Dog behaviour with Gwen Bailey - homepage


Dog Behaviour with Gwen Bailey - homepage
Gwen Bailey
Your Feedback
Shop - buy online
Dog Behaviour Problems
& Cat Behaviour Problems

Dog Behaviour Problems: Settling into a new home

The First Night/ Crying at Night:

Question: Tia is an 8 month old Mongrel, adopted yesterday from a dogs' home. She has a lovely temperament, and has been trained a little in basic obedience and housetraining. At the moment we live in a small flat, but in a few weeks will be moving into a large house.

Tia is going to have to be left alone in the flat during the day whilst we are at work, although we'll be home at lunchtime to let her out. We tried to get her to stay in the kitchen to sleep last night, but she whined and howled until eventually we let her sleep on the sofa.

I'm worried that she will do this whilst left alone during the day. There is no one to stay with her until we move house, and I don't want to have to give her back because she can't be left alone. Are there any training methods to calm her when she is alone, or anything similar? Her notes said that she was destructive, but we have yet to see just what that means! She is also very attention-seeking, and follows us everywhere.

Answer: It is usual for dogs that have been rehomed to be difficult about being left for the first 2 months. During this time they seem to need reassurance that they haven’t been abandoned, and can be noisy, destructive or dirty. If you have to leave her and do not want complaining neighbours or problems in the house, you will need to leave her in kennels during the day or get someone to look after her. She can be gradually taught to accept being alone, but this takes time.

When you move into your new home and have someone to be with her, gradually teach her that is okay to be left by starting with just a few minutes with her shut in a room by herself. Build this up over several sessions until she can tolerate half an hour comfortably. Then repeat, but go out of the house and leave her properly.

If you need help with this, please contact the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding correcting separation anxiety.

Question: We have had our 11-week old Labrador, Molly for two weeks now. She has been crying at night, but we are trying to leave her to settle herself as much as possible. I have read some advice suggesting crates in the bedroom but, as we have children, I don't want to resort to this. Do you have any suggestions to help her settle in?

Answer: Suddenly leaving the security of the mother and littermates, coming to a new household and then being left totally alone at night in the dark can be very frightening for a new puppy, especially if the breeder has not taken the time to get each puppy used to being alone before they go to their new homes.

Since this can cause some sensitive puppies to be prone to separation problems later in life, my advice is to take the puppy up to the bedroom for the first few weeks, confined to a high-sided box or crate so that it can be with you, but not get too close.

Then, when the puppy is used to the house, used to being parted from its mother and littermates, and has got used to being left alone for short periods of time, it can go down to the kitchen at night times.

This method is less traumatic for the puppy and has the added advantage that you are able to get up and take the puppy out when it wakes up in the middle of the night, thereby avoiding the puppy learning to use the kitchen floor as a toilet.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding & correcting separation anxiety.

Also see Gwen Bailey's article on Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Question: We got our 4-year-old German wirehaired pointer from a rescue centre four years ago. Generally, he has settled in really well however, lately when we have gone out at night and left him on his own (for about 3-4 hours), he has been crying and howling constantly. We know this because our neighbours have told us! We leave him during the day while we are at work, but come home at lunchtime for an hour and he never cries at all.

Do you think this is because he is used to the daily routine but finds it difficult if we break this routine by going out at night? We've tried leaving the radio on for him but it doesn't seem to work. Can you please help? He would be the perfect dog if we could sort this problem out.

Answer: Yes, he is probably used to being left during the day but has not learned to cope with it during the evening. You are leaving a young, energetic dog for a long time each day.

One of the reasons for the problem is that he is just coping with the isolation during the day, but, by leaving him for longer, it becomes just too much. Dogs have needs that have to be met if they are to be content and a young dog from a working breed has a lot of energy to use up. In addition, they need to feel part of a pack and to have enough social contact each day.

If you leave him all day while you are at work, even if you go home at lunchtime, it will be difficult for you to meet all his needs in the time you have left (especially as you will be tired too).

Going out in the evening as well makes it very difficult to give him all he needs and I think he is finding it difficult to cope. So to improve the situation, try to structure your socialising so that you do not leave him for two evenings in a row. Make sure you give him plenty of love and attention when you are at home and play games with him as often as possible.

Exercise him well for several hours a day and leave him chews and strong toys to play with when you are not there. Then teach him to cope alone during the evenings by gradually leaving him shut in another room for increasing periods of time. When he is happy with this, go out for short times and gradually increase. Remember to give him plenty of attention and exercise while you work on this so that you are meeting all his needs.

Alternatively, you could try to find him someone who will be happy to baby-sit him while you go out for the evening.

You may like to read The Rescue Dog which has more information on understanding & correcting separation anxiety.

Question: I work five days a week and my husband works three night shifts per week. When his night shift falls during the week, our 3-month-old basset hound puppy has to be left alone from 8am to 1pm while he sleeps. She is fine for the first couple of hours, but then howls and cries continually. This behaviour continues even when he brings her into the bedroom with him. Is there anything that may be triggering this crying or is just something that she will grow out of?

Answer: 3 month old puppy needs to feel that they have someone looking after them which is why she is likely to howl or cry when you are out. Even though there is someone with her, they are asleep and are not providing the attention she needs at that time. She will grow out of it in time, but it may become a bad habit that is difficult to break.

To help make her feel more comfortable, try giving her plenty of attention when you are at home, but on your terms only. Have periods of half an hour when she gets no attention at all, followed by ten minutes of undivided attention and play. This will help her become a bit more independent. In addition, play with her often during the preceding evening and as much as you can before you go to work. Buy 10 chews and strong toys and leave just 3 of these down to keep her occupied while you are not there.

Pick these up when you come home and leave another 3 on the next day. In this way, they will stay new and interesting for her and will, hopefully, keep her happy until you come home.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding & correcting this behaviour.

Question: Our two dogs are brother and sister. At night they can go in and out as they please as we have a doggy door. The problem is that while he is quiet all night, she barks all night. I have tried reassuring her, trying to tire her out during the day and giving her extra attention but none of these seem to work. Please help me to stop her barking!

Answer: You need to try to find out why she is barking. Does he go out and sleep in the garden or roam about, and leave her inside barking? She may not want to leave the safety of the house at night and may bark when she finds herself alone. Perhaps you could close the door for a few nights and see if this improves the situation.

Alternatively, she could be reacting to you not being with her. This is less likely since, if she grew up with her brother, I would think he would be enough company for her. However, if she is very attached to you and follows you everywhere, it could be that she is missing you and you will need to teach her gradually to accept being left alone.

Or perhaps she is bored and doesn’t know what to do with all her energy. Dogs that have too much energy to sleep all night usually wake up in the early hours and call their humans down for some action. Is she getting enough play and exercise? Is she being disturbed by something in the night? You don’t say when she begins to bark, but this will give you a clue as to why she is doing it.

Find the cause and the solution will usually be obvious. If not, contact the The Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors

Question: My Labrador puppy is 9 weeks old. He barks and yelps throughout the night and whenever he is left alone - even for 10 minutes. It's driving us crazy! He stops as soon as we enter the room. We've tried ignoring it but it Doesn’t seem to be working. Please help.

Answer: Puppies should get used to being isolated for short periods when in the litter, but few breeders do this. So when a puppy goes to a new home and it left all alone on the first night, it is no surprising that they complain!

It is important now that you teach him gradually how to cope with being alone.

Wait until he is tired and has just been outside to the toilet. Feed him a small meal and make sure he has a warm bed to sleep in, then shut him in a room and leave him until he gives up and goes to sleep. When he is asleep, leave the door open so that he can come and find you later.

Once he has started to accept this, gradually build up the time that he is left for until he can cope with being left for 30 mins without getting distressed.

Once he can cope with this, he is ready to be left at night. Until then, take him up to the bedroom with you, but leave him in a high-sided box or a cage that he cannot get out of.

If he whimpers, reassure him, but don’t make too much fuss of him. If he cries in the night, take him down to the toilet and this will help with the housetraining process too.

You may like to read The Perfect Puppy which has more information on understanding & coping with separation anxiety.

Please also see Gwen Bailey's articles on Indoor Kennels (Wire Cages & Crates) and Ingredients for the Perfect Puppy

Question: Our Lhasa Apso Jess had the whole house to live in but she tended to wet on the carpet. She is five and a half. In the front room we have just had a new carpet laid, so at night she is in her basket in the kitchen she now barks and scratches at the door most of the night is it just a passing phase or is there any thing else I can do? Thanks for your help

Answer: She is probably lonely at night and may be feeling insecure since she is now made to sleep somewhere unfamiliar. She may get used to it and you could leave her there for a while to see.

Alternatively, you could let her sleep just outside your bedroom but confine her to her bed so that she cannot get out of it to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. The most convenient way to do this is to use an indoor kennel.

You will need to get her used to being in the cage during the day at first so she doesn’t panic when she finds she cannot get out. Put her bed in it, put the cage in her usual resting place and praise her whenever she goes in.

Then you can begin to use it at night. If she wakes up in the middle of the night and causes a disturbance, take her outside as she may need to go.

Don’t make a fuss of her or give her attention. Since it is now inconvenient for her to go in the middle of the night, this regime should, eventually, break the habit.

Please also see Gwen Bailey's article on Indoor Kennels (Wire Cages & Crates)

Question: Why does my dog walk around in a circle three or four times before lying down? My wife thinks it probably something wolves used to do to check for danger ­ but as our dog is a Yorkie I don't think there's much wolf in her!

Answer: You would be surprised how much wolf is in a Yorkie! Essentially, dogs haven’t changed a great deal from their ancestors, although, of course, selective breeding has made them a lot more civilised so that it is possible to live with them. But they haven’t lost all of the drives and desires their ancestors needed to make them successful hunters. So we have lots of ‘throwback’ behaviour that has been handed down that isn’t much use in the comfortable world of the pet dog, but nonetheless still exists.

Turning round in circles before sleeping is one of these. It was probably originally useful to flatten the bedding material rather than to check for danger. If wolves think there is a threat, they will seldom curl up and sleep soundly, rather they will lay quietly with ears alert ready to catch any sound. Turning round and round helps to pad down whatever you will be lying on, helping to give you a comfortable night’s sleep.

You may like to read Good Dog Behaviour has more information on understanding this behaviour.

Back to Dog Behaviour Problems

Click on a picture to learn more ->
Click on a picture to learn more ->
Training for Life - Puppy/Dog Training Classes in a box!
The Rescue Dog/ Adopt the Perfect Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey
What is my dog thinking? by Gwen Bailey
What is my cat thinking? by Gwen Bailey
Good Dog Behaviour/The Well Behaved Dog by Gwen Bailey
The Puppy Handbook/ The Ideal Puppy by Gwen Bailey