A dog barking at night can be a massive problem. Not only can they keep you out of some much-needed sleep, but they can bother your neighbors and make you liable for noise nuisance complaints. We also need our sleep, and excessive barking from a pup might seriously affect our functioning during the day and become a source of frustration.
One way to settle a restless puppy at night is with a dog bed built to soothe them. This is especially true if your dog just started barking at night, and this is a new behavior that could stem from a larger underlying health or behavioral problem. Barking at night is also different from other situations, such as when dogs bark in the car.
So let’s look at common reasons for nighttime barking to help figure out why your dog (or a local dog in the neighborhood) may be keeping everybody up at night and tips for how to stop barking through the night.
So, Why Dog Do Dogs Bark At Night?
Primarily, dogs bark to warn of potential threats, to respond to other barking dogs, and because there is less ambient noise, making unusual sounds more noticeable. Sometimes dogs bark excessively from boredom, anxiety, loneliness, frustration, or disorders like canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) at night.
However, there are many reasons your dogs bark nocturnally. So let’s take a closer look at what makes a dog start barking and how to help stop your dog barking so you can get a good night’s sleep.
8 Reasons For Night Barking
1. Dogs have evolved to bark at night
One major reason that dogs bark at night is that they have evolved to do this. Barking is not common behavior among wolves, but a mother wolf may bark to communicate danger to her pups. So while wolves rarely bark, dogs do it all the time. And the reason is simple. From when dogs were domesticated, warning early humans about danger by barking at night probably kept many of our ancient ancestors alive.
In this sense, it is a very deep genetic code to sound the alarm and wake you up if something they hear something out of the ordinary nearby. Dogs may bark at night to warn other animals or people to stay away from their territory. This is a natural instinct for dogs, as they are territorial animals.
2. Some dog breeds are more prone to night barking
Some breeds, like the Dachshund or the Jack Russell Terrier, are naturally very alert and prone to barking. If you mix the Jack Russell with a Chihuahua, another naturally alert dog, you may struggle with barking too. These breeds are naturally territorial and very vocal about sensing anything out of sorts.
Herding breeds like Collies, or Belgian Malinois, are also notoriously vocal. Breeds like huskies are less prone to barking but may enjoy howling when they hear other dogs barking. One of the best ways to avoid barking issues is to pick naturally quiet dog breeds, like most mastiffs, French Bulldogs, or Shiba Inus.
3. There is less ambient noise at night
A major reason dogs are more likely to bark at night is that there is less ambient noise. This means less traffic, construction, or other sounds common during the day.
So, your dog may be barking because she can hear further than in the day and is more aware of other sounds like dogs barking. In rural areas in particular, your pooch may also hear noises from nocturnal animals. Nearby critters like raccoons, feral cats, or coyotes can make them more likely to bark.
Dogs can typically hear noises up to a mile away at much higher frequencies than we can. At night, when there is less noise pollution, they may be able to hear even further. They will also be more aware of unusual sounds and respond to them.
4. Dogs bark for attention
Another reason dogs may bark and whine at night when you’re trying to sleep is that they need attention. Usually, it may be because they need to go outside to potty, but occasionally barking also happens from loneliness. New puppies that have just come home will bark and cry incessantly as they get to grips with being alone at night for the first time.
We discuss this further in our article on locking puppies in crates at night.
5. Dogs are awake more often at night than humans (with better hearing)
According to one study, dogs have about 3 sleep/wake cycles per hour during the night. The sleep-wake cycle for the average dog means about 16 min asleep and 5 min awake throughout the night. This means they are often more alert and prone to barking at outside noises when they hear something unusual.
In fact, they are also more likely to hear an unusual noise while they are asleep and respond to it than we are. This is a natural part of a dog’s built-in alarm system to protect their home and sound the alarm if they sense trouble. They also have more sensitive hearing, as they can hear sounds at much higher frequencies and up to a mile away.
6. Dogs may bark out of boredom, frustration, or anxiety
If you work at night and leave your dog alone, it may be barking from separation anxiety.
Dogs may also bark at night if they are anxious or afraid. This could be due to loud noises, such as fireworks or thunderstorms, or if they sense a threat in their environment.
A more common reason is dogs who do not get enough exercise or mental stimulation, and so they have a tone of pent-up energy. Boredom and frustration are the leading causes of unwanted behavior in our canines.
7. Dogs bark to communicate with other dogs
The most common cause of barking at night is the sound of other dogs barking. What’s more, dogs in multiple-dog households are more likely to bark than dogs alone. And one dog, in particular, usually leads the others in group barking.
All of this is very natural canine behavior. When a pack barks, they are communicating with all the dogs in the area where they are and where their territory is. This means if one dog a mile away barks, they are likely to set off your dogs.
In fact, your dogs are far more likely to be barking because they hear other dogs barking in the distance than they are because of nighttime visitors. Dogs are pack animals, and night barking is contagious. Sometimes neighborhood dogs will bark because of a passerby, causing the whole block to light up.
8. Medical reasons for barking
In some cases, dogs may bark at night due to medical issues such as pain, discomfort, or canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CCD). Cognitive dysfunction is a lot like doggy Alzheimer’s, which occurs in dogs as they age.
Other behavioral changes may include confusion or house soiling. If you suspect a medical issue, seeing a veterinarian is important.
How to stop a dog barking at night
An occasional bit of yapping at night is normal, but excessive barking can be disruptive and cause sleep disturbance for both the dog and its owners. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to stop your dog from barking at night.
Do not ignore the problem. It’s better to figure out why your dog is barking and take steps to stop the behavior. Otherwise, you risk having your dog labeled a nuisance and creating friction with your neighbors.
Identify the cause of the barking
Before you can stop your dog from barking at night, it’s important to identify why. Is it because they are scared, bored, or anxious? Once you have identified the cause, you can take appropriate steps to address it.
For instance, if your senior dog has CCD (dementia) or anxiety, then you may need to look into supplements like alpha-capsazepine (Zylkene) that can help them relax and sleep better.
Provide enough exercise and mental stimulation
Dogs that don’t get enough exercise or mental stimulation may bark at night out of boredom or frustration. Ensure your dog gets enough exercise, playtime, and mental stimulation during the day. Dealing with boredom and excess energy is one of the best ways to handle 90% of behavior issues.
Create a comfortable sleeping environment
Ensure your dog’s sleeping area is comfortable, quiet, and safe. Provide them with a comfortable bed, a quiet and dark room, and a safe and secure environment. Avoid letting your dog sleep outside, where they are more prone to barking. Keep them indoors and invest in crate training.
Teach your dog to settle and be calm with positive reinforcement training
One of the most underused obedience commands in the dogs world is teaching a dog to settle. Whether you have a hyperactive Border Collie or couch potato, a dog must know when it’s time to “switch off.”
Positive reinforcement training is a gentle and effective way to stop your dog from barking at night. Reward your dog for quiet behavior, such as with treats, praise, and playtime.
Establish a routine
Dogs thrive on routines, so establishing a consistent bedtime routine can help them feel more relaxed and calm at night. Establish a regular time for feeding, playtime, and bedtime. Make sure to take your dog out at night to relieve themselves.
Consider using white noise
If your dog is barking at night due to outside noises, consider using white noise to block out the sound. This could be a white noise machine, a fan, or even calming music.
Consult a professional
If your dog’s barking at night persists, consider consulting a certified professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can help you identify the underlying cause of the barking and develop a customized training plan to stop it.
Do not resort to punishment
Barking at night is a natural behavior even if it is unwanted. Suppressing natural behaviors with devices like e-collars or collars that spray citronella oil tends to cause anxiety and more unwanted and destructive behavior.
When you suppress a behavior with something like an e-collar, you usually don’t give the dog an alternativ-e-archive for the behavior. So the urge to bark is still there, and now it is a cause of anxiety because it leads to punishment. This causes a conflict within the dog, so they often channel into something equally problematic, like chewing or digging.
Be especially aware that something like a collar that sprays citronella oil, or a collar to stop barking, are both incredibly cruel. Keeping your dog active during the day, and crated at night, where they understand the “settle” command, and rewarding a dog for calmness is the best way to deal with barking at night.
In conclusion, stopping your dog from barking at night requires patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement training. By identifying the cause of the barking, providing enough exercise and mental stimulation, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, establishing a routine, using positive reinforcement training, considering white noise, and consulting a professional, you can help your dog stop barking at night and enjoy a peaceful and restful sleep.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.
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