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Get your older dog involved in his bedtime routine and teach him to tuck himself into bed. When you teach your dog to tuck himself into bed, not only does he know it's time to settle down and go to sleep for the whole night, but he's also playing an active role in the process of getting to bed.
An older dog might be confused or anxious. This is a trick you can use during the day or at night to ease any tension. Tucking into bed will give your older dog a place to be when it's time for sleep and when he is feeling some anxiety, which is common for older dogs. Just imagine giving your dog a very simple command to 'go to bed' and watching him pull a blanket over himself and settle down before he goes to sleep for the night. If you can get your older dog to enjoy snuggling with a blanket or a pillow or even a soft lovey toy, you can teach him to tuck himself into bed. Training this trick is fun and rewarding for you both.
Training your older dog to tuck himself into bed is an incredibly cute trick. He can have a bed and a blanket that he rolls into or a crate with a blanket inside or on top that he pulls over top of himself before going to sleep. He can even use a blanket as a lovey to increase his sense of security when he's anxious. Whichever method you choose to use or wherever your dog sleeps, you may need to teach him some other commands before teaching him to tuck himself in. Since he is older, he should know basic commands such as 'sit', 'stay', and 'down', but you may also want to teach him the ‘take it’ command or even a 'roll over' command if he doesn't know them yet.
Depending on the personality and needs of your dog, don't expect him to stay wrapped up in a blanket the entire night. Be sure to use this command during the day when you need your older dog to settle down a bit. He may ditch the blanket as many of us do throughout the course of his sleep or he may carry his new blanket around in his mouth much of the day
To prepare for training your older dog to tuck himself into bed, have his bed set up in the place where he's going to sleep every night. Choose the blanket he will use and get him used to having that blanket around, even during the day. Some larger dogs may just want a light blanket while some smaller dogs with higher anxiety might want a heavy weighted blanket. This blanket needs to be something that is not so heavy that your dog can't move it. Be prepared for lots of repetition and practice and with some great rewards as well. Remember, your older dog might need additional time to create new habits.
The Roll and Cover Method
Introduce your older dog to his new blanket and train him to roll over while on the blanket. If you've taught him the 'roll over' command, work on this on his new blanket.
Place your older dog on his blanket and train him to roll over. To do this, use a treat to entice him to move from one side to another. Holding the treat close to his nose, move it in a circle encouraging him to pull his body over to the opposite side.
Continue to practice the 'roll over' command with a simple hand motion. Remember to draw small circles in front of your dog's nose to get him to roll from one side to another.
With the blanket, train your dog the 'take it' command. Start with a treat, holding it in front of your older dog's nose and say the command to "take it." Because it's a treat, he will want to take it, so let him have it. The next time you use the command, put the corner of the blanket in his mouth say the words "take it" before offering him a treat for taking the blanket.
Practice the 'take it' command using the blanket. Each time you say "take it" and hold the blanket up to your dog's nose, he should put the blanket in his mouth. Be sure to reward him every single time he succeeds. Transition to having him pick up the blanket on his own from the floor rather than you holding it. Continue to use the command to 'take it' and expect your dog to pick up the blanket in his mouth.
Have your dog lie on the blanket, ask him to 'take it' expecting him to pick up the blanket in his mouth, and then use your hand signal to get your dog to roll over. He should take the blanket in his mouth and roll over the blanket pulling it over top of his body.
If your dog has a dog bed or crate, move the blanket to that space giving him the 'take it' command and asking him to 'roll over'. Practice this several times and then use the two combined commands and make one command asking your dog to tuck himself in. Practicing this trick in bed where he sleeps will condition him to tuck himself in bed in this space anytime you ask him to tuck in.
During the day
Make sure your older dog's blanket is available to him during the day as well, so he can tuck in anywhere, anytime. This might give him comfort during the day. Your older dog will sleep a lot, so he might want to tuck in often, day and night.
Practice and rewards
Be sure to practice a lot with your older dog and give him lots of rewards. You can practice this trick during the day when it's not time to sleep and have him jump up and run around to get a reward and then practice again. At night time when it's time to go to bed, practice with a sleepy dog and expect him to stay for the night.
The Blanket Pull Method
Start in bed
Place your older dog in his dog bed or in his crate and ask him to lie down.
Put a blanket near your dog's tail in a loose ball with an edge he can grab sticking out.
Train your dog to take the blanket and pull it up over his body towards his head. To do this, sit near his tail with a treat, holding the blanket in your hand. Get your dog's attention with a treat and ask him to 'take it'. He should lift up the top half of his body, turn his head, and take the treat. If he tries to stand up, ask him to lie down again and start over with 'take it.'
'Take it' blanket
Once your dog gets the idea of lying in place and only lifting up his head and chest to take the treat, transition your 'take it' command to taking the blanket. Holds the corner of the blanket in your hand and ask him to 'take it'. When he sits up to take it, place the blanket in his mouth.
Expect the first few times he learns to take the blanket in his mouth to offer him a reward and have him drop the blanket to trade for the treat. This is okay. Treat him a few times until he is used to hearing the 'take it' command and taking the blanket in his mouth.
Continue to use the 'take it' command with the blanket, only add another step and ask your dog to lie down when he has the blanket in his mouth. Use the 'take it' command, place the blanket in his mouth, and then ask him to lie down. When he lies down, he should pull the blanket up over his body with him.
Once your dog lies down with the blanket pulled up over his body, give him a treat.
Practice this several times, starting with the 'take it' command and the blanket in your dog's mouth and ending with your dog lying down after pulling the blanket up over his body. Over time, you can change the 'take it' command to something associated with bedtime such as 'tuck yourself in' or 'go to bed.' Be sure to reward him every time he is successful, especially as he's learning.
The Blanket Roll Method
Lay a blanket on the floor to begin training. Stretch it out but make sure it is not flat to the ground. Take a corner of the blanket and fold it over and bunch it up to give your dog something to grab hold of.
Have your dog sit on the blanket but make sure he is sitting opposite of the corner you reserved for him to grab. You will be training him to take this corner and pull it over him.
Ask your dog to lie down on the blanket after he follows the sit command. Try to position him so his mouth is near the corner you will want him to grab. Also, be sure you are giving him a treat each time he follows a command.
Sit along your dog and place the corner of the blanket in his mouth. He will need to feel the texture of the blanket and know from you it is okay to have it in his mouth. Encourage him in a playful manner.
Blanket in mouth
Once the blanket is in your dog’s mouth, you will want him to roll over. If you have not yet taught your dog to roll over, go back and teach this while on the blanket. You can do this by playfully guiding him from one side to the other or by having him follow a treat from one side to the other.
Get your dog to roll over with the blanket in his mouth using the 'roll over' command. Make sure he is keeping the blanket in his mouth and taking the blanket with him.
Repeat these steps with your dog several times, getting him used to putting the blanket in his mouth by repeating the steps. Then, have your dog roll over with the blanket, covering himself as he rolls. If your dog needs assistance rolling over, gently push him or lure him with a treat to the opposite side. Be sure he keeps that corner of the blanket in his mouth so he takes the blanket with him.
Once your dog has the two tricks of placing the blanket in his mouth and rolling over with it, give these two actions a command such as ‘tuck in.’
Take your dog to his bed and have him do his new trick of tucking himself in using the new command. Be sure to place the blanket in his bed before you bring him over and give the command. Once he’s tucked in, give him a treat. Start using this command at bedtime to tell your dog to get to bed.
By Stephanie Plummer
Published: 01/17/2018, edited: 01/08/2021
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