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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Doug and the big bed.

One of the hardest things to get used to after Melvin died was his absence in the bed night. He was always there, every night. Some nights, he took up the whole bed, and for a dog that was not loved in his previous life, that was how it was meant to be. Him living like a king.  Jake was always uneasy sleeping in the big bed for the full night.  He’d snuggle for a while but he’d eventually want to get down and sleep in his bed. I think it was lack of control of being able to get down from the bed.  He was just always uneasy up there for more than an hour or so, even when Melvin was alive.

When I first got Doug, I let him into the big bed at night. It was pure torture. I honestly thought about lending him out to the military to use a tool to get enemies to talk. It took him a full 20 minutes to stop bouncing around the bed and off of my face and body and when he finally did lay down, it was a constant state of temporary.  If I took a deep breath or moved an inch, he took it as an invite to play.  He did this all night long. If I rolled over, he’d jump on my back in a lets-get-ready-to-rumble way.

Enter his ‘condo’. On night two or three, I dragged out one of the soft crates I had and Doug went right in and slept for ten hours. Ok, so that was a huge blessing and a note-to-self that he was obviously crate trained.  Good to know. So he has been sleeping in Big Red at night since then.

Recently, during the shocking realization that Doug snuggles now, I thought I’d try in him in the big bed again.  He was still pretty bouncy at first but he quickly calmed down, took a position on the bed and went to sleep.  I was shocked.  I moved and coughed and rolled over and he just kept sleeping. The only minor issue is that his chosen position on the bed IS LAYING ACROSS MY PILLOW. And it has to be on the pillow I’m on. If I move to another pillow, he moves with me. Doug is small in comparison to Melvin but he is not small in comparison to pillows. Here and there I let him sleep with me but it’s not the best night sleep when you are wearing your dog as a helmet.

Isn’t this awesome, Mom, its like I’m your pillow.  You’re welcome for that. img_2678

The net net of this post is that as we are working on Doug sleeping in the big bed, I hate looking at the giant red crate in the room.  It’s all part of my decorating illness brain, I need things to be visually pleasing and in their place.  I know it’s a little cray but there are worse obsessions to have!

So this weekend I dragged out Jake’s teepee to see if Doug would entertain sleeping in it.  I left Big Red just in case it didn’t work out.  But much like Jake, Doug likes caves and cozy spaces.  He took right to it and slept all night. I’ll trial it out one or two more nights and then move the teepee over to where the crate is and all will be glorious in my visual field again!  Win, win!

There is a cover on his bed because if there is not a cover on his bed, he tries to eat his bed. Apparently the cover is not as delicious. img_2694