My Dog Wakes Up Too Early!

5 things to do when your dog wakes up too early.

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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 it when their dog wakes up too early, 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.

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, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, is WDJ’s Training Editor.

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WDJ's Training Editor Pat Miller, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, grew up in a family that was blessed with lots of animal companions: dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, goats, and more, and has maintained that model ever since. She spent the first 20 years of her professional life working at the Marin Humane Society in Marin County, California, for most of that time as a humane officer and director of operations. She continually studied the art and science of dog training and behavior during that time, and in 1996, left MHS to start her own training and behavior business, Peaceable Paws. Pat has earned a number of titles from various training organizations, including Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA). She also founded Peaceable Paws Academies for teaching and credentialing dog training and behavior professionals, who can earn "Pat Miller Certified Trainer" certifications. She and her husband Paul and an ever-changing number of dogs, horses, and other animal companions live on their 80-acre farm in Fairplay, Maryland.

12 COMMENTS

  1. I will try setting the alarm. The problem is he is waking me at 4:30. If I don’t get up and feed him right away he barks and we are in an apartment. Once I feed him I can occasionally go back to bed but then he whines. If I get up he doesn’t need to go out–he settles down as long as I am up. During the school year I am ok with 5:30 or 6 but this getting me up in the 4 o”clock hour is something new. He is 9 and is a great dog. He is not very ambitious. Once he does his business outside he plants his four feet and will not go any farther unless I have turned around and headed home. He is been to the vet and nothing seems to wrong.

    • So what did you ever do to correct this? Our two luving 10 year olds sleep with us and keep waking up at 4am every morning! I have just stopped feeding them at 4. I let them go out, back in, and then I just go back to bed (and they don’t get to get back in the bed). But I am trying to find out how to successfully push their wakeup time back to say 6am. I am working on greatly improving my health, so along with drastically improving my nutrition, I am trying to get more sleep but my pooches are making this impossible. They are healthy, spoiled, 10 year old dogs. My Boston Ter is almost completely blind due to cataracts. The Shih Tzu has no issues. If I can only get them to sleep in!!

  2. Have you had him to the vet, Vaughan? I ask as sometimes changes like this can mean the dog is getting a little confused as he gets older. Canine Cognitive dysfunction (like human dementia) can sometimes be a cause, but maybe the vet can help you rule out whether it’s health or something else.

  3. My puppies are killing my husband and I. They are are about 10.5 months old (one is two weeks younger than the other), so they should be able to give us 8 hours of peace. But no. The younger puppy, female, will pee in her crate if we’re not scrupulous about how much water she has in the evening and how late last call is. So when she starts crying in the morning, we’ve generally let her out immediately. Well, now she and other pup have decided that 5 am is a great time to get up (45 minutes before I need to get up). She’ll start crying and the other puppy will start barking (and he has a bark that will test your sanity), and sometimes one of the adults will join in. Thus everyone morning we have a 5 am cacophony. And it turns out the girl pup may not have to go desperately, as she’ll wait for me to let the other one out so they can get started with the day’s wrestling matches. We are at wits end. We’ve started to just let them carry on for as long as we can stand it, in hopes of shifting their expectation of going out until 6 am.

  4. I have three dogs, all very different breeds, and the one on my bed starts moving around at around 5:30 AM. I move my feet and Tell her to go. She goes into the living and climbs on the couch. But is she really needs to go out to pee, she keeps returning so I know it’s potty time. I throw open the back door and go back to sleep for an hour.
    Somehow all three of my dogs seem to know that one visit to my bedroom in the middle of the night or very early morning will not get a reaction, but several quick visits or a whine (my chow stomps her feet which is beyond cute) means the dog must go out at that time, and I respond.
    What can I say? I am well trained.

  5. I have two 8 month of pups one is a Standard Poodle and the other is a Newfoundland. the SPOO will stay asleep as long as I am, but the Newf wants up and out of the house between 3:30-5 every morning. We tried feeding her late and putting her to be late but never fails between 3:30-5 she will wake up. Now this gets even sillier, when she barks enough that I get up to let her out she goes to the bathroom and immediately goes for a swim in the pool, now she can’t come in. Now do I need to leash her to go to the bathroom in my (her) own back yard so as to be able to come back in the house… confused tired as a dog.. have to get some sleep..

  6. I think I’ll try the alarm idea. We’re lots of birds in our area and in summer they start singing about 3.55pm atm… Not a problem usually for us and our older dog but then we got a puppy – he’s now almost 2 however. He was from a farm and seems programmed to awake me at first bird song … ugh! So in winter we sleep well and summer not. I miss my sleep and think I can help to reprogram his wake up with a ‘bird song’ alarm like at 6.30am! He’s not in a crate however I’ll look at this also. I genuinely think he sees it as his job to get me up with the birds. He doesn’t need to eat or potty.

  7. We have adopted a 3 year old Shih Tzu in February of 2019, she has adapted well to our home and us and has me wrapped completely around her paw. She had been hit by a car and ended up with a fractured pelvis and ribs, the healing process prior to us getting her was on it’s way and she has no residual at this date, she has been seen by a vet and her early rising does not seem to be related to any of that. She eats at 5 pm and wakes me up EVERYDAY at 5 am. Once she goes out in the morning and is fed, she curls up on the couch next to me and sleeps, I am wide awake and am not someone who once awake can go back to sleep. Should I move the times I feed her to 6 pm and 6 am, I would be grateful for just one more hour of sleep.

  8. walk her late and feed her late. We had same problem that started after 5 months, usually up at 6 am, then she got up at 3 am and we have tried and tried everything. We also have a cage to put her in, but a 70LB lab will shake that cage and keep you up. Our mistake was allowing her to sleep outside the cage when she would go to sleep next to us.

  9. Our yorkie is 5 months old & sleeps in a crate. She is waking me up at 5:/5 now every morning. After being outdoors to pee she then wants to play expecting me to throw toys. I want to go back to bed. How do I get her to stay sleeping at least till 6:30?

  10. We are a 3 dog family, One tolerant 9 yr old Aussie and 2 Golden Pups, 2 weeks apart 13 wks, 11 wks. The Aussie sleeps in her bed outside of our bedroom and we are separately crate training the goldens. One sleeps in my daughters room and the other further down the hall in our room. Wallen, who is in my daughters room, barks every morning between 4am-5am. My daughter tries to ignore the pup, but Willow, who is in my room hears the barks and starts to whine. The orchestra begins! We all try and ignore, but it is challenging as everyone needs to sleep so we all take turns around 5a-5:30a to get up and tend to the puppy play and rough housing. We hold off feeding so that they don’t associate waking immediately with feeding. But the mayhem continues. Poop and peeing happens before bed and they both pups sleep through the night. Question is do we just appreciate they sleep from 10P – 4A+?, or Do we wake both up in the middle of the night to maybe pee, and try to go back to sleep? Or do we continue to try and ignore with the hopes they get up an hour later? Is it even worth it?

  11. Help we are desperate for some sleep. We have 2 cocker spaniels a 3 year old who loves his sleep. Puts himself to bed about 9 pm and sleeps until we get up. Belle is our 1 year old and driving us to distraction! She wakes between 5 to 5.15 every morning. She whines, barks and howls. We live in a terrace house so I worry about her disturbing our neighbours. She is put up the garden with very little inter reaction. If I go back to bed she starts again and will start destroying things. She is still not dry especially at night if she isn’t crated. We are at the end of tether where have We gone wrong in tears writing this

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