a small brown dog lays under a blacket

a small brown dog lays under a blacket

Dear Crystal,

My dog sleeps in her crate at night. She’s quiet through the night, but barks every morning at 6am. I take her outside to potty right before bed. She’s started this early morning barking in the last few weeks. At first, I took her out, thinking she needed to potty. I put her right back in the crate when we came back in. Sometimes she continues to bark after she’s put back in the crate after pottying. I worry that I’ve already reinforced the barking by taking her out, even though I never take her out until she’s been quiet for a minute. Should I continue ignoring her barking in the morning? I work late nights and sleeping in just a bit longer would be much appreciated!

Sincerely,

Sleepy

 

Dear Sleepy,

This a question near and dear to my heart. I love to sleep. And my newest puppy went through several phases of waking up at times way too early. We are finally getting to the point where he waits for me to wake up before he wakes up. The time change has helped since it is darker for longer now. With a little effort and time, you should be able to help get your dog back on schedule.

My question would be if she is an adult dog, why does she need to go potty every 6am so desperately? You don’t mention your dog’s age. I just want to mention that puppies need to go out for frequently as well as senior dogs who have weaker bladders. If she is in the prime of her life, then she should be able to hold it past 6 am. It might be more of an attention seeking behavior but we need to rule something out first.

Any time a dog’s behavior changes suddenly, we want to make sure there is nothing medically wrong with the dog. Medical issues can often cause a dog to need to go to the bathroom more often. Many times, we find dogs have a UTI which can be cleared up after a vet visit and the problem goes away. If your dog hasn’t been to the vet recently, a vet visit is in order. If no medical concerns are found, we can move on to working on some tips.

First, make sure the dog’s sleeping environment is conducive to sleeping and staying asleep. As I mentioned, darkness tends to help dogs stay asleep longer. Consider hanging up some black out curtains on your windows. Cover her crate with a sheet. Play white noise so we can block out any noises which may be waking her up. Her crate should have a nice comfy bed in it.

It may be helpful to tweak her eating and potty schedule as well. You could try to feed her earlier than you normally would so that she has more time to relieve herself in between her last meal and her last potty break. You may also try to give her the last potty break a little bit later and at the last minute before you go to bed so that it will be less likely she is needing to potty right away in the morning. Be sure not to feed her first thing when you wake up either. Ideally, we are waiting an hour or more to feed in the morning. I have learned the hard way that if you feed as soon as your animals wake up, they become very insistent that you get up every morning at the same time if not earlier.

a grey dog plays with a stuffed pig toyYou may want to try giving her some additional exercise during the day and see if tiring her out more helps. You want to avoid exercising too late as that will amp her up. In general, give 2-3 hours after exercise to go to bed. Afterwards, consider some training exercises like mat training to get her in a relaxed state and ready for bed. Training has the added benefit of tiring the dog out as well because they are using their brain!

If you do think she still really needs to go potty every morning at 6am, you may just wake up right before that every morning before she gets a chance to bark, take her out to potty, put her back in the crate and then ignore any further barking. At that point, you know she doesn’t need to go potty. You might want some noise cancelling headphones or white noise machines for yourself to get through this phase. It is critical that you ignore all barking and stay in bed.

You can try to train your dog to wake up later in addition to the aforementioned tips. It may not be a lot of fun in the beginning but it will pay off in the end. If she normally wakes up at 6am then start by setting your alarm clock for 5:50 to let her out. Setting the alarm is an important part of this routine because it needs to become the cue for her that you all are waking up. Dogs are very attuned to their environment and use environmental cues to know when things are happening. This is why dogs know when we are supposed to come home, fed them, walk them etc. The next week set the alarm at 6 am and let her out. Each week gradually increase the time until you are at the time you wish to be at.

I hope these tips are helpful and get you back to sleeping. It’s a wonderful day when you wake up and realize your dog let you sleep until you wanted to wake up! Good luck and happy training!

Until next time,

Crystal

 

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