My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Cannot Make It through the Night

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Exhausted from lack of sleep? Frustrated with your puppy for waking up in the middle of the night? We bet. We’ve been there, we know what it’s like, and we have ideas that can help.

First: What is going on?

Needs to Go
Both young pups (under four-months of age) and old dogs can get caught short over night. And any dog of any age can need to go if they have eaten too much or the wrong thing, or have drunk too much. As exhausting as this is, be glad they are letting you know rather than just going in their crate or on your floor.

Woken Up
If your child or cat or partner gets restless at 3:45AM, that can wake a pup. And once your pup is up, then he or she will probably have to go outside and soon.

Concerned
A puppy who is new to your home and new to being by himself can wail loud and long the first few nights waking up alone, and that will lead to a need for a midnight potty break.

Wants Some Company
If you’ve been an understanding person, cuddling and talking to your new puppy when you take him or her outside in the middle of the night, your puppy may (understandably) think you actually enjoy it and consider it quality time with you.

This goes double if you’ve been giving treats after your puppy goes. Yes, yes – treats are great but not during the night.

Teething
Puppies who have previously been sleeping well but start fussing during the night between 4-6 months of age could very likely be awakening due to the discomfort of teething.

Has a Medical Problem
Pups who are wormy, have a urinary tract infection, were recently spayed or neutered, are on any sort of medication or are just plain sick can all have their systems thrown off and need a middle-of-the-night walk.

If your puppy has diarrhea, is lethargic, or is vomiting this could be an emergency. If your puppy is a tiny toy breed or if your new-to-you and/or not-yet-fully-vaccinated pup looks and acts sick, rush to a veterinarian right now!

Older dogs can suffer from something called “cognitive dysfunction” or, for lack of a better term: Doggy Alzheimer’s. One of the common symptoms of this is nighttime activity, barking and disorientation. There are medications that can help this now so, if your dog is up there in years and if this is a new problem, talk it over with your veterinarian. There may well be things you can do.

Second: Make Easy Changes

You are Transportation Only
At night, you are simply transportation. Nothing more. You are neutral, you are quiet, you do not dawdle. When you go to your pup, you turn on only the lights you need to be safe, you get him without comment, you put on the leash (this prevents your pup from entertaining himself by romping around your yard), you go outside. Once the deed is done, you return inside equally quietly, tuck your pup back into his sleep area, and you go tuck yourself back into yours.

If your pup is being papertrained, same rules though you can skip the leash. Just directly to the potty area and back.

Teething Help
Provide your teething puppy with adequate chewing outlets such as compressed rawhides, sterilized bones, or other good, hard chew toys.

Review his Diet
First thing to try is soaking his dry food in equal amounts of water. So one cup dry food is soaked in one cup of water. Sometimes this simple change lessens the amount of water your dog drinks after his meal and that lessens the amount he has to go during the night.

If the food swells a great deal when soaked, we would change to a higher-quality diet that you can feed less of, that will stimulate less water consumption and that will swell less in his system. If your dog is pooping large amounts many times a day, changing to a nutritionally denser food can work wonders. There are many great brands on the market today; find one you can get easily and that is within your budget.

If you do decide to try a new food, make the switch slowly. Do ¼ new and ¾ old for a few days, and if your dog appears to be doing fine and his stools are fine, switch to ½ new and ½ old. After a few days and if all is well, move to ¾ new and ¼ old and if that goes well, go to 100% new.

Now, if you are happy with the diet but are still being woken up at night one of these ideas might help:

Feed Later
We give an up-late pup dinner at around 9:30 PM. The eating generally stimulates the bowels so he will defecate soon afterward, just before bedtime, and the late meal won’t be ready to exit till the next morning. This can give both of you a much-needed good night’s sleep.

Feed More In the Morning
If that doesn’t help, try feeding 2/3 of their daily intake at breakfast and 1/3 at night. That should leave less in the system, making holding everything overnight easier.

Watch the Water
If your puppy really needs to pee at night, consider limiting his water after 6 PM. After all, what goes in, must come out.

The rest of the time, keep an eye on his intake. If he drinks a lot, he will have to pee a lot. Now, that said, the way to deal with it is NOT to limit his water. People sometimes limit water in an effort to control mistakes – this is risky and can teach the dog to binge on as much water as he can get whenever he can get it. Counterproductive at best.

Being aware of how much water your dog drinks is smart and sometimes some management (as in removing water in the evening) can be helpful – just as limiting a bedwetter’s nighttime drinking can help. Discussing this with your veterinarian is always a good idea since she will know your individual situation.

Supervision
No matter what age your up-at-night dog is or what the exact cause is, go outside with your dog on walks and make sure you know what is happening when. This way you can better judge sincere (and urgent) requests to go out from simple fussing. Also, this allows you to smile, praise and reward your dog for a job well done. Always a good idea.

If your puppy is dirtying the crate at night before you have a chance to get him out, then the crate needs to be in the bedroom for now or you need to sleep near the crate. You must be able to hear your pup and get him out promptly to keep a temporary issue of crate soiling from becoming a more ingrained habit.

But, if you know for sure that this is not about needing to relieve himself, but just about waking you up and getting some attention, then having the dog sleep at the far end of the house can resolve the matter entirely. That is, if his fussing for the first few nights does not keep anyone awake in your house or your neighbor’s.

Schedule
Walk your dog at 6-7 pm, then not again (if possible) until just before bed. Young puppies, of course, are the exception to this since they may well need a walk between those times. In a perfect world, your dog will both urinate and defecate on that last walk.

If he wakes up in the middle of the night, take him out then right back to the crate. Keep him on leash to avoid him making this playtime. Absolutely NO food or treats of any kind at these times!

Common Mistakes
Praising the dog for going outside (a great idea in daylight hours; an incentive to a lonely pup to get you up for a 3 AM walk). Feeding or giving the dog water on those late walks because you fear he might be hungry or thirsty is another mistake. These things just reward him for waking you up, and what you reward gets more common.

Further Advice
For adult dogs, we generally advise people to treat the dog as they would a spouse or partner who got in the habit of awakening them in the middle of the night for no particular reason. Most people know exactly how they would respond to that behavior!

Oh, but please, if this suddenly starts in a dog previously quiet overnight, get him to his vet for a check up!

By Sarah Wilson, MySmartPuppy.com

141 Comments

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