Reinforcing unwanted behavior

I have a weird one, that seriously isn't the end of the world. But I keep thinking about the behavior and the "reward" and how I know I'm reinforcing this behavior, and I can't figure it out. I don't know how to *not* reinforce it. I just think it's an interesting exercise in dog behavior and cause and effect.

Willow wakes up and (I assume) decides that it's time for me to wake up too. Hint: it's not. From the floor she tugs at the side of the blankets. *Tug tug tug.* If I ignore her she will take the blankets clean off the bed. Then I'm up. If I fuss at her she stops for a minute and then does it again. But even if she doesn't do it again I'm probably up at that point. I feel like whatever my response to the actual tugging is I'm pretty much up for the day. I think my dog is smarter than me. And she's a very effective alarm clock. 

But short of adding a punishment I just can't figure out how to remove the reward from this behavior. I know I could fix it if it really bothered me. I could make her sleep in a crate (I won't.) I could use an e-collar to punish the tug (I won't.) But I wondered if you guys had any other ideas. I can't think of anything.


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  • I only have advice that worked on my human daughter, I imagine something similar might work with dogs.

    My daughter has an "ok to wake" clock (called a Gro Clock) that has a blue light and a star overnight and that a time that you set it turns into a sun... when the "sun" comes out it's her cue that she's allowed to leave her room for the morning.  

    If you could have some kind of command basically telling her that it's morning ("good morning Willow) and another telling her that it's still bedtime (like "go to sleep") then she might eventually get the idea.  Dogs generally have very good internal clocks so it's probably worth a try.  I would avoid engaging her or getting out of bed until your preferred time, that's just reinforcing the behavior.

    If it were less expensive I'd say just get a Gro clock and try that lol.  Maybe you could find a cheapie from some other company.

  • I'm a bear about my sleep. I would respond grouchily to a kid OR a dog waking me up early. For me this sounds like the end of the world.  

    How about a "No!" for the blanket tug (or if that feels to aversive, "drop it") followed by a place command or down stay command?

    I guess you could just stay in bed an extended period so she didn't get the reward of you getting up. Grab a book or read on a device and make it unproductive for her. But I would be super annoyed about my blanket being yanked off of me so I would probably nip it in the bud with a Maybe if the chain was TUG BLANKET --> crate ---> more waiting... it might lead to breaking the chain.

    (We also used a version of the ok to wake clock for the kids).

  • She really is a smart girl....she has invented a fun game to play with Mom that gets her the excact outcome she is looking for.  I think that if you try to eliminate the blanket pulling by just tucking it in that would only eliminate part of the problem.  My guess is that she would find another way to "get your attention".  If it was me I would try using a firm "NO" (not loud but stern).  If it didn't stop (and it probably won't at first), I would get out of bed and walk right into her backing her up away from the bed....then a down/stay command.  Then I'd go back to bed and pretend to go to sleep.  She will likely come right back....and I'd do it all again.   I use my body...walking into my guys...a lot to get their attention.  I have found it works wonders and is really not causing them is just sending the message that you are controlling what happens in your space.  It's kind of an "I mean business and am not playing a game right now" message that they really understand.  The other option is to give the firm "NO" and then gate her out of your room.  She will be able to see you but she would have to wait until you were ready to get up.  I definitely sympathize with you...this is really not a fun way to wake up.

    • That's exactly what it is Jane, and I know it. She taught me her game and she has me perfectly conditioned to play it with her. If I was as good a teacher we would already have all the ribbons! I think she's very clever, but not super amusing at 5:30. I guess my problem is that once I'm up I'm up. And I can't really be upset with her. She's just so stinking happy. You did make me think of something very important that I need to work on though. Our stay. She has a really good stay when we're training. Even at home when we're playing obedience she has a nice stay. But I've never enforced stay when we're just hanging out. I think that would be a good thing to have. Even if only so I could change the sheets without removing her from the bed 5 times. I'm going to work on that. It's silly, but it just didn't occur to me what a handy tool that could be.

  • I am having a similar experience with my doodle.  She sleeps on our bed and we won't go back to the crate for several reasons.  I take thyroid medicine and when I first started taking it, I refused to have to wait an hour to have my coffee in the morning.  (You take it in the morning and have to wait an hour before you consume anything after taking it).  I get up early and start work early, so my solution is to take my pill at 4 am.  I set my watch to vibrate which wakes me up, have my pill and full glass of water right beside my bed so I don't have to get up or anything.  I take my pill, go right back to sleep until 5:15 when I really have to get up. Then I can immediately have coffee. (I have tried getting up and waiting an hour before coffee, but I really don't feel good on those days.  I am really used to my coffee first thing).  Anyway...Nellie, has quite the internal clock.  One day last week, she started licking my face about 10 seconds before my 4 am alarm.  Actually, that day I had forgotten to set it so she saved me from a crummy morning.  On other mornings though, she will wake my husband as soon as the coffeepot starts (4:45 am)  He is already awake half the time so its not that much of a problem.  Another thing Nellie does, is if my husband has woken and gone out to the couch to go back to sleep and then I happen to wake up to pee, Nellie will not stay on the bed by herself.  If I go in the bathroom, she will go wake my husband up on the couch.  We don't really have any solutions.  We live in a tiny place and really don't even have room for a crate at this point.  Nellie is fine with the run of the house when we are gone.  We aren't too bothered by her waking us at this point, but occaisionally it is annoying.  Sometimes if I take her out to go potty in the night, she will then run to see my husband and wake him up - all happy to see him and let him know she went out, I guess.  Many people would not put up with this, but it isn't that big of a deal to us.  Wish there was an easy fix, but I can't think of one. 

    • I love that you're so chill about it.  I really am a BEAR about getting woken up.  The first thing I'm wondering is doors...can you close doors so she stays in the room if your husband leaves the bedroom?  Or if you take her out to potty can you use a leash so she can't run off to wake hubby?  That's all i can think of.  Sounds like it's annoying but not the end of the world for you.  

    • I'm a bear about being woken up, too. I'm very thankful that I've never had a dog who woke me for any reason except in the very rare case of illness. 
      But....I have also always laid down the law with both dogs and kids re: bedtime is bedtime, period. When the bedroom door gets closed and the lights go out, nobody is leaving their room for any reason until it's time to get up in the morning, lol. Consequently, I had a child and a grandchild who from babyhood went to bed at the time I chose every single night, and stayed there. And dogs who did the same. I'm one of those hard asses who lets the baby cry and lets the puppy whine. If you stick to your guns, it stops very quickly and permanently, because they learn that it isn't going to get them anywhere. 

    • I have tried closing the door after taking Nellie out to potty, but she just won't give up and keeps going to the door and banging it.  I have stayed awake from 4:00 to 5:15 keeping her in the bedroom with me - not worth it!  If I let her go wake him up, she will come right back and settle down, haha!  Sorry hubby.  He is often awake very, very early anyway...

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