My dog wakes up too early and barks, what should I do? Early morning barking is self-rewarding behavior, and it happens because of the dog:
- Needs to go to the bathroom
- Is lonely or bored
- Heard something or perceived something as a threat
My Dog Wakes up Too Early and Barks — Why?
I’ve had my dog for over five years, and waking up together has been one of the best things about being a dog owner. Or at least it was until my pooch pulled a fast one on me and changed his behavior. Lately, my dog wakes up too early and barks.
Given that I’m a night owl, this is a huge issue for me. Around six o’clock every morning, my dog starts howling and barking his fluffy little head off.
It all started because my dog had some stomach problems a few months ago. He barked quite early and woke me up. Given that this was incredibly out of character for him, I got worried. So, I got up to see what was wrong. Well, one round of highly liquid poop in the yard later, I had my answer.
This went on for a few days and, after a visit to the vet, the diarrhea issue was resolved quickly. However, since my dog figured out that I’ll get up if he barks, no matter how early it is, the barking continued to be an issue.
My Dog Wakes up Too Early and Barks — Causes
Early morning barking has only one purpose. Our dogs are trying to alert us to something they perceive as an issue. That can be anything from “Hey, I’m bored! Wake up and entertain me!” to “Intruder alert!”
What’s more, if we don’t react quickly and nip it in the bud, the early morning barking will only increase in both volume and duration. That’s because barking, in general, is a self-rewarding behavior. The dogs do it, and lo and behold — after a while, we appear! What’s more, we also give them attention, or we let them out and probably give them breakfast (might as well, right, we’re already up).
So, barking for attention is one of the main reasons we’re woken at the wee hours of the morning. But what are the others?
They Need to Go to the Bathroom
Unfortunately, our dogs get older much faster than we do. Thus, we often don’t notice it. So, something that seems out of character (like the fact that the dog wakes up too early and barks) might actually just be a consequence of old age.
Older dogs can’t hold it in as long as younger dogs can. Because they were housebroken years ago, they prefer not to soil the house. Thus, they bark to alert us that they simply have to go.
They Want Us to Wake up Because They Are Lonely
Of course, not every reason for early morning barking is valid or as solid as “I have to pee right now, human!” Sometimes our dogs are simply lonely, and they miss us, so they do whatever it takes to get our attention.
Our dogs are more likely to bark in the ungodly hours of the morning if we have banned them from sleeping on our beds or in our rooms. If that was something we previously allowed, they might be lashing out or trying to get back into our beds the only way they know how — by getting our attention.
They Are Bored
Not all dogs know how to entertain themselves. That’s why they sometimes get fed up with waiting for their Sleeping Beauty humans to get up. So, they take matters into their own hands (so to speak). Again, barking is a self-rewarding behavior, especially for bored dogs, because sooner rather than later, their favorite human will get up to see what’s up. Mission accomplished (if you ask the dog)!
They Heard or Saw Something They Perceive as a Threat
Sometimes our dogs hear or see something through the window that they perceive as a threat. Because they recognize us as the head honchos in the family, they’ll immediately try to get our attention. The simplest way to do it is, of course, to bark.
This isn’t always an issue, because we do want to know if someone is trying to get into our homes, for example. However, we do not need to know about our neighbor, who gets out of his house to go to work at 6:15 every single morning.
My Dog Wakes up Too Early and Barks — Solutions
There are quite a few things we can do if our dog wakes up too early and barks. The first (and the most obvious one) is to ignore it. Sooner or later, it will stop barking.
Do Not Give In
If our dog wakes up too early and barks, the most important thing is not to give in to its demands. The dog wants our attention, and by getting up to see if anything is wrong, we’re essentially giving it what it wants.
The best thing we can do is ignore the barking and not go out to the dog’s sleeping place to see what made it lose its chill. However, sometimes our dogs can be quite persistent. Those of us who have small kids or live in an apartment building can’t really afford to get into a stand-off with a barking dog. We don’t want our neighbors banging on our door at six in the morning only to have to explain to them that we’re actually playing an elaborate game of chicken with our dog.
So, we can’t ignore the dog if it is persistent. What should we do, then?
Beat Them to the Punch
Most early riser dogs wake up around the same time every morning. One of the solutions to early morning barking is to beat the dog to the punch and get up before it.
So, if our dogs start barking at around six in the morning, we should set our alarms for a little bit earlier and go to their sleeping place. Then, once the dog wakes up, we should reward it for being quiet. If the dog starts barking, then our mission was unsuccessful, and we should try again tomorrow.
The next day, we should set our alarm a bit closer to our preferred waking time and repeat the process. Eventually, the positive reinforcement will teach our dog not to bark even if we aren’t awake and waiting for it with a treat.
Wear Them Out
Sometimes dogs wake up early because they have too much energy or they’ve napped a lot during the day. That leads to an early-morning frenzy, usually followed by barking, all in the hopes of getting our attention.
To avoid that, we should make sure our dogs are getting enough exercise during the day. If we wear them out, they’ll be too tired to bark during the night and in the early morning.
Proper Training and the “Hush” Command
We should all take the time to teach our dogs some basic commands. That way, we won’t have much trouble getting them to be quiet in the morning.
If our dog is familiar with the “hush” command, then its barking might wake us up. However, it won’t keep us up. After it hears the “hush” command, the dog should immediately stop barking, and we can go back to sleep.
Changing Their Sleeping Arrangements
Perhaps our dogs are barking because their sleeping arrangements aren’t ideal. Maybe the sun wakes them up in the morning. We all know how annoying that can be. So, try changing the position or even the room of your dog’s bed.
If that fails, try moving your dog to sleep in the same room as you. That way, it won’t bark even if it wakes up before you. Your presence and peacefulness will calm it, even if you aren’t awake enough to entertain it.
Don’t Forget to Go Potty Right Before Bedtime
Of course, always make sure your dog peed (and pooped, if necessary) right before its bedtime. That is especially vital for older dogs that bark early in the morning so we’d let them out to do their business.
A Few Parting Words
If your dog wakes up too early and barks, don’t despair. This isn’t the most manageable issue, but with a little bit of effort and attention, we can all solve it relatively quickly. If all else fails, we can always take in our fluffy best friends into our own beds for a few nights.