Breaking Habits, any advice?

I have said before that Maggie is a creature of habit, and she now has a serious one we have to break.
This is getting us up in the middle of the night for no apparent reason.
Living on a boat, we have to get up and dressed to take her out, hoping we don’t disturb our fellow boaters in the process.
It is different if she’s ill, or there is thunder or fireworks, but we haven’t had a really decent night’s sleep for weeks, and things are just getting worse.

We have explored possibilities that it is
a): someone coming home after their shift (no)
b): someone going out to their shift (no)
c): neighbours (no)
d): something inside the boat (no)
e): something outside the boat (no)
f): ducks ‘jack hammering’ as they attack the algae on the underside of the boat (no)
g): traffic, either airborne or road noise (no and no)
h): too hot or too cold (both no)
i): unable to see due to poor night vision (we put a kid’s night light at the end of the bed)
j): boat movement (very slight unless in bad weather, so doubtful).

The other night when Hubby came back after the 1.30 expedition, I positioned the duvet and lay back to watch her…………… for about three hours.
She sat to attention at the foot of the bed as if on guard, but there was nothing going on to be on guard against. Everything was quiet inside and out, apart from the usual hum of the fridge kicking in as it’s always done.
Around 5am, she finally flopped and fell asleep.

Last night it was 3.30, and we both got up to take her out.
There was nothing in, on or around the marina to account for disturbing her.
She’d done her final business as normal before we went to bed, and didn’t seem in a hurry to do something else, which ruled out that she was unwell. We have already stopped giving her titbits and treats non-doggy in the belief that her digestive system can’t cope.

We think now that it is purely habit, one which has to be broken before we go crazy through lack of sleep.
Her appetite is OK, her motions and waterworks are fine, her eyes bright, her nose cold.
On our walks she is inquisitive and sniffing everything, so maybe her brain has gone into some kind of overdrive and it’s the springer in her. Some can be a bit loopy in older age.
Or, perhaps she has got hooked on sniffing a particular something (they’ve been treating the grass verges in town) and by the early hours is suffering withdrawal symptoms.
If it was something to do with the boat, why didn’t it happen when we first arrived?
We honestly don’t know.

A lot of my readers have pets, so I’m asking if anyone has had to deal with anything like this before?
If so, did you get to the bottom of it?
What did you do to rectify it?
I would really appreciate any input.


About pensitivity101

I am a retired number cruncher with a vivid imagination and wacky sense of humour which extends to short stories and poetry. I love to cook and am a bit of a dog whisperer as I get on better with them than people sometimes! In November 2020, we lost our beloved Maggie who adopted us as a 7 week old pup in March 2005. We decided to have a photo put on canvas as we had for her predecessor Barney. We now have three pictures of our fur babies on the wall as we found a snapshot of Kizzy, my GSD when Hubby and I first met so had hers done too. On February 24th 2022 we were blessed to find Maya, a 13 week old GSD pup who has made her own place in our hearts. You can follow our training methods, photos and her growth in my blog posts. From 2014 to 2017 'Home' was a 41 foot narrow boat where we made strong friendships both on and off the water. We were close to nature enjoying swan and duck families for neighbours, and it was a fascinating chapter in our lives. We now reside in a small bungalow on the Lincolnshire coast where we have forged new friendships and interests.
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9 Responses to Breaking Habits, any advice?

  1. scifihammy says:

    I can come up with two possible causes.
    One is that she is an older dog, and they do suddenly develop odd behaviour. For example, LM now insists on sleeping outside, after 10 years of sleeping in the kitchen! This was quite a sudden change.
    Second, and I think most likely, is that Maggie is picking up on your stress about all that’s going on in the marina at the moment and your possible move. Though you keep your routine with her, she will pick up on all the little things and this might be what is unsettling her.
    I do sympathise with your lack of sleep though, because of course you have to take Maggie out, in case she needs to go. Good Luck finding the cause.

    • Thanks Sci. I’ve thought about that too.
      Of course, we are more stressed due to lack of sleep, so it compounds the problems. We have a couple of ideas to try next.

      • scifihammy says:

        I find that once you have looked at the worst case senario and thought how to deal with that, then it is easier. Anything better than that is a plus.
        Keep on trying.

  2. colinandray says:

    If you cannot pinpoint why she is up, then note her physical position (Is she standing? Sitting erect. In alert mode?) If you are fairly sure that there is nothing of concern going on, then perhaps you can get her back into “down” and give her a good treat. Of course you could be training her to wake you up to get a treat but, as a starting point, that is preferable to being dragged outside. If you can successfully get her to just wake you up at (e.g.) 3:00am, then you could perhaps start stretching time to 4:00am etc, until she wakes you up for her treat at a reasonable hour!

    Just some “off the wall” thinking. Good luck! 🙂

    • Thanks Colin. She was in a sitting position the other night when I watched her, but sometimes she gets down on the floor, so is sitting up. Sadly the ‘down’ or ‘go to bed’ doesn’t work, and on occasion she has been constantly up and down all the time. In such a confined space, everything sounds loud, which makes things worse.

  3. The Hook says:

    If only Maggie could speak…
    Chelsea usually only gets up to do her business, fortunately.
    Sorry I can’t be of any help, old friend.

  4. No dogs here but my old cat Jake got dotty when we got old. He would start whining around 2 to 3 and I couldn’t calm him down. Taking him out wasn’t an option and letting him out would have been too dangerous. The last year was bad. I didn’t sleep through any night. Like having babies only I was too old for that.

    • I sympathise Kate. Our pets can’t tell us what’s wrong. We tried an experiment last night which seemed to work and Maggie got me up at 6.35 to go out which was much more acceptable and thus rewarded with a walk round the Avenue. We will try it again tonight.

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