Suffering from Doggy Accidents at Night?
I have had a few requests lately from people who are waking up to find “surprise packages” for them on the floor in the morning, and need some help.
First to make this clear this article is geared toward dogs that don’t have potty training issues during the day or are mostly potty trained. For those of you having general potty training issues pick up a copy of my potty training course here.
I am a HUGE proponent of crate training, and again at another time we will discuss why! Crate training will undoubtedly fix the issue of dogs that get up and have accidents at night, because it eliminates their ability to get away and potty on the floor. I recommend putting the crate next to you while you sleep so you can hear your dog wake up and become restless if they truly need to go out at night. And if your dog struggles heavily with WHINING while in his crate, and that's what's keeping you from crate training, I would also recommend you try these Impulse Control Training games that will really help.
However, I am hearing from most of you that you are prematurely enjoying the company of your dog on the bed with you at night! I say premature, because I believe sleeping on the bed is a privilege and should only happen if you dog has no dominance issues toward you or your family and only if your dog is completely and reliably potty trained.
But…changing human behavior and the desires of people is often more difficult than just giving some advice that may make you both happy. If these recommendations don’t work, I do suggest going back to square one and crate training until your dog is sleeping quite successfully throughout the night and there are no daytime accidents!
First and foremost, change the time that you are feeding your dog and do NOT give treats at night or in the evening. I recommend not feeding your dog after 5 p.m. and taking the water up an hour or two before bedtime. However this is contingent upon your schedule and your bedtime; you will have to make the appropriate adjustments. This should encourage elimination before bed.
Next and even MORE IMPORTANT is EXERCISE!!! If your dog is exhausted, chances are he won’t wake up in the middle of the night and go exploring. Exercise also encourages pooping and gets the bowels moving. So go on a walk, or play some games before bed to ensure that he is truly tired!
Then if you are not going to use a crate, try at least shutting your bedroom door. Make the environment smaller. Dogs, especially smaller dogs, have no problem going into another room to poop because they can easily “escape” the package they just left and it doesn’t bother them. If their environment is smaller (the door to the room closed) they might be uncomfortable pooping in the same room they sleep in.
If you must use a tether or a leash, use a body harness. I have tethered dogs before while sleeping, but I always have the leash attached to me (wrist or ankle), so that I will wake up if it is yanked too hard. Make sure that the leash leaves ample room for your dog to get off the bed and wander a few feet on the floor, we don’t want your dog to strangle or to get wrapped up in the leash and get injured. NEVER use a collar; only use a harness, otherwise your dog could strangle or his neck may snap. Tethering is always a risk, but less so if you use a harness and it is attached to you. This is only a temporary fix until your dog stops getting up at night!
Ultimately, if you are having issues, restrict his food at night, exercise him so that he will eliminate prior to going to bed and so that he will be tired and sleep through the night, and close your bedroom door to make the environment smaller and less conducive to accidents. Then sleep with one eye open and soon your dog should form the habits to sleep through the night and get on the right track!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.