Help our broken dog sleep
November 21, 2012 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Our dog goes through cycles of at first liking a crate and then not tolerating it at all--whining, scratching, growling, and moaning. When Sparky's unhappy, nobody sleeps. I'm out of ideas and I'm looking for new things to try.

Background: We have a five year old miniature poodle who was a rescue. She suffered some unknown maltreatment before we got her. She has attachment issues and is stressed out when she is away from my wife (she will whine or sit in front of the door for hours waiting for her return). She's also afraid of strangers and barks at them, which probably isn't relevant to this question. We have crated her at night for most of the four years that we've had her. Crating usually worked until a few weeks ago.

The problem: She has started whining and growling while in her crate at night, beginning about a two weeks ago. We can't sleep with her making all that noise. Last night she started freaking out in her crate so we had to take her out to avoid injury.

Alternatives to nighttime crating we've tried:
If we take her out of the crate, she paces back and forth on the hardwood floor all night long. That is also too noisy to sleep with. If we put her in a different room she is miserable and whines and howls really loudly, which we (and the neighbors) can't sleep with.

If we sleep with her on the bed, which I know is often frowned upon, she will mostly sleep, but some nights she gets off the bed and paces. It's not a proper or complete solution.

Further background:
I have no idea why she suddenly started hating her crate so much. This also happened with her previous crate. We have tried putting treats, bones, and flossies in the crate. We have fed her in the crate. None of those things help. She doesn't care for toys or get-the-treat puzzle toys. In general, if she's unhappy she won't engage in activities (e.g., eating a bone or playing with a toy), so it's unsurprising that these things didn't help.

A year ago this happened and we changed from a cloth playpen to an under-the-bed crate, and that solved the problem until now. She has never been able to tolerate steel crates at all; she would hide under the bed and shake when we tried to put her in one.

We've worked on her attachment issues, but progress is slow. It could take a long time to get her to tolerate being in a different room from my wife for more than an hour.

I'm at a loss as to what to do next. I need to sleep. She is miserable. My next step is to build an anechoic chamber for her next crate, but I'd really rather do anything else.
posted by jewzilla to Pets & Animals (10 answers total)
It's winter, she might be too hot. Can you put a dogbed next to your bed where she can see you? Maybe one of the ones that's raised off the floor, definitely not a foam one. And leave a bowl of water then turn the heat down when you go to sleep.

My husky insists on sleeping next to my bed and there is a lot of panting and disconsolate flopping around trying to find a cool spot if I leave the heat on at night.
posted by fshgrl at 2:41 PM on November 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Our dogs get a lot more energy in the fall/winter than in the summer, so they sometimes get bored and restless at night (like last night when I woke up to a whining dog at 3am, staring at me forlornly). We try to double their exercise in the winter months. I don't know how this works for mini-type dogs, though.

Has your pup been to the vet recently? Nighttime anxiety problems can sometimes be caused by physical issues, ranging from brain tumors to various aches and pains to (especially) eye problems - 5 years old is not too young to be having issues.

It's possible that she's too hot or too cold.

I will be honest with you - there were a couple nights when I got up and slept on the couch with my dog to get a good night's sleep. I tried very hard to wait for the dog to be quiet before letting them out so that I wouldn't teach them that being noisy got them attention, but I know it's hard.
posted by muddgirl at 2:51 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find that extra exercise has solved almost all of my dog's behavioral problems. Get her good and tired before she goes in there.
posted by zug at 3:08 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here's another vote for (assuming you're sure there are no physical problems) more exercise... Makes a world of difference for my pup.

Yes, you probably shouldn't let the dog sleep on your bed... That said, my Husky sleeps on the bed, every.single.night, I would miss her if she didn't.
posted by HuronBob at 3:22 PM on November 21, 2012

Try putting wife's dirty t-shirt or other cloth item in dog's bed, it will have wife's scent on it.

I volunteer for a local rescue, I do rehab with small dogs and IANAV/IANYV, I work with several differents Vets. Could it be allergies? Allergies are pretty common and don't always show recognizable symptoms. Benedryl works for canine allergies and as a mild sedative. Diphenhydramine hydrochloride is the generic, 25mg, administered once a day. If it's not allergies the sedation might help. Sidenote: helps with carsickness.

Have you discussed this with your Vet? I've had several dogs on Xanax for similiar issues.
I was warned that it might be needed for the life of the dog, but in each case we were able to retrain and taper off the pills after a week or two. Not all Vets agree with this prescription, thank goodness some do.

Good Luck and thank you for adopting a rescue dog.
posted by misspat at 5:02 PM on November 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dog had one strange incident that I'll pass along--I doubt it's what's going on with you, but you never know. She's always been great about her crate, no problems at all, until one day she had an absolute fit in there, thrashing around wildly, whining, really desperately unhappy. I let her out, looked in there, couldn't see anything wrong, put her back in--several rounds of this, and finally I gave up and let her sleep out of the crate. Next morning I'm trying to figure out what the heck the problem could have been when I find an eensy-weensy little dingleberry piece of poop in there. Took that out and six years later have never had another problem again. When they say dogs don't like to soil their crates, they're not kidding. Any possibility she's unhappy with the level of sanitation in there?
posted by HotToddy at 5:05 PM on November 21, 2012

Don't know of a single reason to not sleep with a dog or two. Mine know to stay at the foot of the bed.
posted by misspat at 5:05 PM on November 21, 2012

Also, yeah, nothing wrong with sleeping with dogs. If she does best in bed but is only sometimes restless, why not try giving her more exercise and letting her sleep in bed?
posted by HotToddy at 5:18 PM on November 21, 2012

Does she get enough exercise? I know that with the cold and rainy weather outside, my dog's walks tend to be shorter than they used to be in in previous months.
posted by halogen at 5:42 PM on November 21, 2012

From my dog-caretaker bride:
I see no reason why the dog can't sleep on the bed as long as it has a command to get off when told and does so reliably.

If the dog is pacing at night, it might need to go out. If it is older, it may have an incontinence issue or something, and as someone else there described, it might be desperate to get out.

So, maybe a dog door if that is feasible. Or just getting up to take the dog out, since they are already awake.
posted by maxwelton at 8:58 PM on November 21, 2012

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