Ahh, if we could all sleep at the same time...
November 27, 2012 7:37 AM   Subscribe

Please help me understand my new dog so we can all sleep at night. No matter how tired she is, she still makes a ruckus at bedtime.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Neekee and I adopted an absolutely adorable 7 month-old border collie-lab mix that we love. Like most rescues, she's got her issues, such as how much noise she makes at bedtime. Banging on the side of her crate, scratching at the bottom, and an endless amount of licking of her paws - which she does not do during the day.

Some relevant info:

- She has a bacterial/yeast infection in her ears (being treated by vet), which might explain the paw licking if the yeast is overgrown (which is likely since she is smelly even after a bath)... but why only at bedtime?

- Exercise is not the problem. We can exercise her to the point that she refuses to play or run anymore and she still does this.

- When she naps during the day, she's as quiet and still as a log.

- Keeping her from napping too much during the day so she'd be nice and tired at night also did not help.

- She does not cry, bark, whimper or give any other indication that she needs to go outside.

- We tried making her sleep outside her crate, she was still loud.

- She does not mind the crate, she voluntarily goes in there when she is tired. It's the appropriate size.

- This is a new behavior, she didn't do it the first week we had her.

- Putting chew toys, tennis balls, etc, in her crate does not help.

Mr. Neekee thinks she is cold and needs a blanket. I think she's too warm since pushes her little bed aside in her crate. Plus half her belly hair had been shaved off when we got her, but it's growing back making her warmer, perhaps? She slept just fine the first week we had her.

Mr. Neekee thinks I'm a monster for wanting to put her crate in the living room where it's a cooler temp, but it would be hard to verify if it works, though. I think it is cruel to put a blanket in there when she is already warm.

Other than temperature, is there any other explanation that we might be missing? All three of us would greatly appreciate a good night's sleep. Thank you!
posted by Neekee to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I doubt that it's temperature, but if she's curled up in a tight ball, she's unpleasantly cold, and if she's incessantly panting, she's too warm. Otherwise, the temperature isn't too warm or too cold to be of consequence.
posted by Grandysaur at 7:41 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

You mentioned trying chew toys, but is there something she likes a lot that could be reserved only for bedtime? A Kong with some peanut butter inside it, so she's devoted to figuring that out instead of fussing, perhaps?
posted by PussKillian at 7:48 AM on November 27, 2012

If its a plastic crate she's almost certainly too hot btw, dogs are well insulated. Can you just leave the door open and let her sleep where she wants to?
posted by fshgrl at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: an endless amount of licking of her paws

Paw licking is a sign of stress. That's just... what it is, it's nothing to do with her ears. I'd guess she doesn't like being crated at night and/or has become attached and does not like being separated from the two of you to sleep for the long overnight stretch.

Where is the crate and can you relocate it to your bedroom? Is it in fact necessary to crate her overnight at all?
posted by DarlingBri at 8:10 AM on November 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: It's her second week in a new place. It's possible she's just... settling. If you wait it out she'll probably get over it.

I would keep the crate in your bedroom and make sure she's got really comfortable bedding (moving the bedding to one side might just be her attempts to nest in it, and scratching the bottom of the crate might just mean she's still trying to nest). I put down a thin blanket and then put the dog bed on top of that so if my pup scrunches up her dog bed, she's still lying on a soft surface.

Welcome to the joys of being a dog owner.
posted by muddgirl at 8:47 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Paw licking can also be a sign of allergies. Could be food, environmental, seasonal, or a combination. Do you feed her a different food than she got at the pound?

We got a rescue dog about a year ago who had the same symptoms at first. She eventually licked/chewed all the fur off her paws. Switching to a hypoallergenic food has completely fixed it.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:49 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

When you let her sleep outside the crate - in what manner was she loud? If you can work on helping her with the licking, she might be quieter without the crate to bang on.

There is some amount of noise associated with having dogs in the bedroom - mine lick and groom, one of them wakes up sometimes to paw at his bed and circle and circle, and one of them sneezed so loudly last night that I jumped about a mile.
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:02 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Do you walk her or let her out right before bed? Our dog needs at least a half hour of play before he'll sleep. Even then its 3 mins of digging on his bed and then licking the hell out of his lion toy before he settles in for the night. I'd try a toy with fur (if she can be trusted not to destroy it) maybe the kind with out stuffing to substitute for the paw licking.
posted by ljesse at 9:23 AM on November 27, 2012

Have you considered ignoring her when she makes noise? I have a rescue miniature schnauzer, who almost never barks. I was actually worried that someone in his terrible past had scraped his vocal cords, but a wiser dog owner told me that he probably doesn't bark because it is a behavior that never got him anything from his previous owners. If the behavior is never reinforced, then the dog stops doing it.
So it might be a matter of just gritting your teeth night after night, and waiting for darling dog to cut it out.
posted by pickypicky at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2012

It sounds like stress to me. I give my dogs a peanut butter Kong every time I crate them, and they go into sort of a sleepy trance of licking, licking, licking, until they fall asleep. If you gave her a Kong every time, it would distract her from banging around and licking her paws, it would give her something repetitive and soothing to do that would help her fall asleep, and over time it would give her positive associations with bedtime, which it sounds like she needs. Paw licking definitely is not a sign of being too hot or too cold; it's normally a sign of allergies, stress, or an OCD behavior (and OCD behaviors are super common in BCs). Since she's not doing it during the daytime, though, it sounds like stress, and she needs a better way to self-soothe. The Kong is perfect for that.
posted by HotToddy at 9:53 AM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ear infection plus paw licking makes me think allergies, too. I'm not sure why it would peak then, but you might try a Benadryl--could make her sleepy as well as soothe the flare.
posted by Riverine at 11:30 AM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: Wearing out the body is only half the battle. Give her a good, hard obedience session right before bed. Don't go for the easy sit-down-stay. Use this time to teach her complex, multi-stage tricks. Teach her toy names, play hide and seek, hide treats around the house and encourage her to find them, get her puzzle toys (not just a kong). Wear her brain out and she might be more willing to settle down.

I have an 8 month old border collie, and I know that if she doesn't get a brain workout, it doesn't matter how many walks she got that day, she's a handful and impossible to settle.

I will also say that it's too hard on her for me to sleep where she sleeps. It's a sort of torture for her to see me and smell me and not be able to touch me because she's in a crate. It's not clear from your question, but if her crate is in your bedroom, I'd definitely give the living room a try.
posted by syanna at 12:27 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Answering a few questions:
Her crate is the cage type, not plastic. It's in our bedroom. We've left the door open so she can choose where to sleep, she still licks constantly & sometims thumps into the side of the bed when rolling around.
As far as ignoring her when she makes noise, I do. Problem is, it wakes me up. Plus for her well being, I'd rather she have better quality sleep.
Thanks for your responses!
posted by Neekee at 1:03 PM on November 27, 2012

Best answer: Well in my experience dogs rarely sleep all night like people. It's pretty normal for a dog to get up in the night and move around or groom or chew on a toy or what have you. If it bothers you, have her sleep in another room.

My dog growls, good and makes weird noises in her sleep every night multiple times. She also regularly scrabbles her claws on the wall "running" in her sleep. I sleep through it at this point but dog sitters always comment on it.
posted by fshgrl at 1:37 PM on November 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree that everything, save the obsessive licking, sounds normal and healthy. After we adopted our first dog I probably didn't get a good night's sleep for a month (we couldn't bed him anywhere but the bedroom or he'd whine all night and hurt himself trying to escape) - eventually I got used to his noises and now I don't wake up unless the dogs start barking or whining for a long time.
posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on November 27, 2012

Our dog also moves around in the night for various reasons. Ususally just to move from a warm spot to a cool spot and then back again an hour later. After the first week or so of bonding and getting her used to us time we put her bed out in the living room and closed the door so we could get some uninterrupted sleep. Depending on how comfortable you are with her not getting into things that might be an option for you? You could try giving her a quiet toy for her to direct her chewing and licking at, but if the paw licking wakes you up then that will too.
posted by Feantari at 2:25 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks for all your answers! Great to know that this is not abnormal behavior. We got her a puzzle toy, a new blanket (with poms! she loves it), and we leave the crate door open so she can choose where to sleep, but mostly she stays in the crate.
I'm also transitioning her to another brand of grain-free food, in case it's allergies. She's been licking less.
Thanks again!
posted by Neekee at 5:00 PM on December 5, 2012

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