Most of us have been there, either on the receiving end or that of the embarrassed dog owner: Fido just won’t stop barking at night. Besides the embarrassment and annoyance, there is often more to the story than just a dog barking at night.
The first order of business is to assess the situation. As an example, is this a new behavior? If it is, there is likely to be a good reason for it.
Is it something the dog has learned that will get him or her attention? There are ways to deter that, although they may take time and patience.
Reasons a dog may start barking at night
Something’s different: It could be a new neighbor, a change in your household, or a new scent. Dogs notice these things a lot more than people do. If you can pinpoint what the change is, it will be easier to train your dog to ignore it.
On the other hand, that strange, new thing might be something hazardous to your health. A dog can smell a gas leak long before it would be detectable to human noses and that could prevent a fire.
Wild animals coming into the yard will also cause the dog to go on alert. A strange human in the backyard is another possibility.
Check this out: Why is My Dog panting and Restless? 9 Reasons Explained
A lot of things can lead to an anxious dog. The above-mentioned changes are some of them, however, they may be deeper. If a member of the family passes away or moves out, this can cause anxiety. That includes other furry family members.
There are several ways to help an anxious dog, some of which will require your veterinarian. If your pet is small enough, it could perhaps sleep in the same room that you do. Human comfort often helps the anxious pet. On the other hand, a ninety-pound Rotty mix is not a good bedmate.
Another recommended method is to take something you’ve worn and allow the dog to have it in its bed or crate. Your scent alone could make all of the difference in the world. You are (or should be) the alpha member of your pet’s pack.
If those don’t work, your dog may need some medical help. There are medications that will help calm the anxious dog so that it won’t bark all night long. Try the mildest first, as it is best not to over-medicate any animal… including us.
While this could happen to any dog at any age, be particularly aware of the possibility in older dogs. Unlike humans, your pet can’t tell you that something hurts, nor where that painful area is.
Observation may provide some hints to the answer; favoring a leg or walking stiffly in the hindquarters are good indicators.
The pain may be internal. If so, the dog may have lost his or her appetite, become lethargic, or have any number of other symptoms.
If you suspect pain is the answer, getting your pet to the vet as soon as possible will help both your pet and you resolve the issue faster.
As with pain, a dog can’t tell you that it hasn’t had enough dinner or that the cat knocked the water bowl over again. Hunger can be a particular problem for puppies because they are still growing. During growth spurts, they are much like children in this department.
Potty time! On occasion, your dog may have to make an emergency pit stop. Puppies and older dogs may need this more frequently at night, just as children and older adults do. However, this can lead to another problem.
Dogs are very intelligent and they can learn anything… even things we’d rather they didn’t. Dogs who like attention (and what dog doesn’t?) may learn that barking for a potty break means they get to be with the humans for a while. This may take a trainer to help with.
The doorbell rings, someone unwraps a candy bar, there are passersby on the street… any sort of stimulus can cause a dog to start barking.
This can happen at night as well as during the day. You can train the dog not to respond, or you can remove the stimulus. Sometimes the latter is the easiest.
What not to do to stop a dog from barking at night
With all of the positive options, there are always negative options. The negative options can impair your relationship with your dog, harm him or her, and/or enrage your neighbors.
While some of these options may be tempting at times, they should be largely off the table.
Yelling at the pooch
Being awakened from a sound sleep to the barking of your dog may make you irritated. Yelling is often a reaction to such irritation, but in this instance it is counterproductive. Your pet will think you are joining him or her in the bark-off and get even louder.
Instead, use a positive approach. That can be as simple as removing the reason for the barking, or by using any of the above-mentioned strategies. Treats can also be used as a positive reward when the animal quiets down.
Striking the animal
Physical punishment such as hitting the dog with a newspaper or your hand can cause two big problems. One is that it could injure the dog. Puppies and older dogs are especially vulnerable to injury from being struck.
The second is that it will impair your relationship with your pet. You don’t want the dog to be afraid of you.
Scared dogs can bite and the dog may bite anyone if they are taught by fear. That includes your children, a visitor, or someone just walking down the sidewalk.
Cutting the vocal cords
Yes, cutting the vocal cords will stop all barking. However, the price is too high to pay for your pet. It will cause anxiety, frustration, and in some cases anger.
It is a surgical procedure, so it will also cause pain and the possibility of surgical complications, infection, and death.
Ok, so how do I know why my dog is barking?
Hi! Barking: Brief and high-pitched barking is your dog saying Hi! You may have just walked out of the room and back or you may have been on a two-week vacation. This is a greeting bark.
Short yips in a series
Dogs are social creatures and it doesn’t matter if it’s day or night. When they are bored or lonely they will try to call you (or another pet) to come and ease the problem. One way to prevent this from happening at night is to make sure the dog gets enough exercise. A tired dog will sleep.
Constant, rapid-fire barking
That’s the dog saying that there is a problem; prepare the pack. This could be a real threat or simply something that the dog thinks of as a threat. The mailman often is a source of this sort of barking.
If it’s for a consistent reason, like the mailman or other delivery people, you can train the dog not to bark. An example would be to teach the dog to go to its bed on command, then keep upping the ante with treats until he or she stays there even when the mail is being delivered.
Constant barking at near growl level
That bark means business. The dog is thinking about attacking something. It wants the rest of its pack (meaning you) to get ready to charge in. This would be a good time to distract the dog… unless what it’s thinking about attacking needs attacked.
Why should I bother, the dog isn’t bothering me?
In most cities and towns, a barking dog can get you into legal hot water. It isn’t just about nighttime barking, either. If the dog barks for twenty minutes or more per hour… at any hour… it can be considered noise pollution.
Night-time barking ordinances are a little stricter. In many cities, it’s between ten p.m. and 6 a.m. In ours, it’s until 7 a.m. In order to keep your neighbors happy and the police from getting involved, training your dog is a wise idea.
Do service dogs count? No, usually a barking service dog doesn’t count. These animals are already trained not to bark unless there’s a reason. If you hear a service dog barking, it might be wise to check on the reason.
Neither you nor your neighbors have to put up with a dog barking all night long. A little training, both of the pet and all of the humans in the household can go a long way towards preventing it. That way everyone can have a good night’s sleep.