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Distinguishing Night from Day

By Debbie Bauer

Some owners of deaf/blind dogs report that their dogs have trouble staying asleep all night

Some people living with blind/deaf dogs report that their dogs have trouble staying asleep all night.  Often their dogs will wake them during the night and can’t seem to settle back down to sleep.

If your blind/deaf dog is unable to distinguish between light and dark, it may be challenging to help her tell the difference between day and night.  This can make it challenging for you to get enough sleep on a proper schedule.

Keeping a bedtime routine can be helpful.  Create as many clear cues as possible that it is bedtime and only use them when you want her to let you sleep all night.  Here are some ideas that may be helpful.

Create certain rules that pertain to night time only.  If you enjoy having your dog share the bed with you, it may be a good idea to keep the bed off limits to her unless it is time to actually go to sleep for the night.  Even if you don’t want your dog on the bed with you, you can keep the bedroom off limits until bedtime.  Then the bedroom itself will become a cue that it’s time for sleeping.

I think it does help if your blind/deaf dog can sleep in your bedroom.  Dogs do cue off our emotional state, our breathing, etc.  If your dog does wake in the middle of the night, it can help her fall back to sleep to realize that you are nearby and you are calm and sleeping.

If you use a crate or ex pen within your room, your dog can learn that while she is in her crate or pen, it is time to be still and quiet, and so, most likely she will sleep during these times.  Be aware that you are using a crate appropriately and that you’ve already taught your dog to know that a crate is a safe place to be, so she can be comfortable and not stressed.

You can reserve a special blanket or dog bed for your dog to only use at night.  It will need to be picked up during the day, or have access to it restricted in some way.  If used consistently, your dog will learn that this bed means that it is time to sleep.

Dog appeasing pheromones may be sprayed onto the dog’s bed to help her to relax.  Read the instructions, and allow the spray to air out slightly prior to putting the bed down.  Some of them are mixed with alcohol to allow it to disperse in the spray properly.  Your dog most likely won’t like the alcohol smell, but it will dissipate if you let it air out a bit.

A relaxing scent such as lavender or other essential oils can be diffused in the bedroom.  The scent will also become a cue.  Only use this scent at bedtime.  The diffuser can be used all night, or can be used for a while as bedtime is approaching. Be sure you are using a high quality therapeutic oil.  Some oils contain chemicals and a little bit of scent added, and won’t have much of an effect on the dog’s behavior.

If you need a way to confine your dog within the bedroom at night, the special bed can be put into an ex pen only at bedtime, or you can use a short tether near your bed to keep the dog on her bed.

Keeping your blind/deaf dog busy during the day with enrichment games and activities will help her to begin to differentiate between day activities and sleeping at night.  It will also help to tire out her body and mind so she is more likely to sleep at bedtime.

A nice bodywork (calm petting, massage, Healing Touch for Animals®, etc.) session before bedtime will help your dog to relax and calm down.

If your dog wakes you in the middle of the night and you think she needs to go outside, keep it very quick and business-like.  Keep any touching and interaction to a minimum.  Don’t let her loose in the yard to run and explore.  Don’t involve the other dogs.  Make it a very quick and boring trip outside on leash, stand still and wait for her to potty (no walking and sniffing), no treats or playtime, and right back to bed.

Do not give a treat for pottying outside. If you make getting up in the middle of the night fun for your dog and let her do things that she enjoys, she will continue to wake you up at night.  Keep it boring at night and exciting and fun during the day and she will learn the routine.

Some dogs enjoy a large stuffed animal to snuggle with at night so they don’t feel so alone.  Puppies especially are used to snuggling with their mom and littermates and a large stuffed toy or pillow will give them a sense of security.

An old-style ticking clock placed in the bed may also help sooth puppy to sleep.  It will provide a rhythmic vibration throughout the night.  If you remove it during the day, you can then use it as a cue to your dog that it is nighttime.  There is also a dog toy called a Snuggle Puppy that is said to do the same thing and provide a pulsing heartbeat sensation.  This might help your dog to feel calmer also.

Dogs with some vision, but that can only see close up, may like to have you nearby.  Put her bed or pen by your bed so you can put your fingers in to reassure her if she wakes up.  A nightlight may help her not be so anxious by allowing her to see somewhat if she wakes up.

If your dog can hear, you can use some of the music created specifically to calm dogs and let it play on a loop all night. You will need to take time to condition the music to times when your dog is already relaxed and napping for it to have maximum effect.  My favorites are the Healing Touch for Animals music CD’s and Through A Dog’s Ear CD’s.  They’re very relaxing and they help me sleep better too!

Read more: Through A Dark Silence.

About the Author

Debbie Bauer, HTACP, operates Your Inner Dog in the Effingham, Illinois area and has over 25 years of teaching and consulting experience working with dogs and their people. She specializes in working with dogs that display shy, fearful and reactive behaviors and also has extensive experience working with dogs with special abilities, including deaf and blind/deaf dogs. Bauer has trained dogs in a variety of fields, including therapy work, flyball, herding, print ad and media work, obedience, rally, agility, musical freestyle, conformation, lure coursing, tricks and scent work. She has over 13 years of experience with custom-training assistance dogs, including medical alert dogs, to match the specific needs of each person.  Her special interest lies in educating the public about dogs which are homozygous merle (often called double merle), and about how deaf, blind, and deaf/blind dogs can live happy fulfilled lives as part of a family.  

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