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Ask a Trainer Question Answered

Author: Andrea Miller | Date: September 6, 2012

Here’s the next round of answers for our Ask a Trainer feature on our website. It’s your chance to get dog training advice from the pros at AnimalSense. Stay tuned for more questions & answers, and if you have a burning dog training question, just “Ask a Trainer”!

In the last two months, my now 15 month old cockapoo has been waking me every morning with whimpering noises from her crate. When this first started happening, I thought she needed to go outside so I would let her out of the crate, hastily dress and take her downstairs – only to find the need was not so urgent. (We’d walk blocks before she’d do her business.) Once I realized that her whimpers were not because she had to go potty, I tried ignoring them in the hopes of breaking her of this habit. The whimpers though did not abate. During the work week, I don’t mind the often early morning wake-up but on weekends, it can be awful, particularly if she and I were just both out for a late night walk after I’d returned from an evening out with friends. Is she doing this because she is in tune with the rising sun and believes that if it is up, so too should we be? Or are her whimpers indicative of something more? & is there anything I can do to stop them? I’ve tried letting her sleep outside the crate, but that led to being awakened multiple times in the middle of the night. Please help!! I am at risk of turning into one crabby mommy…

If you know your dog doesn’t need to go to the bathroom (and it sounds like you’ve definitely eliminated that possibility with the early morning strolls around the neighborhood), the best thing to do is just wait the whimpering out. I know it’s not the advice you probably wanted to hear, but there are certain things you can do to prevent her from disrupting your sleep. Get some earplugs and put her crate in the farthest part of the house from your bedroom. Try covering her crate with a heavy blanket to both muffle the whimpers and keep her more in the dark if she is waking with the rising sun.

The most important thing to remember is that you should not open the crate until she is quiet and calm and preferably, laying down.

You want to wait until she has made the decision to stop trying and therefore quit whining. This could be very difficult at first, since you’ve already responded by letting her out of the crate, which is totally natural. Our dog is crying, we need to make sure there’s nothing wrong. However, now that you know there is nothing wrong, you may have to weather what’s called an “extinction burst” where the behavior may get worse before it gets better because the dog will try harder. Eventually, they stop doing the behavior that doesn’t work for them.

Here’s how it works: the dog whines and is let out of the crate. She’s learned that whining (behavior) leads to a predictable outcome (release), and once learned, will anticipate and expect that outcome. So, when you stop letting her out of the crate, she may resort to louder whining or even barking. She may up the level of intensity to get that same outcome of getting out of the crate. But stay strong! Most dogs get the message pretty quickly.

Wishing you sweet dreams!



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