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lack of sleep

Species: dog | Category: general | Submitted: 7 November 2007 04:13PM | viewed 13245 times
Q Bill asks:

We have a 14 month old Yorkshire terrier, which goes to bed at around 6.30pm, because I have MS and go to bed myself at this time. My wife then puts him out at 10pm, he is OK till around 4am at which time he starts barking until my wife goes into the kitchen and sits with him. If she comes back to bed he just starts barking again until she goes back to him, he then gets back into his bed and goes back to sleep, this is making my wife very tired during the day, but the dog is quite happy during the day, can you suggest any way to overcome this problem?. Thank you. Bill.

Q Our vet says: I can understand how frustrating this must be for you and your wife.

He is still a young dog and probably wants to be quite active. Make sure that he gets the opportunity to play, go for walks, explore etc in the day.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to keep him up for a longer period in the evening so that he is more tired in the early morning. If he likes to go to bed at the same time as you, perhaps your wife could wake him up for play and even a walk after an hour or so and keep him up until she then wants to go to bed.

Animals are just like us and they only need a certain amount of sleep. If the timing is too early to go to bed they will want to be up early in the morning!

For the barking during the night it is best to ignore him! I know that it is not going to be easy but your wife is rewarding the behaviour by giving him attention and he needs to learn that he must amuse himself during the night if he is awake. If she goes to him even once he will have the barking behaviour reinforced and it will continue for longer. Try to be firm and ignore him from now on if he barks at night.

At first the barking will get worse! But this will mean that the policy of ignoring him is working so do not give in! (The technical term for this is an "extinction burst" of the behaviour).

Just imagine if your boss paid you (reward) every time you said "hello" (behaviour). If suddenly your boss stopped paying you when you said "hello" and did not explain the reason, would you not say "hello" more loudly and frequently just in case he had not heard you? (extinction burst of behaviour). Eventually you would get the message that the reward was no longer forthcoming and you would no longer bother to say "hello" (extinction of behaviour).

Its the same for pets, and if you ignore the behaviour they will no longer get the reward (in your dog's case attention at night) - so they try harder for some time- then give up.

Remember that a reward as far as the dog is concerned may include being shouted at/ punished! You must completely ignore the barking- you and your wife should ideally remain silent and in your beds, do not even bother to turn the lights on and do not make any noise if you can help it!

This is not going to be easy and short term will result in you both being very tired but in the end it will hopefully work- allow a few weeks, not just days though. Do not do this unless you are sure you can carry it through, if you give in just once you will have to start all over again!

Something which might help to sort out the problem a bit faster is an anti-bark collar such as the Abiostop collar. When the dog barks it squirts a spray of citronella up to the dogs nose which dogs do not like! This teaches them that when wearing the collar it is best not to bark!

In your case it might be a good idea to get your dog to wear the collar at night as well as ignoring any barking he may do- it may speed the process up a bit.

So in summary;

Make sure your dog is more active in the day and early evening- he is probably going to bed way too early at the moment.

Try the anti-barking collar for him to wear at night.

Completely ignore any barking during the night- do not reward this behaviour at all ever!

If this does not work consult a local animal behaviourist who may be able to help further.

Good luck!

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