Thursday, August 31, 2006

Getting your dogs to sleep through the night!

Our dogs keep us very busy indeed. We have a system worked out in our kitchen. Once they have gone outside to do their business in the morning, they can be safely penned into the kitchen. They can't get to the rest of the house, and Tony and I can even go back to sleep! They have become the joys of our lives lately. My parent's dog, Rx, is a hoot to visit and fun to be around. Willie and Wicket have pretty much taken command of me and Tony's life! Willie is a tiny dog. She is very skinny and very light, and her eyes are two different colors. One is brown, one is blue.
You'd think for something so small she might be meek and quiet -or at least a little unsure of herself. She is none of these things. Willie will bark at, and would attack, anything. She leaps 3 foot high baby-gates with no problems what so ever - when there is something on the other side she wants to have, like a cat or a person she loves. On the other hand, when she feels like being a baby, she can't jump over something knee high to us. She whines when she is left alone, and will smother our faces with kisses the moment she sees us. She steals paper from the trash and shreds it into tiny pieces, leaving them all over the house. She strains on her leash to confront Malamutes or German Shepards - because no matter how small she is, she must ALWAYS, ALWAYS be the boss. She knows her name and she knows how to come.. and she COULD know how to sit, but most of the time she just doesn't WANT to sit. She growls at pigs ears, and attacks anything that comes in the way of her chewing one of them. She cries in the morning when she wakes up without her people around her, and when she rides in the car she curls up on whoever's lap is situated in the passenger seat. She is a lovable dog - except that for some reason she has taken a dislike to my brothers. We can't figure out why she doesn't like them, and have concluded that sometime in her early months living in Colorado a blond haired boy must have done something wrong to her. With other people she is cautious at first, but if she warms up to them she is lovable beyond belief.
Wicket is our little man. He is bigger than Willie but much more hesitant than she is. He is afraid of doors sometimes and will freak out on his leash for no reason whatsoever. He makes noises like an Ewok, quite appropriately, or like some kind of very cute alien. He loves people VERY much, and only barks at my brothers when Willie does. IN fact, Wicket does most everything Willie does. He can't quite jump over the baby gates like she can, either that or he is afraid to, but he will sure tell us when she has. He will put his paws up onto the top of the gate and cry and cry when Willie has made an escape. He is a closet-chewer - he will steal things when we aren't looking and destroy them before we notice they are gone - but he won't touch the many chew toys we have given him. He also has a fascination for licking fabric. Seat covers, blankets, rugs, carpet. He licks his paws as well, just like a cat. He loves cheerios and knows how to come, reluctantly, and how to go into his kennel when we tell him. Of course, only if Willie has already gone. Wicket loves to sit in the space between the front seats in the van that Tony drives, and tries very hard to deny that he loves the scratching he is always getting. He doesn't whine at all, and only gets lonely if he is by himself for a long period of time. Nothing seems to bother or concern him very much, as long as Willie is near to show him what to do. He loves Willie most of all, and loves whomever she is loving most at the moment. He is a follower, but a very cute one at that!!
When we go to bed, Wicket and Willie get treats and spend the night in their kennel. They are mostly quiet for the whole night. When we were living at my parents' house, they would go to sleep around midnight or one in the morning, and cry first around nine AM. We decided to try the "cheerio trick". Eileen, the women we had bought the dogs from, had told us that the puppies LOVED honey-nut cheerios. So when they cried in the morning, I would get up, give them some cheerios, cover the kennel back up again and go back to bed; and it worked! I would get up when I heard her cry, give them 15 or 20 cheerios in a bowl, and they would sleep again until whenever WE got up. We thought we were so lucky, having dogs that liked to sleep in! How great is it that WE would get the two dogs that liked to sleep all day, just as much as we did! My mom would tell us about Rx, and how he sometimes had trouble staying asleep all night, and I would think that we were very lucky that Willie and Wicket were so well behaved.
But apparently, moving to a new house changes things. In our new apartment, the kennel is situated in the kitchen. For the first few nights, before we moved the cats over to our new house, we slept with our bedroom door open so that we could hear anything we might need to hear from the kennel. I was perplexed the first night when Willie cried nearly the WHOLE period of sleep time. We chalked it up to her being in heat for the first time, and hoped that the next night it would go differently. It didn't get much better.
Tony and I decided that perhaps the puppies could hear us getting up to use the bathroom, so we put the dehumidifier next to their kennel and made sure to run a fan near them. We were sure this "white-noise" would keep them from hearing US and hopefully help them to sleep longer. When the puppies still cried a few times in the night, I decided that perhaps that kitchen was too bright. I re-vamped their kennel, covering it with first a black sheet and then a heavy comforter, in order to block all of the light. And I DID block the light. And Willie and Wicket started sleeping - through the night, that is. We would go to bed around the same time we went to bed in the summer. But the moment the "morning" came, Willie would wake up and start to cry. I would get up, give them some cheerios, and go back to bed. But it never last for very long. And it was certainly earlier than 9 AM as it had been in the summer. Willie would cry for the first time around 8, a couple of weeks after we moved in. And the cheerios would last her until ALMOST nine. But as the days living at 811 wore on, it began to get earlier and earlier.
Every morning, Willie would cry for the first time about 10 minutes earlier than she had the morning before. And the "cheerio trick" would last for even less. It got to the point when she was waking for the first time around 6, and ten minutes later she was barking, wanting OUT of the kennel. And the cheerios had completely worn off. We wonder now, if it was perhaps that the dogs just got bored with honey-nut cheerios. They DID love them, when we first got them, but by the middle of September, when Willie was crying at 6, cheerios were nothing of a joy to them. We think that once we started spoiling them with the world of pig ears and t-bone flavored treats, the cheerios were simply nothing to write home about. Or nothing to go back to sleep about, either way.
And so, we developed a way that they could be safe and sound in the kitchen in the early morning. When 6 would come around, and they would cry, I would sometimes give them treats, and hope it worked, and I would sometimes just give up and take them out to go to the bathroom.
Because of how busy we have been, and with homework and work, Tony and I haven't been going to bed until 2 or even 3 some nights. That meant that 3 hours after I had gone to bed, I was getting up and taking dogs out, and then locking them in the kitchen. As the days wore on, I found myself becoming more and more tired. Try as I might I could not get the dogs to sleep past 6. If we kept them up until 3 or 4, they STILL wouldn't sleep any later than 6. After awhile, I had resigned myself to never getting any more sleep, EVER. I grew quite accustomed to sleeping for a few hours, letting dogs out, bringing them in, barricading them in the kitchen with fresh food and water and treats, and then trying to catch a few more hours of sleep before my classes began.

We had our worst morning of all. That day, Willie was up, actually up, at 10 minutes to 6. That was just unfathomable! 5:50 is pretty much still night time! With the onset of the fall, it was no longer even about getting up with the sun. It was simply getting up! We were VERY frustrated indeed. Tony and I got tickets to see a concert in Minneapolis. We were very excited because we love to go to shows, we love to go to the city and, most of all we just needed a vacation! Grandma Diane agreed to watch Wicket and Willie while we went to see our show. We left them at the house in town on Sunday morning and headed to Minneapolis. We DID miss the little black and white dog lying between the seats, and the little grey wolf-dog lying curled up on the passenger's lap. But we looked forward VERY much to getting a full nights sleep - perhaps even sleeping in a bit.

The concert was fantastic, both of us agreed that both bands put on the best shows we have ever seen them do, and as we put the "do not disturb" sign on the hotel room door and shut off the lights, I pulled the curtains extra tight along the window, vowing that we would NOT get up until we FELT like it. And we slept soundly. Until 7:00 the next morning.

As it turns out, the person staying across the hall from us had a large dog staying with him. At 7, he left the hotel room and must have had his dog sitting in the hallway right outside our room as he locked his door. The sun had barely begun to sneak through the heavy curtains when both of us were jolted out of a sound sleep. "WOOOF! WOOOF!!" ..... "WOOOF!!! WOOOFFF!!!"

Tony grunted.

"You've GOT to be kidding me."

I guess, when you truly ARE dog people, there is no escaping the barking, or the whining, or the dog hair all over everything. At the very least, the dog outside was none of our concern, and we could roll over and go to sleep without trying to blindly find the box of cheerios. Sure, its a little less sleep. We're getting used to it. And actually, I am proud to report that the last week or so, Willie has relaxed quite a bit. In fact, this very morning I was able to sleep until 8:30 before she got me up. I count that as sleeping in now.

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