Once upon a time, a husband and wife had one dog. They loved this dog, spoiled her rotten and brought her with everywhere they went. Then, one day, the husband and wife (mostly the wife) thought it’d be a great idea to get another dog. “Wouldn’t it be nice if our puppy had someone to play with?”, she’d say. “They’d be so cute together!” So the husband and wife found a rescue a got another dog…and nothing was ever the same again.
Enter dog number 2:
Ok, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. Getting a second dog, particularly because it was a second very, very large dog in addition to our already very, very large dog, really did change everything but not at all in a bad way. In the goofiest, most ridiculous and best way possible. Both of our puppies are Great Danes. Cash is 3 and Dylan just turned 8 this past Friday. Happy Birthday, Dylan! We were so used to having one giant dog we figured, “We’re pros. We can totally handle another one, no problem.” We were right for the most part. We love having two of them and had prepared ourselves for the adjustments we knew we’d have to make for a second dog. How those adjustments have evolved over time has sort of become something we hadn’t specifically planned for.
For example, we knew we’d have to get a second set of dog dishes, train them not to eat each other’s food, potentially adjust the type of food if necessary, etc. One of the things we hadn’t counted on was how they would egg each other on and exacerbate mildly annoying behavior into sleep-shattering-major-problem behavior.
They were on a meal schedule. They got fed at about the same times of day, everyday. Once in the morning when we got up and once in the evening around 8 PM. This was working out great until we realized their internal clocks seemed to be wound just a tad too tight. Every few weeks, Cash and Dylan would wake up slightly earlier than they did the week before, each wanting to make sure they didn’t miss out on breakfast. Because, you know, that’s a thing we regularly do, just let someone sleep through a meal, *eye roll*.
When we just had Dylan, she slept in bed with us so there really wasn’t much fear of missing out. If we got up, she’d know it. If she started stirring too early, a little petting and cuddling would deter her from getting up. Now that we have Cash, there seems to be this unspoken understanding between the two dogs. They know if one of them doesn’t eat something, the other one will be there to take care of it. So there’s this aura of “What if I don’t wake up in time and Cash eats all my food? What if they feed Dylan and then they run out of food? WHAT IF THEY FORGET TO FEED US?! AAAAAHHHH! WAKE UP!!!”
This frenzy would start with one of them getting up, usually Cash. Then immediately the other would get up. Then the parade of nails clicking on the floor, incessant high pitched whining, and wet noses getting shoved in our faces would commence. They started out getting fed around 7 AM. Then it became 6:30. Then 6:15. Then these two jokers broke the 5 AM barrier and that was enough of that. There was no way we were going to be able to ignore them and sleep through the crying puppy parade but we weren’t sure how we were going to get them to stop and reset their internal clocks. Enter the puppy meal alarm.
This Is How We Did It
You know how there are those dozens of unused ring tones on your phone? Well get ready to use one of them! We selected one that was an upbeat, exciting ring tone that was easily recognizable. We set the alarm on Chad’s (my husband) phone for 8 Am, “puppy breakfast” and then set another for 8 PM “puppy dinner” and used this ring tone for both. For the first few days, right before we fed them, we’d play the ring tone and act really excited and exclaim “food time! food time!” as we got their food ready and fed them. They were super excited about this new feeding time mini-party they got to have but more importantly, they were starting to associate that ring tone with super-happy-getting-fed time. It probably only took 2 or 3 days for this to start working where we didn’t get woken up earlier than we’d like. They knew they weren’t getting fed until they heard that alarm. It’s so effective that even if I’m with the dogs and Chad isn’t home for them to hear the alarm, I can just hum it and they know.
They still try to push it a little. About 15 minutes before their dinner, they start staring at us with their ears perked up. They KNOW it’s coming. It’s crazy how accurate they are. The important part is though, they’re not waking up earlier in the morning. They know the drill. No one is getting out of bed until that alarm goes off so no one is going to miss out on breakfast.
The only con to doing this that we’ve discovered the hard way, several times, is that even when you silence your phone, a daily alarm will still sound. Even when you’re sitting in a movie theater which specifically told you to silence your phone before hand and everyone in the audience is counting on the fact that you’ve silenced it to ensure their full movie enjoyment. Even when you thought you silenced your phone but forgot about your daily alarm that’s set for 8 PM, right in the middle of the really intense, really quite part of the movie. Even then, the alarm will sound. So you have to remember to turn the alarm off if it’s set to go off during a time when you want your phone silenced. We’ve found this to be more difficult than you might think. But we’re getting better. 😉
Has anyone else ever had a problem like this? We were thinking this strategy might be useful in training them to do other things on a schedule as well. Have you ever tried a solution like this? What other sorts of goofy things do your pets do that you wish they wouldn’t? (even though they’re incredibly cute while doing it). Comment below!