Pets

How to get your pet to sleep through the night

Author: Canadian Living

Pets

How to get your pet to sleep through the night

This story was originally titled "Wake-Up Call" in the September 2010 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

Does your furry friend rock around the clock? Share your stories, photos and videos of your pet – and your solutions - in our comments section on the next page.

Pets can murder a good night's sleep, as Diane Dowd knows only too well. Last spring, she and her husband, Phil, adopted a three-year-old Labrador retriever, whom they named Lucy. Night after night, Lucy would get up from her dog bed and pace. Then she'd shake herself, sniff loudly, put her paws on their bed and stick her nose right into Diane's face. While Phil dozed, Diane got dressed and took the dog outside. "It was like having a baby," Diane says. "I was sleep deprived." She's not alone.

Is your pet disturbing your sleep?
According to Nestlé Purina PetCare Canada, there are 12 million cats and dogs (not to mention innumerable birds, rodents and other small pets) in this country, so it's no stretch to believe the experts when they predict that at some point, every owner will be disturbed by a pet's nighttime activities.

"The extent [of the disturbance] varies based on the breed, the age, the training and the personality of the cat or dog," says Jenine LaFayette, a spokesperson for Purina. A Leger Marketing study in 2002 discovered that 30 per cent of all pet owners were bothered by barking or caterwauling. Another study, by the Mayo Clinic Sleep Disorders Centre, found that 53 per cent of animal owners were woken by their pets every single night.

A change in routine
Changing the disruptive behaviour starts with understanding it. Some experts say animals wake people up to play. That behaviour is most likely to come from a cat, says Kathy Linn, a veterinarian with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon. Cats are adept at learning associations, says Joseph Stookey, who's also a veterinarian at the college. If Bootsy wakes you up at 3 a.m. and you feed him, he'll be purring in your face tomorrow night too. But food is not the only trigger, adds Linn. Her cat knows when she's planning a trip the minute he sees her backpack – and anything outside a normal routine can make pets uneasy.

Animals are very sensitive to schedule changes. Susan Steiner, who runs a pet wellness centre and rescue in Brooklin, Ont., says her dog took three months to adapt to a new morning routine. "When I started getting up at 6 a.m. instead of 5 a.m., he'd wake up early, bark and pace and paw at me. They know good things happen when people get up," she says.

Sometimes, however, a pet can have a good reason to make some noise. One woman's dog kept trying to wake her up at night, so she called Lauren Bode, an animal communicator in Toronto, who discovered that the dog was worried about her. Within a few months, the woman was diagnosed with a serious autoimmune disease.

Page 1 of 2 - find 7 ways to help your pet sleep on page 2.

As for Lucy, the restless Labrador, she was diagnosed with a bladder infection and, after a round of antibiotics, is now sleeping through the night. "She is a different dog," says Diane, who is also now sleeping like a log.

How to get your pet to sleep through the night
1. Knock off the Frisbee playing. "There's a theory that says dogs are like athletes," says Stookey. "The more you exercise them, the more they need it. If you want your dog to be a bit lazy, don't take him on so many walks, and feed him a little more."

2. Kick them out of the bedroom or at least off the bed. "If you let them sleep with you, you're asking for disruptions," says Stookey. If the interloper is a cat, try to ignore the behaviour and it will eventually stop, says Linn. "Shutting the cat out of the room will only provoke yowling."

3. Keep the same schedule. "If you get up Monday to Friday at 7 a.m., don't be shocked that when you want to sleep in on the weekend, your pet is still getting up at seven," says Steiner.

4. Give them their own place. "A crate is important for some dogs," says Steiner. "But leave it in one spot – leave the dog's bedroom in one place, same as yours."

5. Birds like their cages to be covered at night, says Dr. Evan Mavromatis, a veterinarian at the The Links Road Animal and Bird Clinic in Toronto. "It's like us closing the blinds on our windows." Rodents such as hamsters and mice are more active at night, he says, but still pretty quiet. If you give them a wheel to run on, don't put the cage anywhere near your bed.

6. Look for illness. Animals get diseases like we do. If your pet's behaviour suddenly changes, says Linn, something is wrong. Take it to the vet.

7. Calm down. "The first thing I teach people is to relax their own minds," says Bode. "One person brought her dog to me and said it was crazy. I say animals reflect their owners."

Check out these cute dogs having a snooze.

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