Help for the Night-Owl Dog

Stop your dog’s pre-dawn wakeup call by scheduling feeding and training appropriately.

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Q. About a month ago, I adopted a Miniature Poodle who is doing very well except for one thing. She gets up at about 5 a.m. every day and begins to bark to get out of her crate. She goes into it willingly at night, and goes into it on her own during the day, so it's not as though she doesn't like the crate. What can I do to get her to sleep later so that I can get some sleep?

A. The timing of your Poodle’s pre-dawn wakeup call suggests that she wants out of her crate because she needs to pee or poop. You didn’t mention what time you go to bed, but it’s likely that your dog naps during the evening before your bedtime. That would mean she’s fully rested by 5 a.m., while you’re still trying to get your eight hours of sleep. If that’s what’s happening, here are some things you could do to fix the problem.

If you free-feed, with food available all the time, change to feeding two measured meals a day. Feed your Poodle her dinner fairly early in the evening, to allow more time for digestion. This will help change her elimination habits, so she’ll empty out at night, before bedtime, instead of so early in the morning.

About an hour before you turn in for the night, do a training session with your Poodle, followed by a play session. You may have to wake your dog up to do this if she’s already gone to bed. After training and play, take her to her potty area and observe her, to be sure she relieves herself. Make this a habit, so it becomes part of your Poodle’s daily schedule.

If you keep her up until you’re ready for bed, she’ll start waking up later. Or, try to go to bed earlier, so 5 a.m. doesn’t come quite so soon. (I know, that might be hard – I’m a “night person” myself.)

Meanwhile, if she wakes you up at 5, get up and take her to her potty area, then put her back in her crate with a food-stuffed rubber chew toy. This will take care of her elimination needs, satisfy her early morning hunger, and will keep her busy and quiet for another hour or so, so you can go back to bed and catch a few more winks. (Tip: Prepare the food toy the night before, so it’s ready at dark-o’clock when she wakes you up.)


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