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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Veterinarian
Category: Dog
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Experience:  I have over 20 years experience in small animal and emergency veterinary medicine
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Hi, Im writing because my nine month old puppy (unknown mix

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Hi, I'm writing because my nine month old puppy (unknown mix breed, but our best guess is a Whippet, German Shepherd, lab mix--she's about 35 pounds) is not sleeping through the night. Like clockwork each night she'll wake up between the hours of 3:30-5 am. She's been doing this for the last month and half. She's able to make it during the day for up to eight hours without having any accidents. We've tried moving her in different locations to get her to sleep and it doesn't seem to matter where she's sleeping, she still wakes up early each day. We've tried keeping her in her crate, sleeping her on the couch, or placing her in our bedroom. Nothing seems to work. She gets adequate exercise every day. When we do wake up, we take her out and feed her. Once all that happens she settles down and goes back to sleep. We've tried ignoring her and are not sure how long it'll take for her to get retrained. I'd appreciate any suggestions or advice.
Michelle J

I know this is a frustrating situation.

If you are getting up early when she cries and feed her, then you are reinforcing this behavior by giving her what she wants, so you don't stand a chance of stopping this behavior if you continue to do this. As far as how long it will take to retrain her - that will vary with the individual dog depending on how stubborn they are and how consistent you are in not giving in. It could be a couple of weeks. Anytime you give in to her, you just set yourself back that much further in the process. The longer this has been going on, the longer the problem will take to resolve.

A couple of things you can try to help the situation - you said that you have exercised her before bedtime, but I would really try to do more than just exercise - really get her physically tired out, playing ball or whatever she likes until she is exhausted. Do this about 30 minutes before bedtime. Then right before bedtime, feed her a small meal to try to prevent her from getting hungry so early in the morning.

Make sure she has toys to play with in her sleeping area, especially the interactive toys such as Buster cubes or Kong toys so she can entertain herself if she wakes up in the middle of the night. Make sure these are loaded with treats before you go to bed at night. Play with these toys with her during the day some so she learns how to use them if they are new to her.

You can try using melatonin which is a night-time OTC sleep aid made for humans that you can buy at the local drug store. This is a really mild medication that can be helpful. Dose is usually about one 3 mg tablet at bedtime. There are certainly stronger medications that you could get from your vet to tranquilize her, but these are probably much stronger than you really want in this situation. Melatonin is very safe, but as always you should check with your vet before using any medication in your pet.

I know this is a very difficult behavior to ignore, but as I said above, everytime you give in to her, you are essentially training her to continue doing this. You have to be tough here, but it is worth the work since she is such a young dog and you hopefully have many wonderful years with her ahead of you.

I hope this answers your question. If so, please click Accept. If you have additional questions on this topic, please let me know.
Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Just one clarifying question: when we choose to ignore her, do we do so until our preferred time of waking up? Example, if she is waking up at 4 am everyday and we want to re-train her to wake up at 7 do we just hold out for three hours?

Yes, that is exactly what you do. I know that is EXTREMELY difficult to do when you are tired and just want her to be quiet, but try to keep the bigger picture in mind.

Let me know if you have other questions.
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