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You’re snoozing soundly, dreaming of your favorite beaches or vacation destinations. Suddenly, you’re awoken by the not-so-sweet sounds of barks and whines by your side, probably accompanied by a wet nose or some gentle pawing by your pup. If your dog has become a furry alarm clock, waking you up hours before your actual alarm goes off, not only are you likely sleep-deprived, but you’re probably wondering, “Why does my dog wake me up?”
As with many seemingly puzzling canine behaviors, you may need to do a little detective work to figure out why your dog is waking you. Dealing with an alarm-clock dog can be annoying. Fortunately, once you determine the reason behind the early wake-up calls, there are ways to redirect your dog’s unwanted behaviors to more positive ones.
Why Your Dog Wakes You Up Early
There are several reasons that your dog might want to get you up bright and early. “Dogs may wake their owners up in the morning for a variety of reasons including boredom, the need to relieve themselves, hunger, thirst, fear, and excitement, among others,” says Kay Gramm, dog trainer and AKC Approved Canine Good Citizen Evaluator in Antelope, California.
How you respond will determine whether your dog keeps waking you up. “Ultimately, our dogs do what works so if their behavior of waking you up is reinforced by your getting up and meeting their need, they will repeat it,” says Gramm.
How to Deal with Your Dog’s Morning Wake-Up Call
When you’re dealing with an insistent dog trying to get you up in the morning, it’s best to ignore them in most cases. “One thing to realize is that dogs will repeat what works and if waking you up works, there is every reason to keep doing it. Many times, owners have to ignore attempts at being woken up until the habit is broken,” recommends Gramm.
She also cautions that you must determine the reason for the wake-up calls before you can start ignoring your dog. “For example, if your dog wakes you up because they have to do their business outside because they can’t hold it, that is behavior you want to reinforce by letting them relieve themselves. However, if your dog wakes you up to go for a walk or to eat breakfast, it may be a less desirable behavior to reinforce,” she says.
Ways to Deal With Your Dog’s Desire to Wake You
Because the reasons for your dog’s early morning wake-up calls can vary, there are many ways you can prevent this behavior once it starts. In addition to ignoring your dog’s non-urgent wake-ups, consider these options:
- Try an automatic feeder to take care of serving breakfast to your dog. You can also free-feed your dog during the night to stop doggy wake-up calls due to early-morning hunger pangs.
- Take your dog out for a potty break just before bedtime, recommends dog trainer Nicole Ellis, CPDT-KA, of Altadena, California. “Make sure your last potty break isn’t too quick and leave enough time for your pet to empty their bladder because some dogs like to go multiple times.”
- Provide an indoor potty spot for your dog to use during the night to prevent bathroom requests in the morning. Alternatively, give your dog access to a doggy door so they can pee or poop in the yard on their own.
- Make sure your dog’s bed or crate is in a quiet area. It’s a good idea to keep this sleeping space away from windows, since outside critters or noisy neighbors could disturb your dog’s sleep.
- Give your dogs some toys to play with throughout the night, especially interactive puzzle toys that encourage dogs to hunt for bits of kibble, to prevent wake-up calls due to boredom.
- Spend quality time with your dog during the day. Allow your dog to sleep in or near your bedroom on a bed of their own. This way, your dog won’t feel neglected. It’s less likely they’ll suddenly wake you up to spend time with you.
- Crate your dog, says Ellis. “Positive reinforcement crate training is a great way to prevent your face from being licked at 6 a.m. Of course their crate should be a comfortable place they feel safe and happy in,” she recommends.
Why Exercise Helps Stop Your Dog From Waking You
One of the main reasons that dogs wake up their owners is because they’re bored or lonely and excited for a walk with you. For dogs filled with pent-up energy, more exercise is the solution. “Providing sessions of walks and play can help meet your dog’s need for physical exercise and give their bodies the desire to relax,” says Gramm.
To reduce your dog’s desire for early-morning activity, keep morning walks brief. Make afternoon and evening the time for more extensive training and exercise, advises Ellis. These sessions will tire out your dog, who will want to sleep in the next morning. “Don’t forget that boredom is one of the top reasons for destructive behavior and you don’t want that to be your pet’s next idea,” she cautions.
How AKC Activities Help Keep Dogs Active
Gramm advises that dogs need mental stimulation in addition to their physical exercise. AKC training classes and activities are some of the best ways for them to exercise their brains. “Dogs love to learn and love the camaraderie of working together with their owners. In this vein, I wholeheartedly recommend participation in AKC-related programs and events,” she says.
Participating in sports like agility, AKC Scent Work, and AKC Rally provide a positive outlet for your dog’s excess energy. They’ll likely tire out your dog, so they’ll be able to sleep through the night and into the morning.
When to Speak to the Vet About Morning Wake-Ups
Has your dog only recently started to wake you up early in the morning? Then visit your veterinarian to rule out a possible illness like a urinary tract infection or cognitive dysfunction in older dogs. “Oftentimes, dogs will try to wake their owners up when they are feeling anxious or uncomfortable, and these can be signs of underlying health conditions. As always, have a veterinary checkup any time your pet develops new or confusing behaviors,” recommends Gramm.