Think Like a Dog Trainer. Part 3: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie
This is part 3 of a multi-part article designed to alert you to the many of the potential pitfalls of living with an untrained dog (or in-training) in your home and how to best cope with them using management and positive training techniques. In each description of a potential problem, I will outline how you can prevent it, how to teach good behavior, and what to do as an immediate response if you find yourself in a situation where you need to quickly stop him from misbehaving. Ideally, you will proactively prevent your dog's misbehavior and hence will not have many "Ack, STOP that!" moments. Using the "immediate responses" below more than a time or two each day could set back your training efforts with your dog and prevent him from learning how to behave politely. Therefore, if you find yourself relying on them too heavily, simply increase the prevention you are doing and make sure that your rewards for good behavior are truly rewarding to him. The immediate responses below are designed to interrupt your dog without either rewarding his misbehavior or frightening him.
Part 3: Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie
Allowing your dog to sleep in your bedroom will help to keep your dog calm at night, and it will make it easier for him to let you know when he needs to go out to relieve himself. Some common dog misbehaviors to be prepared for at bedtime and recommendations on how to deal with them are below. Words in all caps are short-hand for methods that are described at the bottom of the page.:
Wandering around in the night and getting into mischief
- Prevent: Have him sleep in a crate or puppy-proof the room. Make sure he gets enough exercise so that he is good and sleepy.
- Immediate response: If he wakes you up during the night and doesn't need to relieve himself, simply confine him in a puppy-proof area and go back to sleep.
Growling when he is disturbed
Some dogs don't like to be jostled while they are sleeping especially if he's read the proverb "let sleeping dogs lie".
- Prevent: Have him sleep in his crate.
- Immediate response: Toss a treat to get him off of your bed and then place him in his crate. Avoid scolding him. Growling is an important communication signal that usually means that your dog is uncomfortable. If your dog is punished for growling he may then feel that his only remaining defense is to use his teeth.
- Train: Demonstrate to him that having people near him or touching him while he is relaxing means he will get a reward. Train him to get off of the bed voluntarily by saying something like "Go" and tossing a treat on the floor. Next, say the word "Go" and only pretend to throw a treat - this will be your new hand signal for "Go". Toss the treat to him when he gets off the bed to chase the imaginary one. Now you can use this cue to get him off of the bed when he gets grumpy. Here's another article about working with growling.
Housetraining accidents during the night
- Prevent: Have him sleep in his crate. Feed him his evening meal before 6 PM and take up his water bowl after 8 PM to ensure that he is relatively empty. Take him out to potty just before retiring for the evening. Have him wear a bell around his collar so that you can hear him stirring. Click for more housetraining tips.
- Immediate Response: ACCIDENT
- Train: HOUSETRAIN
Crying and fussing in the crate
- Prevent: Put him to bed at night next to your bed and place him in there with a food-related chew to keep him busy while he gets drowsy. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise so that he is good and tired.
- Immediate response: Ignore any fussing unless you believe it is because he needs to go out to relieve himself.
- Train: Crate train him.
Clap your hands to interrupt him and then take him outside to finish. Once you have returned inside you can decide how to keep him more confined so that you won't have another accident. Clean the area with a pet-specific cleaner.
Click for Part 2: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Click for Part 4: Dog + Kids + Other Pets, Oh My!