Canine Behavior/Dog Pacing at Night
Hello, I'm a bit concerned about my dog. I have a 12 year old Border Collie who is in great health. He has great energy, eats/drinks well, plays often, etc. The only problem is that he has been pacing at night keeping my husband I awake. This is completely new behavior for him. He will wake up periodically and walk around the bed, walk down the hallway, go into the living room, walk back into the bedroom, etc. He's not behaving any differently other than that so I'm hesitant to believe that it is a medical problem. We have had a lot of work going on in our house as we are remodeling our upstairs. Along with that I'm 20 weeks pregnant. I'm wondering if he is picking up on all the changes going on as he is very rigid in his routines. I hate locking him out of the bedroom at night, but it is the only way we can get some sleep. Any thoughts, recommendations? I just don't know what else to do. Thanks.
***** You're very welcome. Though, I should have said this: he is 12, which makes him a senior dog. Disruptions in his sleep pattern such as sleeping heavier or more during the day and being awake/pacing at night IS in fact one of the symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction - CCD(essentially it's Doggie Dementia). And so if you don't see a return to normal behavior with the changes to the routine and tending to the stress he's currently experiencing, you should talk to your vet. You may even want to just give them a call and ask them to put a note in his file that you're experiencing this right now so that it's not brand new to them if you need to discuss the possibility of cognitive decline. If it is CCD, there is a medication that can be very helpful. It's called Anipryl (selegeline Hydrochloride) and is the same medication used in humans for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. It can't reverse the brain injury, but can slow the process and often can reverse (at least temporarily) the behavioral issues. My own Rainbow Bridge dog was on the med for the last 4 years of her life - and that drug is the reason she got those last 4 years as she was becoming increasingly aggressive due to fear and confusion. On the drug, I got my dog back. But in your case, since there's such a clear set of high stressors in his life right now - on two fronts - I'd get through this and see if his behavior improves. Of course, medical issues can occur coincidentally to environmental changes, but since you don't mention any other cognitive issues such as confusion or potty accidents, etc, I'd start with the stress of what's going on before jumping to old-dog issues.... If you see no change after the stress is gone, or other symptoms cropping up such as confusion, disinterest in engaging/playing, staring at walls, standing at the wrong edge of a door waiting for it to open, potty accidents, or anything else that seems 'wrong', then you definitely should speak with your vet.*****
I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head. Your senior dog, who is very attached to his routines is in the middle of a house that is undergoing a major remodel - with strangers in his home all day, noises and smells and sudden, startling things occurring throughout his day - certainly interrupting his usual daily routine (which includes serious nap time). On top of that, you're 20 weeks pregnant and surging with hormones.
Either of these is enough to throw even the most bomb-proof dog off their game. Combine them, and I'm impressed the only outward sign of stress is an interrupted sleep pattern for him.
If this were happening in my home, I would do a few things.
First, I'd make a point of taking the dog out of the house for some quality bonding time away from all the noise and chaos of the remodel. If you're working all day and so can't take him for a long walk or to a park to just sit in the sun and enjoy the day, then perhaps a friend or family member or neighbor would be willing to let him hang out at their house during the day while you're at work. Just doing that may help him reestablish his "normal" sleep/wake cycle. He'll be able to relax and nap and hang out during the day and not have to listen to all the noises or smell all the smells or be faced with being social with a bunch of strangers in his home.
Secondly, I'd be making a point of having some good, proper, undivided attention with him in the evenings - after the workers are gone for the day. Help him feel safe and secure with loads of reassurance. Perhaps a long evening walk about an hour before bed would help him settle better for the night.
Third, chewing is a self-soothing behavior, so I would provide him with tempting options that may incline him to chew. Options include stuffing a Kong toy with his food (basic recipe guideline below) and providing his breakfast and dinner this way. It may take 2 or 3 Kongs to get a whole meal worth of kibble, even though you'll cut back the actual kibble by about 10% to account for the rest of what's in the Kong. Bully Sticks are a great, entirely digestible option. They are 100% protein and shouldn't constitute more than 10% of his daily intake of food stuff, but if you get one big enough (jumbo thick or braided), it can last him 20 minutes to an hour or more of chew time, which can help him remain calmer during the work time or help him settle in the evenings. Flavored Nylabones - I prefer the polymer ones over the food starch ones simply because the latter will be ingested in a few minutes while the former will last him weeks. The polymer is inert and generally "pills" into rice-grain size pieces that pass through his body without effect as he ingests them periodically. Also, antlers are great and many dogs really love to chew on them. Currently, my dogs have beef knuckles - these are the ends of the bone that are rounded on one side and open on the other. You can use regular marrow bones as well (the tubular, hollow bones, not rib bones or other options). I always get the marrow bones or knuckles that are "beefy basted" - they still have bits of tendon and such on them and some marrow inside. This makes them exceedingly enticing and are an excellent option for most dogs. My boys immediately focus and settle and will work diligently on cleaning these bones for an hour or longer - I take them away after an hour or so just to keep them from getting bored with it.**
**If you take away a high value item such as a marrow bone, make sure you immediately redirect the dog into another activity such as scavenging for a fistful of tossed treats or a game of Tug or a walk in the neighborhood, etc. You want to make sure he understands that ending his time with the high value item isn't negative, but means that something else very cool is about to happen.
Kong/Marrow Bone recipe guideline: Same recipe can be used with marrow bones and knuckles once he's cleaned them of the goodness they came with...
You can be as creative as you like in this process, so long as you're using dog-safe foods.
80% -- the dog's regular kibble
5% -- yummy goodies such as bits of favorite dog treats. OR.... cheese, carrot (shredded or chunks), slivered almonds, blue berries, melon chunks, hot dog, a bit of bacon or chicken skin (cooked), other cooked meats such as chicken, beef, lamb or pork, a broken tortilla chip or a cracker just 'cuz (so long as your dog isn't allergic to corn or wheat), etc.
15% -- a Soft Binder. This can be anything such as: nonfat plain yogurt, low fat cream cheese, cottage cheese, liverwurst, peanut butter, apple sauce, pumpkin puree, sweet potato puree, mashed potatoes (no garlic), high quality canned dog food, you can even soak some of the kibble in a low-sodium soup stock (chicken, beef or vegetable) until the those kibbles are mushy and then use that as the binder.
Mix it together and stuff it into the Kong or marrow bone. At first, don't stuff it too packed in as you want the dog to have immediate success and to be able to empty the Kong. As he practices, you can start to pack it a bit tighter so he has to work at it more to get the food. You never want it to be so packed that he needs your help throughout, though he will likely not be able to get the very last bit out and that's actually a good thing. Partly because it keeps him coming back to try again later. But also because the first thing you do when you get home or go to see the Kong is dislodge the stuck bit and offer it to him. This helps him learn that he can always trust you to handle his high-value items because you help him enjoy them more.
I use Kongs for regular meal time just for the enrichment of it. This way he's used to using it with you present and it won't be a cue that you're leaving if you happen to give it to him a few minutes before you head to work.
You may try putting a Thunder Shirt on him (available at all major pet retailers now) and see if that helps soothe him. I've had some very good successes with that to help calm anxious/stressed dogs. Some people seem to have success with Comfort Zone - a synthetic version of a Dog Appeasing Pheromone (the pheromone that nursing mothers produce), which you can spray on his bed about 10 minutes before bedtime. This may help him settle at night.
Also, as an aside, you're about to have a baby and that's going to cause a HUGE change to the daily life. You and your husband will be exhausted and completely consumed with the baby. The usual routines for your dog will be out the window and he will be getting far less attention. So, I encourage you to start prepping him NOW for life with a baby. Get the nursery set up ASAP and let him sniff things and take it all in. Set up the stroller and blankets for tummy time and practice with him. Get a baby doll and put a diaper with "butt cream" on it and a little outfit. Practice holding the baby and doing Down/Stays with your dog near by but not directly in your space (feeding/rocking time with baby). Give him treats and praise for being settled near you. Practice going for walks with the doll in the stroller - NEVER HOOK THE LEASH TO THE STROLLER - so he can practice walking with the stroller and not being freaked out by it. I'm linking you to a blog I wrote about introducing a dog to a new baby. You want him to be as involved as he can be, with gentle, quiet praise and yummy treats that don't over excite him, so that he can be part of the family and not shooed out of the room and isolated every time something "baby" has to happen. If he's isolated away every time the baby needs attention, he's going to come to resent the baby and then you have bigger issues to worry about.
But, of course, no matter how much you trust and love your dog, NEVER LEAVE DOG AND BABY UNATTENDED IN THE SAME ROOM. Even if baby is in her/his crib. If you have to leave the room, invite the dog to join you. This is a precaution no matter how trustworthy a dog is.
I hope this information proves helpful. Please feel free to followup if I can be of further assistance with your current situation or the new arrival (congratulations, by the way!).
Jody, CPDT-KA, APDT
Los Angeles Behaviorist