How to Get Your Dog to Sleep In

Encourage Later Waking With Daytime Adjustments

Assuming there are no age- or health-related complications, you can prepare your pet for the time change by altering your routines and giving him some good reasons to keep sleeping. You will also need to shore up your own resolve to make it all work.

More exercise would be a good place to start. As a veterinarian, I know the vast majority of dogs aren’t getting enough exercise, just like their owners. Most dogs need a good half hour of heart-thumping exercise every day, and those who don’t get it aren’t going to be as likely to fall into a deep, restful sleep. (They’re also more prone to being overweight or obese, with all the accompanying health problems — another issue in human health that has crossed over to our pets.) The days are getting shorter and cooler, which makes this a great time to put on some reflective gear and get out for a walk with your dog after work. There’s just no downside to it, and it’ll help you both sleep better.

Next, start moving your dog’s meals back 15 minutes at a time. Adjust feeding time, stick with that time for a few days, and then move his dinner back another 15 and so on until he's eating an hour later each morning. That goes for the evening meal as well as breakfast. If you feed your dog from a bowl, I recommend switching to food puzzles. I’m a strong advocate for food puzzles generally, but they really fit in well here, since they’ll keep your dog’s mind and body busy and help tire him out, which makes him more likely to sleep in.

Ignore the Canine Wake-Up Call

Now we come to the hardest part of all: ignoring your dog in the morning. The truth is that many dog owners have only themselves to blame for their canine pests. If you stop paying attention to your dog when he nuzzles, whines, barks or otherwise works all the angles to get you out of bed on his schedule — probably hoping for his breakfast — you’ve taught him that all that nagging works.

Remember, you are in charge here; your dog should never be allowed to demand that you stop what you’re doing to feed him a meal. It’s the same as with begging: When a dog is rewarded with food for behavior you don’t want, he’ll keep up that behavior. If you have a demanding dog, ignore him completely. If you give in even once, you’ll be guaranteeing he’ll become an even bigger pest. That’s because random reinforcement strengthens behaviors — it’s what keeps people pushing the buttons on slot machines. A little reward here and there builds hopes of the big payoff.

Send a different message, and be firm about it. He’ll actually get worse with the pestering before he gets better — the escalation of unwanted, unrewarded behavior before it goes away is called an “extinction burst” — but he will eventually get the point and let you sleep in.

Once that happens, you’ll be waking him up when the clocks move forward again in a few months.

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