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Imagine sleeping peacefully, when suddenly, in the middle of the night, your dog pounces on you. They mess up your bed, dragging toys and zooming around. It is hard to find the charm when your dog wants to play while you’re trying to sleep.
In fact, in the late hours of the night, you might seriously reconsider this whole owning a dog thing. Of course, we love our dogs in the light of day, but it is not fun to be woken up in the middle of the night for playtime.
So why does your dog want to play in the middle of the night?
Your dog probably wants to play in the middle of the night because they have not burned off enough excess energy during the day. Dogs and puppies need physical and mental exercise to sleep through the night. However, it could also mean your dog needs something or has anxiety.
Waking up when your dog wants to play in the middle of the night is frustrating, and worse, exhaustion can ruin your day at work and weaken your bond with your dog.
So let’s explore why your dog or puppy might be wanting to play in the middle of the night and what you can do to manage the behavior.
Why Does My Dog Want To Play In The Middle Of The Night?
Zoomies, or Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAPS), is the explosion of pent-up energy where dogs engage in repeating behaviors like running in circles, jumping on and off furniture, or pouncing on a toy.
Young and old dogs of all breeds have probably experienced zoomies at some point.
Sleeping is important, which is why waking you up in the middle of the night wanting to play with zoomies, jumping on you, or maybe throwing a toy around can be frustrating.
So why does your dog want to play in the middle of the night and what can you do about it?
Reason 1. Your Dog Is Not Getting Enough Exercise
What does your daily routine look like? If you work all day and only take your dog for a short walk before and after work, they might want to play all the time, even in the middle of the night, because they have not had enough exercise.
Dogs, especially young dogs and high-energy working breeds, need exercise so they do not want to play in the middle of the night.
Even large breeds prone to joint issues or small breeds who might not be able to handle a long hike like athletic working dogs like German Shepherds need some exercise.
So if your dog wants to play in the middle of the night, one of the first things to look at is their exercise regimen. A long walk does not fit everyone’s schedule, but multiple shorter walks and games like fetch and keep-away are great solutions to help burn off extra energy.
And if you do not have the time or energy to run a marathon with a high-energy dog every day, here is a list of 22 breeds that love to sleep and are less likely to want to play in the middle of the night.
Reason 2. Your Dog Is Bored (And Seeking Attention)
Dogs not only need plenty of exercise but mental stimulation as well, or they might wake you up to play in the middle of the night.
Daily training games and enrichment should be an important part of your dog’s daily routine, especially if you have a working breed that enjoys having a job. You might be surprised at the breeds that enjoy having jobs, even Great Danes enjoy dog sports like agility!
Waking up in the middle of the night to play might be a good tactic your bored dog has discovered to get your attention and get you to interact with them more. Furthermore, a bored dog is more likely to get in trouble whether that is waking up in the middle of the night to play or suddenly getting into the trash.
It is important to play training games and give your dog proper mental stimulation. Their outlet for lack of mental exercise could start as wanting to play in the middle of the night, but if not properly addressed it could turn into compulsive behaviors or anxiety.
Reason 3. Night Time Anxiety
In this article, we will discuss three different main anxiety culprits that might cause your dog to want to play in the middle of the night: aging, separation anxiety, and compulsive disorder.
Up to 50% of aging, senior dogs have symptoms of dementia. One of the signs of doggy dementia is a change in sleep cycles, so they are sleeping all day and awake, wanting to play, in the middle of the night.
Older dogs are often disoriented, and might start whining in their crates because of anxiety and confusion as to why they are in there when they want to get out and play!
Another reason your dog wants to play at night is anxiety. Many dogs who suffer from anxiety, especially separation anxiety, might be clingy, and getting you up to play at odd hours to play is a way for them to get you to help soothe their stress.
If your dog is getting up in the middle of the night to obsessively spin, pace, chase lights, or chase their tail in the middle of the night, they might not be playing but displaying compulsive behaviors.
Some dogs are genetically predisposed to compulsive disorders (especially working dogs that are not provided an outlet for all that energy), and if not properly managed they might wake you up in the middle of the night with these behaviors.
A good trainer or behaviorist can help develop a training plan to help your aging dog, anxious dog, or compulsive dog. And do not hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian to talk about medicine for extreme cases.
Reason 4. They Have To Use The Bathroom
Individual dogs seem to have their unique flair for letting us know when they need to go use the bathroom. Some whine or bark, some paw at you, and some patiently wait at the door until you notice.
You can even train your dog to ring a bell!
If you have a dog that uses playful body language to get your attention when they need to use the bathroom, they might not be trying to play with you in the middle of the night but letting you know they need to use the bathroom.
So the next time your dog dive-bombs you in bed in the middle of the night, instead of getting annoyed they are trying to play, check to see if they have a bathroom emergency.
Accidents happen and you should never punish your dog for pooping in the house, especially if they have had an upset stomach and could not help it!
Why Does My Puppy Want To Play In The Middle Of The Night?
Puppies are a lot of work and sometimes their nightly terrors of playing can be exhausting. Puppies not only need a rigid routine to help them learn how to function in their family, but also need mental stimulation and exercise to help them sleep through the night.
Reason 1. Puppy Witching Hour
Once your puppy has had time to settle in and learn the routine, they should be able to sleep through the night. Puppies might occasionally need to go outside for middle-of-the-night potty breaks, but it should not take too long for them to sleep through the night without a pee break.
So what is up with your puppy wanting to play in the middle of the night? The “Puppy Witching Hour” is when puppies seem to lose their mind with a burst of excess energy, often late at night or in the middle of the night.
They might try pouncing on you or have the zoomies, playing with frantic, often hilarious, energy.
After burning off their excess energy, they will probably pass out and snooze. If it becomes a habit, they might need a short extra walk or to learn a couple of tricks like settling in their bed to learn to relax at night.
Reason 2. Your Puppy Is Over Stimulated
You have done all the right things that day with your puppy, gone to puppy class, socialized them at the hardware store, and lastly a long potty walk. It is late at night and you are ready to snuggle with your puppy, but instead, they have turned into a tiny monster.
They might be testing boundaries when they want to play in the middle of the night, but they also might be overstimulated from such a busy day. Suddenly misbehaving is a common issue with puppies, especially if they are going through the rebellious puppy teenage stage.
Puppies’ brains are still developing and they are actively learning to regulate their emotions and behavior. If your overstimulated puppy wants to play in the middle of the night, they will probably grow out of it once they learn to self-regulate and fall asleep by themselves.
How To Manage The Behavior
Waking up in the middle of the night to your dog or puppy wanting to play is understandingly frustrating. Unless it is for a quick bathroom break, the middle of the night is not a good time for structured training.
Do not reinforce the behavior by playing with your dog, but let’s look at some other ways that will help you manage the behavior.
By conditioning and working with your dog during the day, they will not want to wake up in the middle of the night to play.
Mental Stimulation And Exercise
There are many ways to create enrichment during the day that will help your dog sleep through the night instead of wanting to play in the middle of the night.
Exercise is important for all dogs. It physically and mentally helps wear your dog out. You do not have to try to run your dog ragged; walking them on a new route or new place is enough to wear them out both physically and challenges their brain as well.
As you can see in the video, sniffaris are a fun way to enrich your dog’s walk and keep it exciting.
Daily training games also bring enrichment into your dog’s life, helping them sleep through the night rather than wanting to play in the middle of the night. Fun games you can play with your dog include obedience training, hide n’ seek, fetch, tug, and hiding treats in your yard or house.
Training tricks and obedience does not have to have a rigid schedule. You can easily squeeze in short training sessions while your coffee is brewing or during commercials while you watch your favorite show.
Finally, feeding your dog their meals or treats in a slow feeder or puzzle toy is a great way to provide mental stimulation. Their brains will be properly enriched and you can both sleep through the night!
There are lots of commercial puzzle feeders out there like in the video, but you can also wrap their kibble in an old towel or hide it in cardboard boxes for budget-friendly enrichment.
If you feel you have properly met your dog or puppy’s physical and mental needs and they are still waking you up in the middle of the night wanting to play, it might be time to give crate training a try.
Crate training is a useful tool for potty training, especially for puppies and newly adopted dogs and it gives your dog a safe space to relax and keep out of trouble. With a proper introduction to the crate, a lot of dogs learn to love their crates.
However, it is also a handy tool so your dog learns your schedule and routine, such as when it is time to sleep and when it is time to play. So if your puppy or young dog has not figured out that nighttime is for sleeping, not playing, you might try crating them at night to help set their internal clock.
And do not worry, most dogs do not need to sleep in their crates overnight forever!
Giving your dog a structured routine that combines mental stimulation, exercise, and crate training is crucial to helping your dog sleep through the night and not want to play in the middle of the night.
Dogs tend to be creatures of habit, so routine is important. A sharp decrease in activity or change in routine might account for your dog who wants to play in the middle of the night, so structure is key, especially for puppies and young dogs learning the ropes.
As owners, we want our canine companion to snuggle at night rather than want to play in the middle of the night.
However, life can get in the way of keeping a strict schedule for your dog, but with a solid foundation and experience your dog should learn to roll with the punches.
We take on a lot of responsibility as dog owners. We have to financially support them as well as make sure they get enough mental stimulation and exercise, creating a happy household.
That can be hard when you are exhausted from your dog or puppy waking up in the middle of the night wanting to play.
But unless your dog has a bathroom emergency, creating a good routine of exercise, mental stimulation, and enrichment will help your dog learn to sleep through the night.
A schedule is also helpful for grounding anxious dogs and older dogs that might want to play in the middle of the night.
Once you have figured out the perfect routine of enrichment and proper management, your dog or puppy can get some proper REM sleep during the night, making your daytime activities easier and more fun for both of you.