Worried About Your Dog’s Sleeping Behavior?

26 01 2009

A concerned mother noticed a change in her dog’s behavior, especially when it comes to sleeping patterns and refusing to sleep in the bed.  She sent me a few questions, and I have included the answers below for you to read.  She was dog-sleeping-weirdconcerned about her dog possibly being a “loner” and her earlier life in a shelter.

First, let me say that I do not know a single dog that is a “loner”.  We crave attention, whether it is from our families, toys, or other dogs.  This dog is still a puppy, about five months old.  There is a lot going on at five months, as this is the early stages of dog puberty.  Puberty for dogs is a lot like the human kind.  Around the age of five or six months, sometimes a little later, changes start occurring.  This is when we start to develop our adult bodies, and that is especially evident in our feet and tummy areas.  Our feet become adult-sized almost overnight, and we become exceptionally clumsy.  We also lose the round belly in favor of a more lean physique.  Puberty in a dog may last until the dog is 14 months old.

We also experience some behavioral changes.  This is the age that some dogs may begin to have a fear of something that had been very familiar.  There is nothing wrong with the object they are suddenly afraid of, so you probably do not have ghosts in your house, even though we may think so.  Sometimes you may move a chair from one room to another and when the dog discovers the movement some time later, he may bark or snarl at the repositioned chair.  There is nothing wrong with the chair.  The problem is not even that the dog is making a big deal out of something insignificant.  What we need to focus on is how YOU respond to your dog.

Let’s assume for a second that your pup has become afraid of the bed.  Why is he afraid of the bed?  Who knows?  Maybe all of the layers are confusing, and he does not feel comfortable about what happens to him when you re-arrange the covers in the middle of the night.  There are two ways to handle his newfound fear.  You can coax him onto the bed with treats and kisses and sweet nothings in his ear.  What did you solve?  Nothing.  Your actions have reinforced his fear of the bed, because you had to persuade him to join you on it.  For the rest of his life, he could suffer from a very unnatural fear of all beds.  Maybe he is far smarter than you thin, and he read my article about bedbugs!

Your dog’s behavior is irrational, and you need to recognize this.  Your response should be to get in the bed and ignore him.  Do not waste your breath coaxing him up there.  He already knows that being on the bed is a great thing, and if he wants to continue it he will come to you in his own time.  Remember that dogs are denning animals, and he may not appreciate your presence in the area that he sleeps, so he has chosen the corner on the floor since he has never seen you sleep there.  There is no reason to reward irrational or abnormal behavior, nor is there a reason to punish it.  There simply is no logic to it, and if it does not improve in a few weeks, maybe we need to seek out an explanation for the behavior.  This should not concern you at all.

One time, Mom knew this lady whose dog was beginning to behave strangely.  The dog was also refusing to sleep in the bed, but was content to follow her around the house.  The following became so incessant that it was becoming a pain.  She took her dog to the vet, and everything checked out okay, but the strange behavior continued.  One day, the lady was visiting with Mom.  She said that the problem was not with the dog, but with her.  Turns out, the lady was pregnant.  After she became aware of her pregnancy, her dog’s behavior went back to normal.  The dog went back to sleeping in the bed and hanging out around the house, rather than following her everywhere she went.  It is like the dog was trying to tell her, but did not know how!

Mom’s bed is a great place for me to hang out, but she only allows it as a reward when I have done something great.  The other day, we were discussing some things, and I had some questions for her.  She told me once that it is a “king-sized bed.”  That got me thinking…  Kings are males, right?  Moms are not males, right?  I am a male, right?  So the next logical question is, whose bed is it?  After talking through my logic, she still says that the bed is hers.  I just do not get you humans sometimes.

Ask Spike Online

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One response

26 01 2009
K Aponte

Spike, you know how many pregnancy tests you just helped get sold? We could’ve put a link and donate the proceedings to the ASPCA! Great info on behavior by the way; you definitely don’t want to cheer and reinforce the fear element. Sometimes we just need to stop complicating things so much (aka think like humans) and let them be themselves.

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