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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dog needs a snooze button

Dear Jan:

Our Lab pup is seven months old.  He used to sleep in our bedroom, but he kept getting us up earlier than we wanted, so we moved him to a crate downstairs in the laundry room.  He still gets us up because he wakes up half an hour earlier than we'd like and starts howling.  How can we get him to sleep a little later?

Sleepless in Sandpoint

Dear Sleepless:

First, let's move the crate back to the bedroom.  Your chances of success are better if the dog sleeps "in" with you.

Next, you must re-set your dog's internal clock.  Let's say you want the dog to sleep in till 6 a.m., but he usually starts to whine at 5:30 a.m.  Set an alarm clock for 5:25 a.m.  The instant it goes off, leap out of bed and get the dog out of his crate to go outside to potty.  Whether you choose to bring him back to the crate until 6:00 or stay up with him is up to you.

Set the alarm for 5:25 for several mornings in a row and repeat the procedure.  You should find that the puppy will remain quiet until 5:25 as he listens and waits for the sound of the wonderful alarm that means you're getting up with him.

Now begin setting the clock a little later, in increments of 5 or 10 minutes.  As before, always get up immediately when the alarm goes off.  You're reconditioning your dog to wait for a cue before he starts making his morning noises.  The cue is the alarm clock.  All heck can break loose when the alarm goes off, but at least the dog is learning to wait, quietly, until he hears that cue.

Within a couple weeks you should be able to set your alarm for 6 a.m., which was your goal time.  By then the dog has learned that you will always get him up and out as soon as the alarm goes off, and not before.

Keep in mind that weekends offer a different scenario.  You may want to sleep in till 8:00, but your dog is used to getting up at 6.  I'd recommend you still get up at 6, potty the dog, and then put him back to bed (maybe even in bed with you!) till you're ready to get up.  Even if you put him back in his crate, chances are he'll settle down and nap a little longer when he knows you're back in the sack.

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