Let Sleeping Dogs...Lie?

Some dogs do not appreciate being rudely awoken.  In fact, some dislike even the most gentle touch when they're lumbering through a doggy dreamscape.  They might startle awake and growl, snap, or even bite. 

The Urge To Fix

Consider relocating your dog’s bed to a low-traffic area or out-of-the-way nook, as long as he’s comfortable and happy with the switch.

Consider relocating your dog’s bed to a low-traffic area or out-of-the-way nook, as long as he’s comfortable and happy with the switch.

When our dogs behave aggressively towards us, it is frightening and upsetting.  We very legitimately feel the need to change things, and as soon as humanly possible.   But this wasn't always the case.

In our grandparents’ time, leaving sleeping dogs alone was a common-sense safety practice.  Kids were taught to avoid close encounters with flames, spinning machinery, and sleeping dogs.  In other words, it was not seen as pathological or the tip of any iceberg.  In fact, it was normal enough to spawn a proverb: "let sleeping dogs lie" (meaning do not bother to rekindle an argument or bring up a bad situation, despite it being unresolved).

Today, dogs who react this way may be at risk for rehoming or worse ... no matter how normal the behaviour.  We humans have always collectively decided which species-typical dog behaviours are tolerated, and our tolerance in the 21st Century is lower than it used to be.  However, when it comes to dogs who are growly bears before coffee but are otherwise angelic, we can stop to consider whether we might – safely and responsibly – take a page from our grandparents’ book. 

If you have a "Let Sleeping Dogs Lie" dog, do a risk assessment for your particular situation.  If this risk assessment suggests you need to change your dog's behaviour, please contact an accredited, positive trainer.  They'll use techniques like desensitization and Pavlovian conditioning to change how your dog feels when bumped awake. 

A risk assessment for your dog should include:

  1. Are there kids in your home?  How old? 
  2. What does your dog do when awoken - growl? Or something more active?
  3. Is your dog's preferred bed in a high-traffic area?
  4. Do you have many house guests, and are they dog-savvy?

Finally, if your dog has previously been fine when the alarm clock goes off but is growling or barking now, get on the phone and book a veterinary check-up.