Features May 2010 Issue

My Dog Wakes Up Too Early!

Five things to do when your dog wakes you up too early – every day!

Those last few minutes of sleep before the alarm goes off are a treasured sanctuary where we hide in dreams before the reality of the world intrudes. Few dog owners appreciate their canine pals robbing them of those golden moments. But some dogs seem to have an uncanny knack for anticipating the alarm by 15 or 20 minutes, and manage to routinely do just that.

Is your dog a “morning person” – and you wish she were not? Make sure you don’t inadvertently reinforce her early morning activity by feeding or playing with her until you are ready to get up.

Of course, puppy owners expect to be awakened by their baby dogs – or they should. It’s unreasonable to think a young puppy can make it through the night without a potty break. Crated or otherwise appropriately confined, even an eight-week-old puppy will normally cry when his bowels and bladder need emptying, rather than soil his own bed. When this happens you must get up and take your pup out to poop and pee, and then immediately return him to his crate so he doesn’t learn to wake you up for a wee-hours play or cuddle session.

Adult dogs, however, barring a health problem, should wait for you to get up rather than pushing back your wake-up time in eager anticipation of breakfast, or other morning activities. If your grown-up dog has made it his mission to make sure you’re never late for work (or breakfast) by waking you up every morning before your alarm does, try this:

1.) Rule out medical conditions. Make sure your dog doesn’t have a legitimate reason for getting up early. If he has a urinary tract infection or digestive upset, or some other medical issue that affects his elimination habits or otherwise makes him uncomfortable, he may have to go out 30 minutes before you normally get up to let him out.

2.)Tire him out the night before. A tired dog is a well-behaved happy dog, and a late sleeper. Exercise uses up much of the energy that he presently can’t wait to wake you up with – and also releases endorphins, which regulate mood, producing a feeling of well-being. Tiredness promotes sleeping in, and endorphins help reduce anxieties that may play a role in his early-bird activities.

3.)Feed him earlier/ better; make “last call” later. Increase the time between your dog’s last meal and his last bathroom opportunity to minimize the chance that he’s waking you up because he really has to go. It only takes a few “I really have to go” mornings to set an early-riser routine, especially when rising is reinforced with, “Well, we’re up now, no point in going back to bed . . . here’s your breakfast!” Don’t forget that high-quality diets are more digestible, which reduces fecal output, which reduces early-morning urgency.

4.)Reduce stimuli in the bedroom. The less there is to awaken your dog, the less likely he is to awaken you. Close the drapes. Turn off the television. Turn on a white noise machine or soft classical music. Cover his crate. He is crated, isn’t he? If not, restricting his movement is a simple way of preventing him from pouncing on you at 5:30 am. If he doesn’t crate well, perhaps you can use a baby gate to keep him in the bathroom off your bedroom.

5.)Train him to sleep in. If these management solutions alone don’t work, you may be able to train him to sleep later. If your normal wake up time is 6:30 am and he consistently wakes you at 6:15, for one week set your alarm for 6:05. For the second week, set it for 6:10. Do not get up before the alarm goes off (unless you’re pretty sure he has an urgency problem)! This will condition him to the sound of the alarm as his cue to wake up.

Each week set the alarm forward five more minutes, until you’re at your desired wake-up time. It might take you a few weeks to get there, but it’s gloriously simple, and it works. Unless you have young children who starting running through the house at 5:00 am, or garbage trucks start rumbling and banging down your street every morning at 5:30 – in which case all bets are off!

Pat Miller, CPDT, is WDJ’s Training Editor.

Comments (5)

That's fine and dandy, but what if your dog wakes up too late? My dog's preferred wakeup time is somewhere between 11am-noon. She's three years old and the vet says everything medical is fine. Her clock just seems to be shifted-- she'll come to me wanting to play at 10pm, when I'm getting ready to go to bed.

Posted by: shelbyt | May 17, 2014 1:46 PM    Report this comment

My lady Basset Hound has been waking up anything between 2 and 4 in the morning. She's been doing this for probably a month now. She's always slept in the room with us but this is very disruptive and we are at our wits end. She used to sleep on the bed when she was a puppy but we changed that since Bassets tend to have back problems so jumping on and off is really bad for her. She's always woken up a little early but then she's just get on the bed for that last hour and sleep quietly. We now have a really high bed so she can't get up even if she wanted to. She wakes up, walks around and then jumps up the side of the bed at my husband and I's side until one of us wakes up.

So then we started putting her outside our room (in the rest of the house) when she woke up but she wreaks havoc and has started peeing inside the house when we do this. If I go out with her to the living room she's more than happy to sleep again as long as I am with her.

I am at a loss. Please help.

Posted by: Unknown | September 21, 2013 11:32 PM    Report this comment

My dog wakes up at dawn and has for the 8 years of his little pug life. Doesn't matter how I try to change it. . . it has to do with the light. Dawn. Or 30 minutes before. If I let him sleep with me it is better but he still wakes up. . .and stares at me which wakes me up. . .or licks my nose. Playing possum works. . .but if my breathing pattern changes he's onto me. I get more sleep in the winter time. haha. . . .less at the beach when the light comes up earlier. He sleeps in the laundry room now. . .door closed. . .with a French Bulldog ( he's not lonely) so he howls and beats at the door until someone comes. The Frenchie is quiet. . .go figure.

Posted by: fred2010 | November 26, 2012 1:47 PM    Report this comment

Fortunately not a problem at my house. My dogs are awake as soon as I am, but if I'm just getting up for a bathroom break and go back to bed, so do they. My mini poodle sleeps on the bed with me - he's a 'spooner' and is always curled up next to me. My Cattle Dog sleeps on the couch in the living room, although she stays on the bed until I'm done reading and turn out the light. They do have their routines and will go to bed on time even if we stay up later!

Posted by: Rainbear | May 3, 2012 7:18 PM    Report this comment

This is all great except one very important thing was missed. When your dog starts to wake you up you must play dead. Don't talk to her, don't open your eyes, don't change your breathing; just lay there as if you were still asleep undisturbed. You might even breathe heavier as if in a deep sleep. Lay completely still. By doing this you are completely shutting off your body language and energy and it may take a couple of minutes but your dog will match your energy. Be patient. It works.

jill breitner aka SheWhisperer

Posted by: jill b | May 3, 2012 9:28 AM    Report this comment

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