Having a restless dog at night can feel like being a new parent. Your pups feel anxious, and that makes you anxious, especially because nighttime anxiety is a particularly challenging dog problem to handle. Your first instinct may be to rush right in and pet your dog or give him or her treats. However, you will have to leave again to sleep, and leaving again is likely to trigger more anxiety. So, how can you successfully calm a restless dog at night?
Choose A Routine
Just like humans, dogs respond well to routines. Establishing a routine will help your dog learn when it’s bedtime and how he or she should respond. The more comforting and consistent you can make this routine, the better. Try not to return to your dog’s space once you’ve left for the night, as this sends the message that the routine can be disturbed, and you can be brought back with enough whining or barking. Instead, try to fill the routine with things that will help the dog self-soothe. We’ll go over some good options next.
Exercise at the Right Time
It’s wise to start your bedtime routine with some exercise. If you run your dog around an hour or so before bed, it’ll be easier for them to calm down and sleep once it’s time. This is especially true of puppies, who may not have developed the skills to calm themselves down yet.
Every dog owner wants to leave their dog in a safe environment for bedtime. However, safety looks very different to humans and dogs. You might want lots of pillows for bed and some calm music. But dogs typically want to sleep in a den-like environment. That’s a spot that is enclosed on three sides and covered on the top.
If your dog has a crate, simply covering the ceiling with a blanket can create more of a den-like feel. Other dogs might want to curl up under a desk or a side table. Chances are, the room where you leave your dog for bed already has a spot that can be easily converted into a kind of den.
Use Treats Carefully
Giving your dog treats while they are exhibiting anxious behavior can encourage their response instead of helping them settle down. That said, you can use treats to help your dog adjust to bedtime. Before you head out to exercise them, place a treat inside the crate or in the area where the dog will sleep. They will find it when they go to bed and won’t think that you gave it to them because of their anxious response.
Medication for Older Dogs
If your dog previously went to sleep well, but now seems to whine, pace, or bark at bedtime, it could be that they are in pain. This is especially common in older dogs who may need to traverse the stairs before bedtime, flaring up joint pain and other health issues. If this could be the case for your dog, your vet can help you address the health problems and relieve your dog’s pain.