a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

SUMMARY: Is Boost night-trained or isn't she?

When Boost came to live with me, she was about 3 months old and sleeping through the night. We did have a rare case or two of peeing in the crate at night, but at the time I was using a crate with a waterproof base, so clean-up was easy. Eventually, I switched to a lightweight fabric crate, and eventually (like with all my dogs) she ended up sleeping on my bed.

I've never had a problem with my dogs regularly needing to go outside during the night. Usually, if a dog suddenly feels nature calling--even needing to throw up--she'll leap off my bed, which is what wakes me so that I can usher them outside (or, in case of imminent horking, onto the tiled bathroom floor).

In Jake's last year or two, he needed to go out during the night more and more often, but he was 15 when he died, so I'd cut him some slack. Plus he somehow cleverly figured out that, if I didn't wake up and let him out (and I tend to doze off again unless the activity continues), he could walk into my shower stall, do his business there, and get back to bed. How clever is that? I *never* ushered any of my dogs into my shower stall for anything exept a very rare bath.

During the time she was sleeping in the crate and for a while thereafter, I was going through a period of insomnia, so I'd rise in the night, don my robe, and head downstairs for a hot chocolate and a crossword puzzle to put me back to sleep. If in the crate, she'd start to make a ruckus, so I'd have to let her out to keep her from waking my housemate. Whereupon she'd want to go out, so I'd let her. When she stopped sleeping in her crate, she'd just immediately get up as soon as I did, trot downstairs, and demand to be let out. And I'd let her.

I've had less and less trouble with insomnia over time, and now (bless hormone therapy!) it's not a problem at all. So, in recent months, I've realized that she's been waking up in the middle of the night on hre own and needing to go out. Not every night, but I doubt that a week goes by where she doesn't want to go out at least one night. This is the dog, mind you, who can go most of an entire day at an agility trial without peeing and a whole weekend without pooping because things are just too interesting to want to take time for potty breaks. So I figure maybe she's just holding it.

I've started insisting on her going outside before bedtime and waiting for her to potty (and giving the verbal signal and all), but most of the time she just tries to play. (I don't do so, and I take away her toys, but that doesn't necessarily stop her.) It's rare that she'll actually do something at that time under my guidance.

I've started getting pissy in the middle of the night when she wakes me up. Maybe that's the wrong thing to do (she says in retrospect), because now she apparently tries to hold it, which makes her restless, so she moves around on the bed and moves and moves and moves and moves and moves and STOP IT DAMMIT! (or I keep telling her to settle and then rolling over and dozing off).

Two weeks ago, in one of our rare stays in a motel, she DID pee right before I went to bed, and she did get really restless in teh middle of the night and I ignored it, figuring it was the noise of an unfamiliar hotel setting. Finally I rolled over, reclaiming more of my bed--and discovered that it was sopping wet all through my dog-bed-cover, the bedding, the mattress pad, and the mattress. Fortunately there was another bed in the room. I took her out right then and she peed some more.

So I don't know whether I managed to train her to wait for the middle of the night to go potty or whether there's something else going on. We have none of the other likely symptoms of, say, a bladder infection, so I'm just thinking it's a training thing, and I'm struggling with fixing it.

Friday night, she woke me up leaping off the bed and refusing to settle. In the yard, she walked all the way around the yard slowly (not her usual pottying mode, which is a trot to an appropriate location), peed for about half a second, and then came back into the house and settled for the rest of the night. Does she think she HAS to go out in the middle of the night even if she DOESN'T need to go? Dang dog brains.


  1. She might have a sort of chronic bladder infection which can be checked pretty easily by collecting some urine in a clean container (a first morning specimen is best) and delivering it to your vet for a microscopic examination. If that checks out OK I'd go ahead and get up with her in the middle of the night, let her out and then put her in her crate for the rest of the night. That way she gets to go out but not without a price to pay. It shouldn't take long for her to decide that it's better not to wake Mommy unless she really has to go :-)

  2. Good idea, but I'm not sure I know how to get a sample myself--I think that if I swoop down to ground level to get under the dog, I'm going to scoop up some ground and probably spook the dog, too. Huh. Suggestions welcome.