Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Throughout the years we have heard a number of comparisons between raising puppies and parenting a human baby.
People tell us, “Having a puppy is just like having a newborn all over again!” Perhaps you have had a baby and are now considering a puppy but wonder just how true all these comparisons are. Which is actually harder? And can you really go through all those sleepless nights again?
Or perhaps the opposite is true and you are wondering if your puppy-rearing was a good test for true parenthood!
In this article we explore just how true some of these baby and puppy comparisons are in order to help shed some light on exactly what raising a puppy is like.
Raising a Puppy or a Baby Will Cause Sleepless Nights
The first and most common comparison we hear is about those sleepless nights. The babies win this one hands down! Newborn babies need to eat around the clock every two to three hours. After feeding, changing baby’s diaper, and rocking him back to sleep, a parent may hardly get the chance to go back to sleep before baby wakes again and the cycle starts over.
When you get your puppy at around 8 weeks of age, he or she is already weaned and is able to go through the night without needing to eat — that’s quite a difference from a human newborn! However, the comparison gets made because most 8 week old puppies will need a bathroom break in the middle of the night.
Also, if you are crate-training your puppy, you can expect that he or she may whine (quite loudly) for the first few nights. While every puppy is different, on average we find a pup may protest in his crate for a while, but generally settles down and sleeps for a five hour stretch before becoming restless again and likely needing a potty break. We have many tips on how to get your pup to settle in his crate.
Another key difference is that while you may have to listen to some whining before your pup settles into a sleep and get up with him for a potty break in the middle of the night, this phase of getting up with your pup is generally much shorter than the phase of getting up with a newborn baby throughout the night.
Most puppies have accepted their crate and are able to sleep a solid 6-8 hour stretch within 4 weeks of coming home. Some smaller breed pups may take a little longer to be able to make it through the night without needing a potty break. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for human babies to still be waking at night 4 months after coming home (if not longer)!
Nap Schedules for Puppies vs Babies
One comparison that we as breeders and trainers find helpful is the similarities between babies and puppies when it comes to needing naps. Every parent knows that if given the choice, your older baby will fight sleep in order to stay up and keep playing and exploring the world! But as most parents can attest, it is of critical importance to help your baby settle down for a nap even if he/she does not want to in order to avoid the overtired-crankies!
Believe it or not, puppies can get a serious case of the over-tired-crankies, too! An overtired pup can be a lot like an overtired toddler — they can become forgetful about their obedience and become more frenzied in their play. Often an increase in biting, jumping, etc. can be a sign the pup has reached a frenzied state of over-exhaustion. Hence, why keeping your pup on a schedule can be very important!
Puppies generally need at least 18 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period. That helps those puppy owners who work full-time. Usually they are ready to tucker out after an hour of activity and play time. Naps are generally 30 minutes to 2 hours. These are all very rough averages and every puppy is different, so pay attention to your puppies cues.
If you have established a good crate-training rhythm, then puppy nap time will be easy—he will know that his crate is a safe, resting place and you can simply place him in his crate when it’s time for him to nap.
This is another key difference between puppies and babies. You can safely leave a puppy unattended (provided he is confined in a safe, puppy-proofed area). Being able to have some space and a break when you need it without having to call in a babysitter makes puppy-rearing easier than parenthood when it comes to the parents’ sanity!
Choking Hazards Are Causes for Concerns When Raising a Puppy or Child
During their first year, puppies and babies are similar in their primary goal of life: explore the world! When it comes to babies, parents know that it is their responsibility to keep the baby’s space safe and removing any small toys or other dangerous items as babies explore everything by putting it in their mouth.
The same holds true for puppies. (Learn how to puppy proof your home here.) Puppies are perhaps even more fiercely determined than babies to put new or interesting items in their mouths as this is their main way to explore the world.
As your pup gets older, you can set about teaching him which items are appropriate for his mouth and which are not. However, at only 8 weeks of age, he is developmentally hard-wired for chewing and biting everything he sees so it is important to be patient with him and to puppy-proof your house accordingly.
Not only is putting different items in their mouths a way for both babies and puppies to explore the world, but it can also be a way to soothe teething pain. Both babies and puppies show an uptick in biting and chewing whatever they can get their hands (or paws!) on when they are growing new teeth. For your puppy, this will be around 12 weeks as his baby teeth begin to fall out and his permanent teeth are growing in! So do not be surprised if you notice even more biting and chewing at around this age.
Raising a Puppy vs Raising a Baby - Both Are Hard Work
In conclusion, there are quite a few similarities between puppies and human babies! Puppies and babies are curious, playful, and watching the world unfold through their eyes can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Both puppies and babies require patience and consistent training. Their main focus is on exploring and playing — learning rules is of a much lower priority to their rapidly developing brains! Still, your patience and care for them will be well-rewarded as you watch them grow and learn.
The biggest difference is that puppies develop much faster than their human counterparts. So while you may experience similar frustrations when it comes to certain developmental stages such as sleepless nights and teething, these frustrations will more quickly resolve with your pup!
By the time he is a year old, your puppy will be fully grown (or very close to it) and if you have been consistent with training, he will be potty trained, crate trained, and know the basic house rules. We can’t say the same for one year old humans!
Jenna and the JLDD Team