How to prevent a dog from asking in and out at night

Surely you recognize the situation — just when you begin to fall asleep, your dog asks to be let out. He whines, cries, barks and you give up. Later, when you are finally falling asleep again, he asks back in. It’s horrible, but there is a way out of it.

dog sitting at the door and asking out
“But I want to go out to play” Photo by Jeffrey, cc

IMPORTANT: make sure your dog isn’t suffering from an underlying medical or other problem. Urinary problems, constipation, pain, or discomfort are among the issues that may be causing your dog’s demands to go out. It is counterproductive to “teach” your dog to be quiet when his need to go may be that his bladder is not functioning as it should. It’s not only a waste of your time spent training, but it can make the matters worse.

Do not encourage your dog to ask you to come in and go out

If the dog is healthy, the number one reason for dogs asking in and out is the fact that owners actually let them in and out. If the dog learns that he is let outside every time he whines, that is exactly what he will do.

Yes, we agree that when you are asleep and your dog is whining or even barking, the easiest solution is to let him out. Or in. Or out again, sometimes. You say, “I can quickly get back to my dream.” The only problem is that the same scenario is very likely to happen again the next night and every other night.

A better solution is to ignore your dog’s begging until he gives up (he will eventually – he can’t whine forever). You probably won’t sleep for a couple of nights, but you’ll fix the problem.

How do you do this? In the evening, you let your dog out, maybe even take him for a walk, get everything ready for him to sleep, and go to bed yourself.

IMPORTANT: When your dog starts to whine do not respond in any way – don’t even shush him. It may seem counterintuitive not to shush your dog, but shushing is attention, and attention gives him a signal that his actions might be successful. Don’t scold him, don’t feed him or talk to him, and of course don’t do the worst thing by letting him out. Doing any of these things is likely to encourage more whining.

Note: The only exception is when it is absolutely necessary that the dog be quiet, for example, when you have a baby asleep or your neighbors are complaining. In such cases, you can say a firm “no” to your dog, but stay close to him for a bit. Talk to your dog and pet him, but it must be clear that there is no connection between whining and talking/petting. You do not want to pet your dog in response to his whining – you want to pet him in response to his being quiet. In addition to following these rules, you should also make sure to  provide your dog plenty of activities during the day. Moderate exercise is likely to improve his well-being and sleep. Think of it through your prism – do you sleep better after a walk or after sitting on the couch? Don’t, however, make your dog exhausted because he may crave the outdoors for fresh air at night. Walking or running should be effective enough, but you might also try training or playing with your dog.

How quickly will your dog give up if you ignore his begging? Every dog is different, and some may give up sooner, some later. Even if your dog is super-hard to break of this habit, keep trying the above techniques, though you can always get professional help.