irritated and this makes him moodier or maybe he's having some tummy troubles or some sore joints. Certainly worthy of mentioning to the vet if something doesn't seem right.
Creating a Relaxing Environment
As you can see, puppies can struggle in settling down enough to relax and sleep. Like children, they may be reluctant to go to bed and you may have to enforce naps by placing them in the crate and providing a quiet environment.
While this can help the puppy relax and nap, it's still important to encourage calm behaviors out of the crate. You can do so by training your puppy to relax and lie on a mat, praising/rewarding your puppy for acting calm and encouraging calm activities rather than allowing your pup to associate the world outside the crate as a place for over-the-top super hyper behaviors.
By doing so, with time, as puppies mature, you'll start noticing that they may start to relax and fall asleep own their own even outside of their crates.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2021 Adrienne Farricelli
FlourishAnyway from USA on April 17, 2021:
How sweet! I could imagine that they do get overwhelmed and need help gaining emotional control again. I like your empathic description and your list of suggestions in how to handle. Some of them are similar to how to calm down an overexcited cat (or feral cat) -- for example, put a cover over their cage, make it quieter or remove them to a quiet location.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 16, 2021:
I like how you liken puppies to babies and toddlers. Winding down to take those naps or go to bed takes effort and consistency. Puppies do grow up fast!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 16, 2021:
Hi Devika, I agree, puppies are adorable at this age- even though they are very nippy and sometimes act like little monsters when they are tired! They are very fun to watch and teaching them good manners is rewarding. Time flies though... Puppyhood seems to always be too short, they grow so fast!
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 16, 2021:
Puppies are so cute when at that age. Your informative hub about cranky puppies is helpful. Points are useful and tells me all I need to know in this category of pups.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 16, 2021:
Hi Linda, yes, that cranky behavior in puppies is quite popular! Teething can sure have an impact. I sometimes foster/board multiple puppies and I can tell they are getting cranky when they start playing wild or get the zoomies.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 16, 2021:
Hi Pamela, glad to hear you enjoyed all the tips for helping cranky, moody puppies.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 15, 2021:
Some of my dogs displayed behaviours that you’ve described when they were puppies. If I get another puppy, I’ll follow your advice. Thank you for sharing it.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on April 15, 2021:
This is another good article about the personalities of dogs when they get tired, Adrienne. I like all of your ideas to treat crankiness in your tired dog. You always have such excellent suggestions.