Dear Julie,

I’m exhausted! My dog wakes me up every day at 4am with this terrible whining. I’ve tried to ignore him but he just won’t stop. He used to wake up in the night when he was a puppy, but now he’s two. Shouldn’t he be able to hold it for the whole night? Help me please!


Rise and Whine

Dear Rise and Whine,

The two most common causes for your early morning wake up call are; one, your dog learned this habit from a young age, likely when he was still being house broken and needed late night and early morning bathroom breaks, and now this has become his routine.  And two, your dog has learned how to control you (this noise gets this response) and has decided that it’s time for him to wake up and for his human to start his day.

Dogs that develop this behaviour pattern for the first reason, tend to be very routine sensitive dogs.  For example, you are 5 minutes late giving him his dinner and he starts pacing, dancing around you, sitting at his dinner bowl or barking at you, “excuse me you forgot something!”.  For these guys, we need to look at a complete routine change, slowly pushing back their wake up time to coincide with yours.  We can do that by increasing our dog’s level of activity in the evening, making sure that he is nice and tired and goes to the bathroom just before he goes to bed.  Now for the unpopular answer, to stop the rise and whine you need to STOP responding to him in any way until he has been quiet for 30 seconds or longer.  I normally advise my clients to start this at a time when you can sleep in for a few mornings in a row and use ear plugs to drown out the noise.   Running something to generate white noise, like a fan or air purifier, will also help your dog sleep better through the night.  White noise helps drown out outside noises that may be triggering him to wake up.   How long it will take for you to see results will vary depending on how long your dog has been successful with this behaviour in the past.  Patience and consistency will always win.

To determine whether or not your dog is a control freak, just take a good look at your other daily interactions.  Does your dog paw, whine or bark at you when he wants something else, such as treats, play or to go outside?  If so, it’s possible that your dog has figured out how to train you before you figured out how to train him.  Following the above recommendations will help, but there are larger issues afoot that need to be addressed.  In these cases, we need to take a close look at who controls the other resources in the home and consequently, who is alpha of your pack.