How to stop a puppy waking up at 5am, by award-winning dog trainer Ben Randall

What to do when your four-legged friend becomes a four-legged alarm clock.

Dealing with a dog who wakes up too early is not easy — particularly in spring, when lighter mornings only encourage our four-legged friends to think that five o’clock in the morning is a perfectly acceptable time to be up and about.

It’s a topic that I’ve looked at before in older dogs, but things are subtly different if you have the same issue with a puppy, as this week’s reader is facing.

Dear Ben

We adopted a rescue puppy eight weeks ago. It’s been an interesting journey so far, but one of the issues is that he keeps waking up at 5am!

We’ve tried to instil a good routine: he has tea at 5.30 pm, goes for a final walk 7-7.30pm, then it’s bed at 10pm with a blackout blanket over his puppy crate in the kitchen. He settles down with no problem, chewing on with a dental stick before nodding off — but when he wakes up, he immediately starts barking. We’ve established that going to the toilet is not the issue, when we go down he’ll play for five or 10 minutes and then settle at our feet.

We’ve tried going down to the kitchen, saying nothing, and then going back upstairs. Sometimes after this he stays quiet for 30 minutes, sometimes it’s 10 minutes — we have to keep repeating this until about 6am when we give up and just start the day. What can we do to get a bit more sleep? — H.C., via email

Normally a dog rescue centre is very busy, very loud — and has very early starts. Your puppy has almost certainly become totally used to this, and is used to a very early routine — and we simply need to break that pattern.

Your dog has probably started the day playing, either on his own or with siblings, interacting with other dogs, and wagging his tail or barking to say good morning to the staff. I can almost guarantee that he hasn’t been used to calm, quiet starts to the day before gently stretching into life at 7am. Whatever happens, don’t start getting up at 5am yourself and staying in the kitchen; if you do that, you’re compounding the behaviour and he’s winning!

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Here’s what to do instead — and while I can see from your letter you’re already doing a lot right, and taking heed of the advice on how to stop a puppy crying at night, this guide will help all those in a similar situation with a puppy waking up too early.

1. Make sure you get your puppy’s sleep environment right

It’s great to see that you’ve done lots of the right things for crate training a puppy, which is brilliant. You have covered the crate with a blackout blanket, which is perfect, but light can seep in if you’re not careful, particularly if your kitchen doesn’t have blinds. Also, how quiet is the room? At this time of year the birds are singing at the crack of dawn, and this can easily wake up your pets, especially a curious young puppy.

2. Develop a lovely bedtime routine

You wouldn’t put a baby straight to bed immediately after playtime; you’d put on soft lighting, read a story, and calm everything right down to make those last minutes before sleep as relaxed as possible. Yet I’m always amazed how people don’t apply the same logic to their dogs. The final half an hour before bed is crucial.

Make sure you wind down your dog gently, with no overstimulating, no treats, no excess water and no running around – keep it relaxed and chilled, even when you take them out for a final wee. Don’t put your dog straight in the crate; instead, let him settle while you clear up or put things away, and then calmly show him into the crate with his chew. Make sure it’s the same routine every night.

3. Double-check that a full bladder isn’t part of the problem

You mention in your letter that it isn’t the toilet that your puppy needs at 5am, but in my Beggarbush training I’ve come across many puppies who do need to go, but would rather just hold on a little longer for the sake of some more interaction with their owners. In other words, your puppy prefers the idea of playing with you rather than relieving himself. To make sure that this really isn’t the issue, I’d suggest making sure that the last toilet visit at night is late at night; and that you restrict the amount of water he has both in the evening and overnight, as it’ll only fill his bladder.

4. What to do when your dog starts barking or crying in the morning

Once you’ve got the three steps above sorted out and double checked, it’s time for a new strategy on handling your dog making noise in the morning. As I mention in my piece on how to stop a puppy crying at night, you do need to steel yourself to ignoring your pet’s early morning barking or whining.

But — and this is crucial — while you’ll have to leave your puppies to make some prolonged noise, it can’t be for long enough to really stress the dog. You’ll know better than me the change in pitch and tempo when your individual dog switches from a call for attention to genuine distress, and when it does, please go and reassure him.

Instead, use the leave command to deal with this problem. Once your dog understands the command leave, he’ll know it’s a negative command for negative behaviour, just as a child will understand ‘no’ or ‘stop it’.

So when tomorrow morning the barking starts, leave your dog for a short period – by which I mean five minutes or so – then head downstairs and give a sharp ‘leave’ command. After that, head back up to bed.

If the barking continues, go into the kitchen, give another firm ‘leave’, then close the kitchen door and head back upstairs once again. Your puppy will quickly learn that barking while the night-time cover is still on his crate is a no-no, and that will help you break the early morning habit that he formed at the shelter.

Ben Randall’s book, ‘How to Train Your Gundog’, is out now. You can order it here at £40.

For more detailed advice about Ben Randall’s positive, reward-based and proven BG training methods, one-to-one training sessions, residential training or five-star dog-boarding at his BGHQ in Herefordshire, telephone 01531 670960 or visit For a free seven-day trial of the Gundog app, which costs £24.99 a month or £249.99 a year, visit

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