Many people reach out to us for help with anxiety in dogs at night. They contact us because their dog either wakes them up throughout the night, or just can’t seem to settle down for the night in their crate.
Whining in the crate or waking throughout the night can be related to anxiety in dogs at night, but in most cases something else is also at play. Some dogs experience separation anxiety, some simply dislike their crate, and some have just developed the habit of waking up at certain times.
Read on to learn more about anxiety in dogs at night and if it might be impacting your pet, or if something else is happening!
The Separation Issue
If your dog is barking, whining, or otherwise showing signs of anxiety when you leave them alone at night you should always evaluate if they display the same behaviors during the day when left alone. It is not uncommon for dogs to develop separation anxiety.
Separation anxiety can vary from one dog to the next and must be handled carefully to keep it from escalating. It’s not the same as barking or whining for attention. If you think your dog might have separation anxiety, take a look at our 30 Day Separation Anxiety Challenge.
As odd as it might sound, in some cases anxiety in dogs at night can be attributed to a dislike of the crate itself. Just like people, some dogs seem to strongly dislike being confined in small spaces. While most dogs find comfort in having a confined and thus safe space to spend the night, others seem to strongly dislike being in a crate and do not settle down while they are in it.
If your dog is fine when you leave them at home outside of their crate, or if you leave them behind a gate or in a playpen, the issue might be with the crate itself. If your dog is fully housebroken, test other types of spaces such as gated rooms or playpens. If your dog is not fully housebroken, our Ask the Trainer program might be an option for you to get some extra help with the best options.
An Issue of Bad Timing
So-called anxiety in dogs at night typically falls under the mantle of bad timing. It happens frequently – a new puppy owner is taking their dog out frequently overnight to keep them from having accidents. They’re doing a good job, the puppy goes potty when they take them out and makes it through the night without any accidents because of their efforts.
But sometimes during the course of this process, the pup can get acclimated to waking up overnight or very early in the morning. They do have to potty, and will potty if you take them outside, but they probably could have slept through the night if their internal alarm clock had not gone off and woken them up.
How do You Rectify a Bad Sleep Schedule?
It really puts the pet owner in a bad situation when this occurs. You certainly want to get some sleep… but you also don’t want your dog to start having accidents again. The solution is to slowly push your dog’s sleep schedule to a more appropriate time.
Don’t try to press your dog until ten in the morning when they have been waking up five hours earlier than that. You want to slowly try to adjust your dog’s sleep schedule so that you can avoid potential accidents and backsliding in your housetraining.
If they typically wake up at about five in the morning, make them wait until five-thirty before you take them out. Repeat that process for a few days, and then push back by another half hour or so. Continue doing this until the time is where you want it to be.
By pushing the timing back slowly you can ensure that your dog’s internal clock can adjust to the change, but also that they will not have any accidents in the process. Their body is used to relieving itself when they wake up. If you push them for too long when they are used to going out to potty, they can potentially have an accident.
Dangers of Potential Housetraining Backslides
As you might know from our housetraining section of our training course, your housetraining will only work if your dog doesn’t have accidents in the house. Essentially, you have to prevent accidents for your dog to become – and for them to stay – housebroken. Therein lies the problem with pushing your pup’s sleep schedule too quickly.
If your dog has an accident during this process, it can cause a bit of a backslide with their housetraining. You shouldn’t need to start over entirely, but you will likely need to supervise your pup more closely and take them out more frequently. Save yourself the hassle and the headache by making sure you adjust their schedule slowly and over a period of time.
If you think your dog’s nighttime anxiety might be related to some other factor, or even if none of these descriptions fit their anxiety well, you might need to reach out to us for a bit of help.
You can either contact us to find out what program would work best for you, or you can utilize our Ask The Trainer program which lets you get personalized help with your pet’s behavior and any potential issues they might be having.
The best rule of thumb when it comes to behavioral issues with your pet is to closely consider why they might be occurring. As mentioned above, if you can’t figure it out on your own we are more than happy to give you a hand! Behavior can certainly be complicated, that’s why we offer a number of different training programs and ways to help you out with your pup. Our primary goal with our training programs is to help your pet be as comfortable and happy as possible!