Karen B. London
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Sleepless Nights
Dogs interrupt slumber in many ways

I was exhausted, but not too tired to shout, “You’ve got to be kidding!” at my alarm clock when it went off. My dog had woken me up half a dozen times in the middle of the night, and my face had the ugly morning look to prove it. This was a dog who usually slept peacefully through the night and was in no rush to start his day each morning.

On this particular night, though, the poor fellow was suffering from diarrhea, and he was waking me up by uncharacteristically whining and scratching on our screen door to be let out into the yard. Though I was sleep deprived, I was very aware how lucky I was. Better to wake up to noise repeatedly than to a revolting clean-up job in the morning. I was also able to encourage him to drink water and just be there for him. It was only one night of misery for him, and therefore only one night of misery for me.

It’s not the only time I’ve had my sleep schedule disrupted by a dog, though. Of course, there are the puppy times with their expected middle-of-the-night and early morning outings. There are the times when I’ve woken up long before morning because I have been either trapped in the covers by a dog lying on top of me in an awkward way or gradually pushed out from under the covers by a dog taking up more than a fair share of the bed. I’ve been woken up by a dog (who was new to my home) barking at every odd noise, but thankfully that only lasted about a week.

I know of friends who have hardly slept at all in the last few weeks or months of an old dog’s life as around-the-clock care, including carrying them outside to relieve themselves, became part of the routine. Others have dogs who find the wee hours of the morning a delightful time to play with the cat, or whose dog seems to think that it is perfectly acceptable to demand to be served breakfast at 4:30 in the morning. (It’s not!) Canine snoring accounts for a lot of nighttime disturbances, too.

How has your dog prevented you from getting a full night’s sleep?


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

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Submitted by Laura | February 8 2013 |

My husband and I have had a good night's sleep for almost the entire 3.5 years we've co-habitated with our current dog. First there was the puppy phase, with its unpredictable middle-of-the-night bladder alerts and 6 a.m. wake-up calls, and then, just as he became reliably housetrained, he started suffering from a seemingly endless chain of mysterious ailments culminating with pancreatitis that almost killed him. He's been pretty healthy for a while now, but since the pancreatitis began with vomiting in the night, we are now instantly awake and alert every time he licks his chops, belches or even changes position all night long. We joke (grimly) that we have PTSD: Puppy Trauma Sleep Disturbance.

Submitted by Amy | February 8 2013 |

I'm too tired to comment. My 16-year-old blind cocker spaniel that takes prednisone woke me up three times last night. She sleeps all day. I wish I could!

Submitted by Amy | February 8 2013 |

Middle of the night chasing of small animals in back yard. She hears them, and needs to get at them. In the summer, it's constant.

Submitted by Rachelle | February 9 2013 |

Just before we switched our GSD/lab/husky mix to a grain-free kibble last year, she kept us awake all night with turn-the-air-green gas. It was horrrrrrrrible. Grain-free and gas-free (after 2 weeks to gradually switch her food) after a consult with her vet the next day. :)

Submitted by LisaH | February 10 2013 |

Its the covers, always pinning the covers down. Or worse, the dog starts sweetly in one neutral place between us, in a king bed, towards the bottom. Then as the night progresses, he starts to scoot over to lean on my husband's legs, and as he moves away, the dog moves with him. Then I am awakened once the dog is unceremoniously lifted with the blanket and dumped onto my side. I would probably sleep fine if it weren't for that particular move, or my husband's complaining, despite night after night of he husband saying, "He's fine, let him sleep with us." Dog weighs 40 pounds BTW.

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