Sleep training.

I get a lot of questions about how I get the dogs to sleep in. I think Melvin trained me, to sleep train. Melvin’s foster dad was in the army and they both woke at 0500 to walk. I don’t even know what 0800 looks like, so 0500 was never going to fly. The first couple of weeks Melvin was mine, he slept during the day and paced on top of the bed (with me in it) all night. I tried putting him downstairs so that I could get sleep but he barked non-stop. He had run stray, his skin was on fire. It took him a while to learn to relax but once he did, that dog embraced sleep like no dog ever has.

It has been such an honor to give all the boys a life where they could embrace sleep, and without them really knowing I was a sleep pusher, I was also happy to get them addicted to it.

Here are some of my tricks:

  • Never, never, never get up when your alarm goes off. This gives them the go-ahead to rise and shine the moment they hear it. By not getting up when the alarm goes off, they basically stop hearing it. This step will take the longest. Jake wasn’t great at this so I had an alarm clock downstairs and while we were watching TV or I was working, it would go off and I would not change what I was doing. Eventually, he ignored it.
  • Vary the times you hit snooze. Dogs can count, trust me. If you vary the snooze hits, they will learn that each subsequent alarm noise is a non-day-starter also.
  • During training, if they get up and try to get you up, be a lifeless zombie. Melvin would lay on top of me and cut off my breathing and I never moved. I just kept thinking: ‘0500 is what happens if you move’. Doug would lay on my face. DO NOT GIVE IN.
  • Have a verbal get up signal – mine is OK. This is crucial if you have to pee, but plan to come back to bed. I always give a stay command for this. It does not always work but all dogs have learned to follow me back to bed until the office OK.
  • I need 8 hours of sleep and that was always enough for Melvin and Jake. Doug needs 10-12 hours so he has been pretty easy to train once he realized the alarm means nothing.
  • I have a gate at the top of our steps so Melvin could go out into the loft whenever he wanted. Doug sleeps with me about 50% of the time (he has to stay used to his little bed area for when I have migraines) so he can also venture out to the loft. But by keeping them upstairs, we avoid ‘starting the day’ or seeing food bowls. Jake always stayed in his ‘meatball factory’ zone so he was the easiest.
  • Have a water bowl near the bedroom. It’s not prison!

This is how I did it with Max (came to me used to getting up at 7am), Melvin (0500), Jake (I’m not sure anyone ever gave Jake a schedule so he was just happy to have love), and Doug (goes from 0 to 4,576 upon waking so waking rules are key).

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8 thoughts on “Sleep training.

  1. I was just telling my sister this morning that Swyatt actually sleeps in! Sophie was very much a 6am (if she shoved enough 5:30am) potty and breakfast. Weekends meant nothing to her and if I ignored her she would wake Swyatt up and he would zoom until I gave in. But Swyatt, sleeps until he hears the alarm. And if I turn it off and say go back to sleep….HE DOES! Its a revelation. LOL.

  2. Ha ha ha…love the sleep pictures of all your boys over the years. My girl sleeps anytime if she gets her 3-4 mile walk in, she’s a Doug type, but then who wouldn’t. I worked nights when I got her, so I slept on the floor with her after a 45 minute play session when I got home in the morning. She caught on so fast, sometimes I woke to a dog on my head or a toy be shaken in my face, but after letting her out briefly she would come back and lay in our den (blanket on the floor). I could not crate her all day and night. Six years later, I get up in the morning, and she may get up with me, but often times she will get up 15-45 minutes later! I joke I am working for the dog!!!!

  3. Ha-ha. What a great post. We have a very lazy boy who happily sleeps 23 hours a day. Zoomies are a rarity. We used to do walks every morning at 6am before I went to work, and by the end of the week he was so over it. He would burrow into whatever bed he was in and pretend he didn’t know I was there. We regularly have to stick our hands under him to pry him out of his bed or chair. A few times he’s tried to dodge around me and go back to bed rather than going outside! I will keep your tips in case I have to sleep train a future dog. I love our lazy mornings! This is a habit I will not be giving up!

  4. Ugh I so need this. We have one that likes to get me up to potty at 3am then it’s a fight to get to 6am. She always wants fed. The other…. he’d sleep all day if I’d stay in bed with him but he’s 11 1/2 so that could be why.

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