Do You Have a Sentry Dog?

Graidy is my Border Collie mix. I brought him home from Rescue going on 9 years ago. If you were to watch him run and play, you’d swear he was still a puppy–he’s showing no signs of slowing down. Yep, we’re talking high energy, perpetual motion machine!

white and black border collie
On Duty

Given his breed and his native sensitivity–he’s more highly tuned than the most finely calibrated motion detector–he’s constantly on Red Alert! Nothing escapes his vigilant gaze. And I do mean NOTHING.

Whether it’s a vole half an acre away or a bird flying half a mile up in the sky or a person walking half a mile down the road, this dog feels compelled to announce his findings. Persistently. Until someone notices. Preferably Kiera. And then he’ll bark in her face until he forces her to join in. (Actually, she barks at him to tell him he can stand down, she’s got it covered. As the Alpha dog, she’s the commander-in-chief.)

Wha.. What was that?! Did you hear that?! I heard that. Over there!

And that makes for a very barky dog. At all hours of the day and night. God bless my neighbors–they don’t complain. So when I’m home, I spend a lot of my time redirecting his alerting behavior and giving him better options. It’s a full time job, often including through the wee hours of the morning–he’s a very light sleeper. Good thing I love him. : )

But when he started rolling back his waking time from 5:30 am to 5:00 am to 4:30 am to… It was time to take stronger measures.

You see, Graidy is a Sentry dog. And if you’re familiar with pack behavior, you know that this is a very important role in the pack. The Sentry dog’s job is to sound the alarm. To alert the pack to any changes in the surrounding environment. And he takes his job very seriously, performing it with slavish dedication.

One of the interesting physiological characteristics of Sentry dogs is that they do actually spend less time in the deeper phases of sleep. And when they are in that deeper sleep, they go through that cycle hard and fast.

Knowing that part of Graidy’s problem with night-time waking is that he’s hard-wired to be super-easily aroused, I decided to try giving him a 25 mg Benedryl (which acts as a mild sedative) at bedtime in the hope that would help him sleep more soundly.

And, Hallelujah! He’s sleeping through until 6:30 am!

As for the barking? That’ll be a life-long project. :)

2 thoughts on “Do You Have a Sentry Dog?”

  1. Brent @ Heart My Dog

    Lucky my dogs are fairly sound sleepers – but if the rest of the dogs in the neighborhood are barking they tend to want to bark as well! My Comet is only just older than 2 but I have a feeling he’ll be a puppy for the rest of his life too!

    1. Brent, your dogs have such great faces! Yes, we also have a regular chorus of neighborhood dogs. Add a pack of coyotes to the mix and they start singing in rounds. Nobody gets much sleep on those nights. :)

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