Q My dog has started waking up earlier and earlier, barking every morning. He doesn’t need to go outdoors to toilet and I don’t want to start feeding him at 5am. How can I train him to wait until a more reasonable hour?
Denise Price advises…
This sounds like a change in behaviour and that your dog has previously been able to go through the night without any problems. If that is the case, make sure he is fit and well; any time there is a change in behaviour, it is worth a check-up with the vet to rule out any medical issues.
You’ve said he doesn’t need the toilet, but is he hungrier than usual? That might indicate a physical rather than behavioural reason for his early morning wake-up calls. Assuming your dog is fit and well, try to identify what is triggering the early morning barking. Have you changed your central heating timer? Some pipes clunk and clatter and perhaps that is waking him up. Maybe a neighbour has changed shift patterns, leaving for work earlier in the morning and disturbing your dog. Birds tend to wake up earlier each day in spring/ summer with the longer days – maybe he is joining in the dawn chorus. It could be a light trigger – the sun reflecting through a window and waking him. And don’t rule out smell as a trigger either!
Once you’ve identified the trigger, managing your dog’s environment will help. Reduce light disturbances by covering his crate or drawing curtains; if this isn’t possible, consider relocating his bed. Try adjusting timers so that he isn’t disturbed. A radio on a low volume can reduce the impact of external noise. Again, relocating his bed to a quieter part of the house could be useful.
Next, teach your dog that hearing one particular sound means that you’ll get up. Set a new and distinctive alarm sound to go off just before your dog would normally wake you up. That’s right, get up even earlier – but just for a little while! Come down and give him his breakfast. Repeat this several days in a row, so that he learns that this fantastic new alarm equals breakfast. Then, very gradually, move the alarm back later day by day, until you get to your desired wake-up time.