7 Signs Of An Overtired Puppy


Have you recently bought a puppy?

Sales of puppies (and how much they cost) have gone through the roof in 2020 because of the Corona virus lockdown.

And are you now familiar enough with your new addition that you recognise that there are times when your puppy’s behaviour seems to change in an instant?!

A Jekyll and Hyde transformation as they switch from a bundle of joy into a whirling dervish?!

Most probably this change is because you have an overtired puppy on your hands.

And in today’s post, I discuss the signs or symptoms of an exhausted puppy and I offer some tips to help you to cope better when one of them makes an appearance in your home!

What are the signs of an overtired puppy?

To tell you the truth, there are so many signs and symptoms for a puppy that is overtired that it is hard to know where to start.

And in a way it makes no sense to list them individually because they are all very closely related.

And in the case of our overtired puppy all of these signs could happen in the space of a very few short minutes.

[1] Biting

Let’s start with one of the classic signs- biting.

Out of nowhere, your puppy just starts biting you.

A fractious puppy will bite any part of your body that they can get hold of- your hands, your ankles or even your ears if you are cuddling them.

And  let’s be honest, this biting hurts.

Young puppies especially have razor sharp milk teeth that will make you catch your breath. 

[2] Stops listening

Closely linked to the point that I made above.

Biting and nipping is a fairly common behaviour in puppies.

But an overtired puppy will keep nipping at you even after you have told it to stop- no matter how many times that you repeat yourself. 

[3] Never settling or lacking focus

Our third symptom of a puppy that is definitely overtired is their inability to settle. 

This might take the form of a puppy who paces for a bit, then sits or lies down only to get up again a few seconds later to pace a bit more.

If you are sitting down, then odds on that your puppy will be pacing fairly close to where you are.

If you are moving around then your puppy’s pacing will take the form of stalking you, following everywhere and getting under your feet.

Sometimes this pacing is something that your puppy will do independently

[4] Chewing

This is a good one. 

A puppy who is tired might chew one of their toys or one of your shoes as if their life depended on it or as if they were in some chewing race. 

[5] Barking or growling

The good news is that they aren’t nibbling your ear but the bad news is that they have found their voice.

And. They. Want. Your. Attention!

With any luck your exhausted puppy will just whine quietly but that is unlikely!

Normally puppies will mix it up with a bit of barking and whining all rolled into one.

They are determined to catch your eye.

It seems that it would be impossible to make this toxic mix of barking and whining any worse, until you find yourself in a house with no carpets and then the noise goes through you… 

[6] Panting

It might come as a result of all of that pacing or just because your dog’s tongue is as out of control as the rest of their body, but another classic sign of a puppy that needs their sleep is when they start to pant.

And, if you can, just make sure that they have fresh water in their drinking bowl. 

[7] Lips licking

I have read quite a bit about dogs licking their lips and it seems that dogs lick their lips when they aren’t happy.

And I have definitely seen this with my own dogs who slowly lick their lips as we do horrible things to them like clean out their ears or cut out a matted tangle of fur from their coat. 

It is also a sign that your puppy needs some much needed “shut eye”

Why is being overtired bad for a puppy?

There are a few reasons why you don’t want your puppy to be overtired too often.

Firstly, it is “unhealthy” because they are missing out on sleep- which is where all the magic happens.

I explain a bit more about this later on.

Secondly, and I think more importantly, overtiredness is unhealthy because of the strain that it places on the relationship between a puppy and their owners.

Exhausted puppies, like exhausted toddlers, are much harder work.

An owner needs more patience and experiences less joy dealing with such a puppy.

If this happens too often, it will place much more strain on the relationship.

Which is why you need a plan to stop your puppy from becoming overtired…

How to calm an overtired puppy?

Your plan requires two parts.

Part 1

The first part is to create a routine which minimises the risk of your puppy becoming too exhausted too often.

It will have the right balance of meal times, exercise, training and rest periods. 

And the key with an overtired puppy is normally rest periods- they aren’t getting enough to sleep.

This can be partly because puppies have very little self control because they are so young and immature.

They don’t know when they have had enough and when it is time to head for a quiet corner for some “zzzz’s”.

But it can also be partly the owner’s fault. 

Puppies are so cute and totally gorgeous and it is sometimes hard to stop interacting with them because we are infatuated by them.

And all of this addiction leads to an exhausted puppy, who is “running on fumes”. 

We forget that sometimes it is in a puppy’s best interest to be ignored so that they can switch off. 

Part 2

And the second part of the plan is for when (for whatever reason) your routine hasn’t worked- or it has gone to pot!

There is a puppy at your feet who is beside themselves- they are so tired that they don’t know what to do.

And you just need a quick set of instructions to get your puppy from point “grumpy” to point “sleepy”- as quickly as possible.

And the way to do this is to be as quiet and calm as possible.

Take your puppy to their favourite place to sleep and if necessary gently stroke them as they are laying down.

Make sure that there is no one else around and that the space is as quiet as possible- silence is even better. 

If you need to, talk quietly to them but otherwise don’t say a word.

As soon as they are asleep, stop stroking them, move away and let them be. 

How much sleep does a puppy need?

As a general rule of thumb, puppies will sleep between 18 to 20 hours in any twenty four hour period. 

Adult dogs tend to need around 12- 14 hours per day. 

Like young babies, puppies need much more sleep because there is so much developing and growing to be done. 

Why is sleep important for puppies?

It wasn’t that long ago that everyone looked down on sleep.

Needing too much sleep was seen as a sign of weakness.

Oh how things change.

Now we are beginning to realise how important it is for all of us- including dogs.

The number of in depth studies into how dogs sleep and the benefits that they get from it is very, very limited.

However, we do a little bit about how puppies sleep. 

This trial  compared the sleeping patterns of 4 month old puppies to one year old dogs.

And they found that four month old puppies sleep more during the day and less at night than one year old dogs.

Whereas the puppies tended to sleep in crates, the older dogs tended to sleep on dog beds. 

Most of the dogs in either age category slept in a room where there were no people. 

This study showed that dogs who have their sleep interrupted perform worse in simple tasks compared to dogs whose sleep wasn’t interrupted.

And finally this trial showed how sleep helps dogs to remember new skills better.

James Grayston

My name is James and I love dogs. have owned four Golden Retrievers in the past 15 years. Currently I own two "Goldies"- a five year old and a seven month old. The photo shows me with our youngest when she was about 7 weeks old!