Lately I have been getting lots of people writing in asking for help with their dogs early waking behaviour. One of the most difficult times when we bring home a new puppy are the early mornings, seven days a week. It can be exhausting and disruptive to the home and even neighbours. Here’s a little information on why it occurs and some strategies for help.
Early morning rising is not usually the problem, it’s the barking associated with it that causes the most distress to everyone. Puppies will often bark to let you know they are awake, over time your puppy may start to bark earlier and earlier to get you up. This is a learned behaviour, made even stronger if you only wake up when the barking becomes louder. Barking is also intrinsically rewarding, barking feels good for a dog so ignoring it is unlikely to change the behaviour.
If you are reading this before you bring your puppy home set your alarm at sunrise and tend to your puppy before they start barking, the alarm becomes the trigger for your puppy knowing you are waking up and each week you can set your alarm for 10mins later, thereby training your dog to sleep in a little more. If you already have an early morning barker begin by allowing him to sleep inside overnight in a confined, warm area and only rise for him when he is quiet. He may start barking but only wake when there is a break in the barking, this way you are rewarding quiet. The reason you will need to bring him inside is so the early morning barking does not disrupt your neighbours. It may take several weeks to change early morning barking. You may also like to try the alarm tip above but you will need to initially set your alarm before your dog wakes, then over weeks set your alarm later and later.
Compliment this training by adding more enrichment to your dogs life during waking hours.
- Dogs need to be walked every day, if your dog can have off lead time they will be more tired and more likely to sleep longer.
- Join a dog club so you and your dog can learn new skills, this will stimulate your dogs mind and make him more tired at the end of the day.
- When you wake in the morning feed your dog in an enriching way, zoo’s around the world do this for their captive animals. Eliminate the food bowl and exclusively feed your dog through a food dispensing toy, scatter the food around the yard and even hide food in sandpits and other places in your yard. You may then be able to go back to bed for a while.
- Allow your dog to sleep inside, especially if the room is dark they may sleep a little longer.
- If you live with other people, discuss taking turns to wake for the dog so that you get some respite from early mornings.
- Take your dog for morning walks, when you come back home you can rest if it’s a weekend, if it’s a working day your dog will be rested while you are away from home. Training your dog on early walks will be easier too because there are less distractions to compete with.
- Go to bed early yourself to get more sleep.
Early morning barking is different to your puppy needing to toilet over night. Anything in the middle of the night is a toilet break and your puppy can go back to sleep, anything around sunrise time is also a toilet need but also your puppy waking for the day, it will be unrealistic to expect your puppy to continue sleeping after sunrise.
Dogs are high maintenance pets, they need enrichment. Expect your puppy to wake with the sun, and understand that they do not know the difference between work days and weekends. Some of the best walks I have had have been at sunrise with my puppies, as painful as it is sunrise is a truly beautiful time of day.