Our dogs are our friends. And we love them to bits. But even our best friends do things that annoy us even if they don’t intend to. With dogs, it’s that infuriating habit of barking at inappropriate times. When it’s at night, it can distress us, keep us out of sleep, and make enemies of our neighbors.
More often than not, there’s a reason for the barking, though. And with a bit of investigation and intelligent action, you can remedy the problem effectively. Let’s look at what may be causing the nocturnal nagging, the moonlit moaning, the barking dog in the darkness.
This guide will also look at a few possible ways to change the behavior by either removing the cause or altering the response. Here’s why your dog is barking at night.
- 1 Why do Dogs Bark at night? A Few Things to Keep in Mind
- 2 11 Reasons Dogs Bark at Night
- 2.1 1. Your Dog is Hearing Strange Noises
- 2.2 2. There May Be an Environmental Problem
- 2.3 3. Doggo is Bored
- 2.4 4. Your Dog is Suffering from Separation Anxiety
- 2.5 5. You’ve Accidentally Taught Your Dog to Bark
- 2.6 6. Your Dog Could be Hungry
- 2.7 7. There May Be a Problem With Your Dog’s Diet
- 2.8 8. Your Dog Could be in Pain
- 2.9 9. Your Dog May Need the Loo
- 2.10 10. Something May Suddenly be Different in the Routine
- 2.11 11. Age Has Caught Up With Your Pup
- 3 Crate Training as a solution
- 4 Final Thoughts on Why Dogs Bark at Night
Why do Dogs Bark at night? A Few Things to Keep in Mind
The solution to late-night barking isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. There are a couple of things to consider when trying to diagnose the problem and try a plan of action. Remember that every dog is different, and even assuming that the behavior is breed-related may not be the complete answer you’re looking for.
With that in mind, and before rushing to a possible solution, ask these three questions:
1. Is the Behavior New?
If the barking has suddenly started when it never happened before (especially if the dog is already mature), it suggests a different range of possibilities. It may not just be new puppy energy or separation anxiety, for example.
Instead, there may have been a change in the home or environment that has triggered the barking. Dogs even react to the family losing loved ones or other pets.
2. Is it Barking Every Night, or Just Sometimes?
What is happening on those particular nights when it is barking? Is it pizza night in the home (and is it scalping pizza from your partner’s plate)?
Does the garbage truck come around on Tuesdays? If there are specific issues related to particular days, it may simply be a case of addressing that particular issue.
3. Is Age a Factor?
Yes, the age of your dog could be a factor. Younger dogs may want attention or to piddle or poop. Older dogs may be suffering from arthritis, barking out in discomfort or pain.
11 Reasons Dogs Bark at Night
Some reasons for dogs expressing their opinions well into the night are apparent when you think about them. Others may well come as a surprise. There could actually even be a combination of factors keeping your dog out of its dog bed at night. Here are some of the critical issues that owners and behaviorists report.
1. Your Dog is Hearing Strange Noises
One of the first theories that will come to owners’ minds is that the dog is barking because it hears strange sounds emanating from outdoors. It’s not a bad theory. The street and your home are much quieter at night, and the chances are that your dog can hear sounds outside that are unfamiliar – even scary.
After all, dogs have excellent hearing. One way to test this is to see whether the barking happens at a specific door or in a particular room of the house. If it looks like there’s a specific external stimulus for the barking, it may be a strange noise.
Another issue can arise with older dogs. As their senses decline, they may mistake perfectly normal stimuli as foreign and react with barking.
Dogs also fall into the habit of alerting their “pack” to possible danger. So it’s just trying to do its job.
Possible Fix for Dog Barking at Strange Noises
There are a few methods for training the behavior out of a dog barking at strange noises. In principle, they involve teaching a dog to react differently to the stimulus. Most methods will take lots of time and patience, though.
One idea is to use a tasty training treat. While your dog is barking, wait for a pause or when your dog comes to check on you (and is not barking). Praise the silence and reward. Over time, the dog should learn that being quiet brings rewards. When it stays calm even when the trigger occurs, continue to praise and reward.
If in doubt, consult a behaviorist or a reliable source on dog training.
2. There May Be an Environmental Problem
You may not have thought about whether the room your dog sleeps in is bothering it. Believe it or not, even dogs suffer from environmental stress. Related to the above, perhaps the room is too noisy. Aside from too many external noises, are there noisy electrical points, devices, or air conditioners in the room?
The barks of complaint may be because the floor is too cold. Perhaps the room is too hot, or maybe even too dark or too bright. Do you know how you can’t sleep with a light on? Well, maybe your dog just hates that blue aquarium glow.
Possible Fix for Problematic Dog’s Sleeping Environment
Check all the possible conditions for problems. Make sure the room is comfortably sized, not too hot or too cold, or even too noisy.
3. Doggo is Bored
Some breeds need constant stimulation and exercise. If your dog isn’t getting enough of these in the course of a day, it may act out even at night while you are trying to sleep.
Some dogs – especially larger ones, require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation in order to keep their social skills intact. Smaller dogs may also be high-energy or highly strung and may need play. Without this, there’s a lot of energy to burn, which could mean barking at night.
Possible Fix for a Bored Dog
Make sure your dog is getting enough exercise and stimulation for its breed. A more elemental way of looking at it is: if your dog has had an enjoyable day of play to tire it out, it may be happy with a good night’s rest. Invest in some chewy dog toys, and spend some time interacting.
Even if you don’t have access to a safe and adequate outdoor space for exercise, you can play indoor activities and games. The American Kennel Association recommends tugging games, hide and seek and even running up and down the stairs.
Agility exercises can also quickly be improvised indoors with household items.
4. Your Dog is Suffering from Separation Anxiety
If you let your dog sleep in another room, you might consider whether it is suffering from anxiety caused by separation. Some dogs absolutely need to be in someone’s company to feel safe. When left alone, they can become lonely and anxious.
If your dog is a social breed that loves to be around you but is suddenly expected to spend all night on its own, it could trigger nervous barking and even destructive behavior. Chances are, this will also happen if you leave the house and dog alone for a while.
Possible Fix for Canine Separation Anxiety
How you approach this may depend on the severity of the problem. Solutions include conditioning behavior with training, especially if you cannot allow the dog to sleep in your room or have access to you at night. Lately, some experts have also recommended calming products like CBD oil for dogs for cases that may need them.
At the very least, spend some time playing when you are home. It may also help to move the dog bed to your room if it isn’t already there.
5. You’ve Accidentally Taught Your Dog to Bark
As a pet owner, you’ve probably heard about the notion of positive reinforcement. If when your dog first started barking, you fawned attention upon it every time, you may have reinforced the idea that when it barks, you’ll respond.
This might take hold, especially in young dogs, but any dog can learn this behavior.
Possible Fix for Altering Your Responses
Responding to a dog’s behavior unthinkingly may encourage rather than stop the barking. Some dogs see yelling as barking on your part, meaning you’re joining in. Also, any attention you give the dog when it’s barking could be seen as positive.
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6. Your Dog Could be Hungry
Do you feed your dog at an appropriate time? Sometimes, when a dog is hungry, it may become anxious and fidgety, and yes, may start barking for food. Though this is unusual – at least compared to other causes – it may be worth looking at.
For example, if your dog is only being fed in the morning, going through the night without eating again may be a little too much to manage.
Possible Fix for a Hungry Dog at Night
This is a balancing act. You could opt to feed a little later in the day or add a later feeding time as well. But you also don’t want to provide the dog food too late. Usually, in dogs, feeding doesn’t precede sleep. It may wish to walk after as well.
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7. There May Be a Problem With Your Dog’s Diet
Speaking of eating, there’s a chance that there may be issues with your dog’s diet. Again, this wouldn’t be the first thing you think of, but if you’re running out of possible causes, it is indeed a possibility.
It could be a case of the food causing bad reactions, allergies, or even indigestion. Check with a vet to see whether your dog may react to a food component in its diet.
Another thing to look out for here is whether your dog may be eating something other than its food. It may be munching on plants in the garden or even rummaging in the trash can.
Remember that some plants are poisonous to pets. If you’re a keen houseplant owner, and you suspect your puppy may have been nibbling at the leaves and flowers, check to see whether any of your plants may be toxic to pets.
Possible Fix for Dog Diet Issues
Make sure all other possible sources of food are eliminated. Are the kids feeding it off their plates? Are all the plants intact and secure? Have the trash cans been rolled? If all these are in order, look into the brand of dog food you’re using, and talk to your vet about other possibilities.
8. Your Dog Could be in Pain
If the barking is new, your dog may have picked up an injury or be suffering from some sort of painful condition. Is the doggy moving about normally? Does it seem to be acting strangely?
Possible Fix for Unexpected Injury
If nothing seems to be obviously causing pain, the best course of action here is to take it to a vet for a check.
9. Your Dog May Need the Loo
One of the most obvious reasons for barking and anxiety may also be the simplest. Maybe your dog’s body routine is such that it needs to pee in the middle of the night. The optimistic view is that thankfully, it knows it shouldn’t pee in the house.
On the other hand, if this is a regular thing, adjusting the walking schedule may be in your cards.
Possible Fix for Bad Toilet Times
Perhaps a short walk before bedtime will do the trick. Older dogs may struggle to hold onto their bladders for long periods of time. You may also need to do the same first thing in the morning.
10. Something May Suddenly be Different in the Routine
Dogs are very happy with routines. They like to know what’s going on and when. You’ll even notice that they start expecting things to happen at certain times, whether or not there’s a clock to follow in the room.
When a well-established routine gets changed or thrown out of whack, some dogs may feel unbalanced by the change. Sometimes, the result is a bout of barking, and when it’s at night, it’s your problem, too.
Keep in mind that it’s not only the dog’s routine. Perhaps you’ve decided to change your daily schedule and routine too. Doggo will pick up on this, perhaps become unsettled, and proverbially start to ask questions with barking.
Possible Fix for Routine Adjustment
Routine changes are one of those things that may simply need time to work themselves out. If it doesn’t alleviate after a few days or weeks, chances are there are other causes contributing to the tantrum. If you’re baffled, a behaviorist could help.
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11. Age Has Caught Up With Your Pup
Sadly, everyone gets old. In the case of dogs, this comes with specific maladies that they cannot verbalize as a person would. Canine arthritis, for example, causes pain and discomfort. A dog’s response may be to howl and bark.
Possible Fix for Age-Related Problems
It is best to consult a vet about any possible treatment for your pooch, especially if it is getting on in years. Medications exist to help alleviate pain from most conditions.
Crate Training as a solution
Many experts recommend a technique called Crate Training, which can address several of the psychological causes for barking. It involves using a specially designed crate to create a “safe space” for dogs, where they feel comfortable at night.
This is useful for dogs who suffer from anxiety, especially at night. It may also help those suffering from separation anxiety. The crate training technique may take a little while to see success, but it’s worth taking on especially when adopting a new dog to the home.
Basically, the crate space should be attractive to your dog – with treats, toys, and a familiar-smelling blanket. Use the crate as part of the routine – make sure the doggo is in the crate when you get into bed, for example. Both the routine and the crate environment will contribute to reassuring the dog.
As with all training, the younger the dog, the easier the training will take. Some breeds may also be much easier to condition than others.
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Final Thoughts on Why Dogs Bark at Night
As we can see, there are a number of possible causes for your dog barking in the middle of the night. The important thing to remember when responding to this unwanted behavior is that barking is instinctual in dogs.
In all situations, remember that your dog is not simply barking for no reason. There is likely one of the above reasons or more for its behavior. And if you can sort it out, it would be better for everyone involved (including the neighbors).
It’s not purposely trying to ruin your sleep or set the angry neighbors on you. More than likely the cause of the barking can be addressed. Remember that a vet or behaviorist may have additional insight into your problem, with some extra information about your specific situation and home environment.
Take some time to analyze the cause, and take appropriate action. With a little bit of patience and smart action, your pup should be back to its happy and restful self at night.
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