My Shih Tzu has Insomnia

by No Name

My three year old Shih Tzu sleeps with us and the last two nights he can't sleep when we go to bed. He tries but within seconds he moves to another spot on the bed, very restless. He will come very close to my face, smell then move again. No sleep for the last two nights. He is eating and getting exercise every day. Help! Thanks

Our Answer:

Sleeping problems with young dogs are somewhat uncommon, but not unheard of. The first question that comes to mind is if your dog is exhibiting any unusual behaviors during the day. Does he show symptoms of pain, digestive problems, itching or anxiety? Does your dog require more trips outside during these sleepless nights? Most canine sleep disturbances resolve in a few days for young dogs, but if he’s acting unusual during the day there may be something else going on.

Have a vet examine your furbaby to rule out any worrisome health problems. Once you know he’s got a clean bill of health you can experiment with a few lifestyle changes.

Shih Tzus get overheated easily and warm nights can affect their ability to sleep comfortably. One of my three Shih Tzus is especially sensitive to heat and will spend the night jumping on and off the bed when temperatures are high. Even relying on the AC to keep our home cool while we slept didn’t solve the problem. I finally resolved the issue by pointing a small circulating fan toward the foot of the bed where he snuggles.

You mentioned that your dog gets exercise every day, but perhaps a longer walk closer to bedtime is in order. If it’s not practical to get outside after dark, try a ten-minute training session followed by ten minutes of vigorous play instead. The training will exhaust his mind and the play will satisfy his body.

Don’t play in bed! If you’ve already started this habit it’s not too late to change. Initiating or allowing any sort of tug-of-war with the blankets or other playful activities sends the wrong message. Reinforce that the bed is a place for relaxation and sleep, not frolicking. My husband breaks this rule regularly, and guess which one of us gets woken up at 3 a.m. because one of the dogs is bored and wants to play? Not me!

Over-the-counter or prescription medications to induce relaxation may be an option if the dog’s insomnia persists. However, these solutions should only be tried if your dog’s been examined by a vet and no other underlying health issues are found.

Hopefully by the time you read this the problem will have resolved itself. A few nights of a pup’s sleeplessness are enough to disrupt the whole family, but “kids” of all kinds are going to get off schedule once in a while. If your puppy is healthy and none of the above suggestions have helped, it may be time to consider crate training. Many people would probably suggest crate training as a first solution, but I have empathy for other Shih Tzu parents who share a bed with their beloved dogs.

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