Features May 2010 Issue

My Dog Wakes Up Too Early!

5 things to do when your dog wakes you up before you need to be up.

[Updated January 4, 2019]

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.

My Dog Wakes Up Too Early

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

Comments (18)

My dog wakes up about 2 hours early many mornings & barks & barks until we come in & let her out of her crate. She loves her crate & will even sleep there willingly when worn out & has a comfy bed, but the crate doesn't fit in the bedroom so it's in the living room. When she gets let out of her crate, it's play time! No need to pee or eat for at least an hour, she's like the energizer bunny running around with her toys and bringing me balls, while I sit on the couch in a daze half the time. If I leave her to play & go back to sleep she'll just bark & bark. I think maybe getting it totally dark would help but because of how our windows are in that room it's just not possible. It's not a noise issue I don't think. She's just too excited to start the day. What do I do?! Hire a 5am dog walker?!

Posted by: Fairy Dogmother | August 7, 2018 7:20 PM    Report this comment

Cocker spaniel, 1 year old in 2 weeks..
wakes up every day from either 3-5 am. Take him outside immediately defecates and urinates.
His last meal is 5 pm, last walk is 8pm(where he poops usually)... he falls asleep at 8:30pm, then awakes at 10:30 pm to go outside for his last pee. Then brought upstairs for bedtime. Always wakes at 3-5 am. please help we are so exhausted. will he grow out of this????

Posted by: eviekoz | August 3, 2018 3:45 PM    Report this comment

My nine moth old cockerpoo slept great inthe crate from day 2. We usually awake at 5:15 am...since daylight savings, she awakes at 4 with barking until I go to her. Sometimes I run her out to pee and sometimes I don,t . I bring her into my bed and after about 30 minutes, she falls back to sleep for about one hour. It,s very disruptive.

Posted by: Caramia | November 12, 2016 5:05 AM    Report this comment

For 8 years my dog stayed in the kitchen as I had a dog gate. She figured out how to get out of the gate and now sleeps in another bedroom but wakes me up at 4:00 every morning. I have an autoimmune disease and I need my sleep. She doesn't get up to eat or go outside. She just wakes me up and then follows me around the house.
I am at my wits end. She is 9 years old and I have a collage student that runs her 3 miles a day at 8:30 every day. She doesn't even sleep enough during the day for me to take a nap and If I do nap she wakes me up. Please help!!!!!

Posted by: exausted | October 31, 2016 4:33 AM    Report this comment

Get a dog feeder. I set it for his 0500 feeding. It goes off he feeds himself and immediately goes back to bed until my son wakes up and gets ready for work. Bu the time he is dressed and ready to go, he is ready for #1 and #2.
Also, invest in a freshpatch.
Train him to take himself if he can't hold it. Our bodies are perfectly set to go. Why should they . Yes, they have a schedule, but your life should not be tied down to rushing home. A little independ2makes a happy caregiver and creature. The time spent bonding should be more than chores.

Posted by: avasmooch | July 11, 2016 6:03 AM    Report this comment

Room darkening blinds and curtains might help.

Most animals' clocks are attuned to light and dark as to when to get up and go to sleep so this might work.

Posted by: rosebub | July 4, 2016 1:11 AM    Report this comment

We had an issue with a young lab scratching at the bedroom door early in the morning to eat breakfast. So instead of getting let out and fed (good things) after waking us up by scratching at the door, I started cleaning his ears (not his favorite) right after he did his first scratch. Problem solved in a few days!

Posted by: Kkrazzy06 | July 3, 2016 6:14 PM    Report this comment

Urinary tract problems, are a big part of this problem. IF you have a middle-age or an older dog, you OWE it to the dog to determine if it has a UTI, crystals in the urine or kidney or bladder stones. Treating the dog with cranberry is UNLIKELY to cure any of these issues. Even if you have a male dog, please suspect UTI (perhaps due to the irritation of stones from the diet) until told otherwise. Female dogs are especially PRONE to UTI at any point in their lives.

I had the shock of my life in an older female dog, when we could NO longer cure her UTI, long term. They kept coming back. She would test as having different strains of bacteria as the cause; so a simple (and cheap) Amoxicillan was no longer effective, either. My holistic vet went down her acupuncture points & decided we needed an x-ray. Long story short, we found out she had a bony growth in the center of her pelvic girdle. It looked to be 3 to 5 inches long & growing parallel to her spine, and back towards her HEAD (and towards her bladder & kidneys). That seemed to be the main irritant.

Posted by: Betsy | July 3, 2016 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Doesn't anyone have a doggie door

Posted by: AbbeyWoo | July 3, 2016 11:07 AM    Report this comment

I have the very same problem. My dog jumps off the bed anywhere between 4 and 5:30 in the morning and needs to urinate. I feed her at 5pm and walk her between 6 and 7 when she defecates. Before I go to bed (around 9) I take her out to urinate. I have started feeding her breakfast at this time in hopes I can get an hour more of sleep. She tends to whine and start barking if I don't give her somethng to eat. I am worn out by this schedule and don't know how to change this pattern. She is a 12 yrs old cocker spaniel and has had urinatry tract problems. I am giving her cranberry tablets.

Posted by: Edwina | July 3, 2016 9:10 AM    Report this comment

On my days off my 3 dogs do wake up at the same work day time. I let them our to potty. When they come back in we go back to bed and they all get a biscuit. The biscuit seems to satisfy them until I wake up later and feed them. There is a basket of chew toys (nothing that squeaks) in the bedroom so they do have stuff to play with, if they want.

Posted by: NOLAhounds | July 3, 2016 9:08 AM    Report this comment

I have a problem with my puppy waking up for a wee between 5-6am and then thinking its time to get up. I have tried putting her back in her bed in her crate but she cries and barks by the side of my bed, which wakes up the rest of house. What can I do?

Posted by: Usher19 | October 27, 2015 3:43 PM    Report this comment

How appropriate...this AM I was SO looking forward to sleeping in. I was so exhausted from the week, I thought for sure I'd poop out early last evening, but then was up late...at 9:30 Heather called. You know Heather--"HI. I'm calling about your credit card account...there's no problem but in order to get a special interest rate blah blah blah." I could swear she nailed me last week as well even though I pressed 2 to get rid of her forever.

Once she called my little one was up, and moved in for the My Pillow. And each time I delicately, slowly place my head back down she gets very vocal right in my ear...and insists we go out. But now she is sounds asleep again. And I will nap later.

As for the person with the high bed...get some steps. I think I got mine from a place called C&D a very very long time ago. VERY well made, heavy wood, (I can stand on them), comfortably wide and stable, and carpeted. I think they came in 2 and 3 step versions. I was concerned, but my pups learned to use it in no time. Worth it even if it takes of your floor space.

Posted by: robin r | August 15, 2015 10:07 AM    Report this comment

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: Jbreitner | May 3, 2012 9:28 AM    Report this comment

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