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At my wits' end here with my adorably small and affectionate 15 month old toy moodle.

I crate trained her when she was a puppy next to my bed. It was a hellish few weeks but she ended up coming good. Our routine would be that she goes in her crate and I let her out at sunrise for a cuddle in bed. I'd never hear a peep until she woke me up at sunrise, she became my alarm clock! She'd curl up under my blankets and then we'd wake up a few hours later.

Fast forward to now... I put her in her crate and she bangs on it like never before, then starts crying and working herself up into a state. I've tried ignoring it but it doesn't stop.

If I let her out and try to cuddle her in bed, she doesn't want to even do that. Won't stay under the covers. She just wants to leave the room, or sit at the end of my bed and look at the wall. If the wall creeks, she is very alert and looks at it, and is clearly agitated by something. Even if I hold her, she squirms out, which she won't do during the day.

During the day, she is in the same room and sleeps on the bed or on the couch just fine! It's only at night when we go to bed she is like this.

There's been no changes to environment, routine, no new next door neighbour pets. The only thing I can think of is that there is a rat/possum in the roof and she can sense it, but even when it's absolutely dead quiet, where you could hear a pin drop, I can't hear anything. And during the day she is perfectly fine and sleeps in this room or other rooms in the house. At night, she'll sleep fine until bed as well. She seems to be on hyper alert when it's bed time and gets put in her crate. Even if I hold her she wants to squirm out and I can feel her claws to get out.

It's also worth mentioning that for the last few nights she'll cry and bang on her crate and after ten minutes I let her out to go toilet then straight back in and she is quiet as a mouse. Completely changes. I always take her toilet before bed so it's not like she needs to go again...

Things of note:

  1. Tonight, I tried comforting her in bed but she wasn't having any of it. Put her in her crate where she banged for 5 minutes, then whined for 15. And I mean whined. Then I let her out, took her for toilet, brought her back in and put her in her crate. She's been DEAD SILENT for the last 20 minutes as I write this! This happened the other night, too. Complete change. Why? This is so weird.
  2. During the day, she will sleep on my bed just fine, or my lap where I work in the same room.
  3. The last 2 months I have been sleeping at my partners house two nights a week, so she has been alone (when I'm not here there's someone to take care of her, and they put a playpen around the crate for her to sleep in). When this happens she is fine, she sits in her crate and goes to sleep (I've looked once or twice on the nanny cam I have).
  4. She's generally fine during the day being in the playpen/crate when no-one is home.
  5. She gets so much exercise. Tonight, we went for about 3 hours of walking and running around, she can be extremely active (and lazy).

Honestly I don't know what to do! She gets so stressed and it is causing me to not sleep.

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  • With a strong change in behaviour like this, I would always recommend taking your dog to the vet. Do a general checkup and blood work just to make sure the behaviour is not health related.
    – SerenaT
    Jul 19 at 15:49
  • Thanks, she had her vaccine about a fortnight ago and a general checkup too. All came back clear. this was in the middle of the recent changes and I even brought it up at the vet and they said it could just be a change in her behaviour. I don't believe it's going to be health related because during the day she sleeps and acts as per normal, it's just this one aspect.
    – Dan
    Jul 19 at 23:01
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Going to preface this by saying I'm not a professional dog trainer but I'll share the knowledge and experience I've learned over the years in hopes that it points you in the right direction. I have a 6 year old husky-lab mix with reactivity issues and have been researching different dog behaviours and training methods.

The crate

It sounds like there's something making your dog anxious about being locked in a crate at night around bedtime. It's often hard to pinpoint the exact reason but a here's a few to consider:

  • Size: your dog would have been smaller as a puppy (probably not by much being a moodle) but I noticed this with my husky. My husky was also crate trained as a puppy and had no issues until she was just under a year old. Even though the crate size was well within the recommended guidelines for her size, as she got older, she started sleeping more sprawled out with her legs stretched in front of her. She also liked spinning around in circles a few times before lying down. I noticed her doing all this easily during the day, outside of the crate but once inside, you could tell it was harder and she couldn't get as comfortable.
  • Location: my crate was also located in my bedroom, which happened to be on the top floor of my home. As my dog got older, I noticed she started to sleep by the main door on the lowest level during the day. I figured out that it was cooler down there and even if only by 1-2 degrees. This only started once she grew into her full size and fur coat. Temperature might a new factor.
  • Age: I found dogs will often go through a change in behaviour between 10 months to 2.5 years old. They're transitioning from puppy-teen to adult. This is often (from my experience) when issues with anxiety, aggression, reactivity, etc, start to arise. It almost always starts with a form of anxiety/fear that is hard to notice and develops into stronger behaviour issues like reactivity and aggression as they turn 3 or 4 years old if not addressed. I've seen some form of this with my dog and with friends' dogs.
  • Night time: some dogs become more alert at night. They can't see as well and will rely on other senses like smell and sounds which may be 'toned downed' during the day time. She may have heard the rat/possum in the roof once, became very alert, aware and unsure of the sounds and now associates any negative feelings she had during that time to the crate at night.

Anxiety Having a dog be anxious or fearful in a particular situation is not a bad thing, it's actually very common. I'm not saying this is the exact reason your moodle is having issues but it would be my best guess. Trying to figure out the source of the anxiety is going to be hard. My recommendation would be to speak with a trainer or watch some videos about dog behaviour and body language. It might help you pinpoint the moment that she becomes anxious and why. These are some trainers that I follow and have found to be very insightful and have helped me better understand my dog — they all videos on youtube and tik tok for free:

Things you can try

  • I would try reinforcing the crate during the day when she's less stressed. Do small amounts of time at first, but try to mimic what you do at night — lead her in the crate and sit/lie on the bed, close the lights, etc. Reinforce this with rewards (toy, pets, treats or anything else you used the first time during training). The goal is for her to remain calm while in the crate, you want to open/let her out right before she would start getting anxious. Basically, repeating crate training.
  • Licking is often a good way to destress anxious dogs. I used to give my dog a kong filled with frozen peanut butter or wet dog food her to lick in the morning. She's mentally stimulated which helps her get tired and relax. That way when I left the house afterwards, she's already in a calm state of mind.
  • I've had good experiences with anti-stress treats — they usually have camomile, tryptophan (what makes you sleepy after eating turkey) or CBD as ingredients. If I know there's a thunderstorm coming (which terrifies my dog), I'll give her one of the calming treats to reduce the anxiety a tiny bit. These don't work for all dogs though. These can be found at most pet stores in the health section. It might help ease some of the tension but I would pair this with training, not as an alternate.
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  • Thanks for the detailed reply! Size location and age aren't factors I believe. She's only 3KG, 15 months and location hasn't changed (nor has weather). TBH we just went through another sleepless night, but this time because of the wind outside being really fierce, she just doesn't sleep when the wind is going.I guess it's back to crate training, but I'm not holding out hope that this will work since she seems to be set in this behaviour
    – Dan
    Jul 20 at 21:18
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I honestly think you are making a mistake by trying to comfort her.

You write:

If I let her out and try to cuddle her in bed, she doesn't want to even do that. Won't stay under the covers.

If a dog is anxious, it doesn't want to be cuddled. Cuddling limits the mobility because the cuddler either holds the dog down or is in the way in case the dog wants to fight or flee. Touching an anxious dog that doesn't want to be touched can increase the anxiety even more.

More importantly, from the dogs perspective you're not reacting to her anxiety, you're reacting to whatever caused her anxiety. You're telling her "That creaking wall is really dangerous and you're right when you panic about it". That actually rewards and increases her anxiety instead of calming her down.

You write:

[W]e just went through another sleepless night, but this time because of the wind outside being really fierce, she just doesn't sleep when the wind is going.

If the wall creeks, she is very alert and looks at it, and is clearly agitated by something.

I don't think her crate training failed, I think she's scared of the night. She seems to be extremely sensitive towards any sounds and at night, every tiny sounds seems to be amplified and scary.

What you can try to help her relax is:

  • Tell her there's nothing to worry about - in dog language. Take a really deep, clearly audible breath through your nose and then breathe out a deep sigh through your nose. Maybe you noticed her sighing in that way during the day when she cuddled or slept. That is actually a form of dog communication that tells the other dogs (or people) in the room that this is a very relaxed situation and there's no need to be alert.
  • Don't react to any sounds at night. Every tiny creak scares her. If you react to the creaks as well, she'll feel confirmed that it's something to be scared about.
  • You could try a white noise generator or play white noise from your phone at low volume. There are some products on the market that work like a mini radio playing soothing sounds for dogs. If it doesn't disturb your own sleep too much, this could help her by drowning out some of the scary noises.
  • Start a desensitization training with her. These kinds of trainings are very common for fireworks. In short, you play a recording of scary sounds at very low volume to get the dog used to the noise. Then you very slowly, over the course of several weeks, increase the volume until your dog isn't scared of the original source of the noise anymore.
  • You could ask your vet for a mild tranquilizer. These can come in oral drops or tablets or as scented drops to be inhaled and they usually take 1 - 3 weeks to take effect. Give her the medication (or sprinkle a drop in her dog bed) at night to help her calm down. If her anxiety improves, you can slowly lower the dosage and wean her off over the course of several weeks.

Warning: If she reacts so extremely sensitively to the sounds of wind or a creaking wall, you should start preparing her for New Year's fireworks about now.

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  • Hmmm. I already use whitenoise, soothing music that I've used since she was a puppy. It's odd, I've noticed that the moment I bring her into the room at night to put her into bed she starts shaking and her claws get noticeably more prominent. She's terrified. I've tried just letting her sleep on the couch, which she does for an hour or so, but then she comes into my room and goes under my bed and cries! Then I put her in her crate and she goes straight to sleep! it seems to be the first time she goes into the crate she hates it, but then she's fine. it's truly weird.
    – Dan
    Jul 26 at 0:02
  • @Dan sounds like a habit. In her mind whatever you do before going to bed is connected with negative feelings and she gets terrified out of habit (which doesn't mean that she isn't truely stressed and afraid). You could either completely change your evening routine and establish a new kind of ritual of putting her into her crate, or you could engage a professional dog trainer who can analyze her behavior and help you avoid mistakes.
    – Elmy
    Jul 26 at 4:12
  • Thanks for the reply. I'm trying to get her to stay in the room in the lead up to bedtime by giving her treats and rewarding her for just being in the room. I think with going to bed I'll change it by giving her treats near her crate and turning off the light earlier. hopefully we make some progress.
    – Dan
    Jul 26 at 11:57

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