You are getting sleeeeeeeeeeeepy....
October 15, 2007 3:17 AM   Subscribe

How do I fix my dog's sleep schedule?

My almost-two-year-old Jack Russell, Lyle (obligatory adorable dog photos here) has had a week of gastrointestinal upset after getting into the kitchen cabinets for the first time ever, and he's needed to go out once or twice in the middle of the night, which is not our usual routine.

Now that things are back to normal with his tummy, he still seems to want to go explore the world at 3am, just for fun, and that's not so much fun for me. I don't want to ignore his requests to go out - he's always been perfectly housebroken and I want him to know that when he wants to go out, he can, but I'd really like to work back to a full night's sleep for both of us. What I'm doing now is taking him outside and giving him a chance to go to the bathroom but not to explore, and then coming right back upstairs and going to bed, but this doesn't seem to dissuade him from wanting to go out.

Our usual pattern is a late walk (between 11pm-12am), then we get up around 8am and go out first thing. So do I start ignoring the 3am leap out of bed and request for a walk? Will that confuse him about our general "you can go out anytime you need to" policy? Is there some way to get him back to sleeping through the night without wanting to jump up and explore? Help a sleepless girl and her dog, metafilter pals!
posted by judith to Pets & Animals (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd increase his exercise at least temporarily, ideally get him wiped out by bedtime for a few nights in a row (to break the habit he likely just needs to sleep through a few times), keep him awake all day, both days for a whole weekend, and make sure that he finishes dinner early in the evening, so that he's less inclined to want/need out at 3am, give him something to do (toy to chew or whatever) and then ignore it. However, your "out any time you need to" policy is a good one, and I would certainly not ignore urgent requests (my dogs learn that casual requests in the middle of the night are not welcome, but that urgent requests most certainly are, and they don't generally abuse that rule).
posted by biscotti at 3:30 AM on October 15, 2007

In addition to upping his exercise... Do you crate him at all? You might consider crating him at night at least for a couple nights. When he barks, curb him and go back to sleep.

If he's doing his business on his 11pm-12am walk, he should definitely be able to hold it until 8. He's doing it because he's getting away with it. I know it's difficult, especially when that little (not to mention, adorable!!) face is looking at you but don't forget that you're the boss.

You're right not to take him out at 3 am as part of a routine. Not only does it screw up your old schedule together, but skunks are out and about and ready to spray any curious pups. Trust me, you haven't had your workweek ruined until you are up at 4am repeatedly bathing a dog while trying not to gag, only to feel like you've made some progress, then getting to work and someone says, "Anyone smell skunk?"
posted by jerseygirl at 3:59 AM on October 15, 2007

You're going to have to start saying no. It won't mess up his house training. He's a dog; as long as he gets what he wants, he'll keep asking. You can tell the difference between urgent requests and nonurgent ones, right? Saying "no" to the nonurgent ones is the only way I know of to stop them. My dog developed a habit of wanting to go out juuuust as I was ready to leave for work, even though he had just been out for as long as he wanted not 30 minutes earlier. When he got out there, he sort of just poked around and enjoyed the nature, so I knew he wasn't sick or anything. Eventually I started saying "no" (gently, in the same way I say no when he wants to go somewhere with me and I can't take him) and he stopped asking after a week or so, and was fine (this was maybe 6 - 8 months ago).
posted by boomchicka at 4:41 AM on October 15, 2007

My dog did this for a while, and I broker her of it by telling her no, go back to bed. When I kept getting up to let her out, she kept getting the message that it was okay to wake me at 2 and then 5. Which it's not. It's only okay if it's an emergency, and I can always tell if it's an emergency.

It was a rough few nights of telling her to go back to bed before she stopped waking me up entirely and she slept all the way through the night.
posted by rhapsodie at 6:38 AM on October 15, 2007

You'll be okay telling him no. It'll take a few days to make the message sink in, but it won't break his housebreaking. The upside is that he'll probably learn to tell you when it's an emergency.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:44 AM on October 15, 2007

Tell him no / ignore him. My dog had me trained really well to get up at 3am and take her for a walk until I realized I was being played. It really only took a couple nights of denying this request to get her to stop.
posted by iguanapolitico at 10:35 AM on October 15, 2007

Nthing tell him no. It won't ruin his housebreaking. Changing the timing of his toilet breaks won't make him suddenly decide to change the location of them.
posted by happyturtle at 11:10 AM on October 15, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I look forward to rolling over and going back to sleep at 3am tonight!
posted by judith at 11:11 AM on October 15, 2007

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