There are worse ways to be woken up in the middle of the night than a cold, wet dog nose — however, that ish gets seriously old after a while. Sure, it’s adorable and endearing that our dogs want nothing but our love and attention, but do they have to beg for it 24/7? We need our beauty sleep, after all.
It’s hard to fathom what in the world a dog could possibly need at 2 a.m…. every single night. It made us wonder if they actually do need anything — or if they are just looking for company.
We spoke with a couple of experts, and as it turns out, Fido may just be too smart for his own good — and is totally messing with you.
David Levin, owner of dog walking and training company Citizen Hound, says dogs learn behaviors from patterns. Basically, if it tried something once and it worked, it’s going to try it again and again. So remember that one time you indulged your dog a midnight snack or a walk around the block? This might be coming back to haunt you — over and over.
Of course, your dog might have a legit reason for needing you to be up in the middle of the night. Bathroom emergencies happen to all of us, even our four-legged friends, and it might just need to get outside, pronto. Celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman says the occasional wake-up call for that reason is not a bad thing — especially since the alternative is a mess on your floor in the morning.
“If your dog does wake you up periodically to go outside, you definitely want to encourage this behavior,” says Silverman. “Remember that this is the best way he knows how to communicate!”
It’s also possible that your dog didn’t get enough food before you hit the hay, so make sure it’s getting the recommended amounts of food every day.
Silverman says your dog might also wake you up on occasion to let you know it’s sick. “He may be trying to communicate to you that he is not feeling well. While there is most likely nothing wrong, it is always a good idea to take a look. Try taking your dog out of your room and into a room that is well lit, and try to calm him down.”
If you’re being woken up most every night, though, your dog is probably bored.
“Some days, we’re guilty of not giving our dogs the proper amount of physical stimulation,” adds Levin. “Like days we’ve been out all day and too tired to do much besides let them out back when we get home. Being a light sleeper, I’ll wake in the middle of the night and catch them just sitting up on the couch or laying with their heads up staring at the walls. I can easily imagine a more impulsive dog taking those opportunities to wake up the humans and try to alleviate that boredom.”
If you think this might be your dog’s problem, make a point of going for a long walk before bedtime. You’ll probably both sleep better for it.
Silverman says if your dog is waking you up for reasons that aren’t emergencies, break the cycle and re-establish good behavior. “If for some reason your dog is waking you up on a regular basis, and not interested in going outside to relieve himself, and he is healthy, you might consider putting the dog somewhere other than your bedroom.”
He added that sometimes the change only needs to be temporary — just long enough to break the cycle and stop your dog from continuing its pattern.
Originally published August 2015. Updated May 2017.