You’re settled into bed after a long day of work: lights off, alarm set, curtains closed. You’re soon falling into a deep slumber only to startle awake to the sound of your dog barking nonstop. Is this happening to you night after night?
If so, you’re not alone. Like many dog owners, you may find your pet barking due to being bored, stressed, or fearful of their nighttime surroundings.
A barking dog at night can lead to sleep deprivation and stress for even the most patient dog owners. Read on to find out the cause of your dog’s barking and methods to soothe their bedtime worries.
Why a dog barks at night (5 reasons)
The journey to peaceful sleep begins with finding the reason for your dog’s barking. Once you do, you can chart a course of action to address their late-night worries.
#1 Boredom or lack of exercise
Your high-energy dog or restless puppy may need to expend the last of its energy before settling to sleep.
If it has been several hours since their last walk, they may need a moment to stretch their legs or take a potty break before bed.
Exercise during the day can also wear them out so they can sleep peacefully.
Your dog’s desire for play through barking may be singular barks that sound more like “ruff.” Their tail may be neutral or up in the air, and they may lean into a “play bow.”
#2 Outside noise
A beeping car or rustling tree branch may be the small noises to set off a stream of a dog’s barking. It can be a more prevalent problem if you’ve moved recently or your dog has been recently adopted.
Dogs already hypersensitive to daytime noises will have heightened reactions at night.
The noises they respond to will be even more fearsome at night because their sources are harder to locate. The noise could be even from the air vent!
#3 Need for attention
Dogs are highly social animals who will wake you from sleep to get more time with you, especially small dog breeds.
You might have made the mistake of giving them attention after previous bouts of barking.
If you have been getting out of bed night after night to see your dog, they may interpret your response as a reward for barking.
#4 Separation anxiety
If you have rearranged your dog’s sleeping space to be farther from or outside your bedroom, your dog’s sudden swell of barking may come from feeling lonely at night.
Loneliness may also be a factor if your own schedule has changed. If you’re working more hours away from home during the day, your dog will only have more hours all alone at night when you’re sleeping in a separate room.
Hiring a dog walker or dropping your dog off at a daycare center can help ease their anxiety during the day and burn off some energy.
Separation anxiety is especially found in puppies that have just left their litter. They are used to having a mother and littermates through the night. They may need several weeks of restless nights to adjust to their new surroundings.
#5 Fear of unfamiliar surroundings
Dogs are highly protective of their own people. Your dog may have a trigger in new surroundings that they find threatening to their own safety or yours.
A distant door slam or a faraway car alarm may be upsetting if they are used to more quiet neighborhoods.
A lowered head, raised hackles, and tail between the legs are physical signs that your dog is barking out of anxiety or fear.
Barking like this will likely be nonstop because your dog is trying to raise the alarm about an outside stimulus.
How to stop my dog from barking at night time? (3 tips)
There is a solution to your pet’s nighttime barking once you’ve narrowed down the source of their anxieties.
Follow some of these steps to help them wind down for bed and to guide them towards comfortable sleep in the long term.
Tip 1: Adjust them to an evening routine
Establish an evening routine and stick to it. Try playing calming classical music for a short while; these are easy to find on YouTube and Spotify.
You can also feed your dog a calming treat closer to their bedtime. Most importantly, schedule a short walk an hour or so before bed, and make sure your dog pees and poops at this time. They’ll be less likely to bark about a bathroom break.
On your walk, familiarize your dog with your house’s surroundings. They may be barking at rabbits in your yard or a neighbor coming home from work.
Your presence in a new area will help soothe their worries once they’re inside. Plus, they’ll appreciate the one-on-one time from a walk before being put to bed.
Set aside some time before bed to distinguish ‘bad’ barking behavior and ‘good’ quiet behavior.
See if they bark, then wait until they go quiet to reward them with a treat. Be consistent and continue rewarding them for quietness in the daytime.
Tip 2: Create their own sleeping space
Crate-trained dogs that sleep in their crate nightly regard it as their own space when they are comfortable in it.
Encourage them to sleep peacefully in that space by lining it with a dog bed or a kennel-specific pad. Consider sizing up their crate if they cannot lie down comfortably.
If there is no reason to separate your dog at night, consider allowing them in your bedroom or even on your bed.
One study found that human participants and their dogs both had increased sleep efficiency when sleeping together. Such practice can provide a sense of security and reduce loneliness and stress.
Be sure to create boundaries and establish an area of the bed or bedroom specifically for them.
Tip 3: Give them something to do
If your dog has a favorite toy, it may be helpful to place it in their kennel or near where they sleep as a coping mechanism.
A sturdy–but squeakless–chew toy can keep them quietly occupied until they fall asleep.
Creating an association between toys and their bed can help your dog think of bedtime in a positive light.
Should I ignore them when they are barking?
It can be frustrating to find that your dog is still barking after you’ve given them a routine and made their surroundings comfortable.
The hardest part of teaching your dog to stop barking at night is completely ignoring their behavior–no matter how loud and frequent it is.
It is important not to make any sound in response to their barking. Saying ‘no,’ ‘stop,’ or ‘quiet’ counts as attention just as much as soothing or comforting your dog.
Dogs, especially young puppies, must learn to self-soothe on their own. It may take night after night of ignoring their barking, but you must eventually get your dog to realize that making noise doesn’t get them anywhere.
Consider buying earplugs or a soothing noise machine to help drown out your dog’s barking.
Remember that ignoring unwanted barks is only half the training. As discussed in other sections of this article, you must also teach them the right thing to do.
Effectively training your dog to be quiet while you sleep does not happen overnight, so you may need to endure several weeks of barking before it ceases.
Refrain from over-comforting them
Make use of separation if you decided earlier in your training that your dog cannot sleep in your bedroom.
You may feel a strong urge to get out of bed to comfort your dog when it barks, whether a puppy or a longtime family member.
Set a concrete boundary: tell yourself, “No, I will not get out of bed and exit the room, no matter how much they bark.”
If you believe your dog’s barking is separation anxiety, provide them with an item of clothing you won’t miss.
The smell of you from a partnerless sock or well-worn t-shirt will be the next best thing to sleeping near you.
Do not take them outside.
Your dog’s barking may be coupled with banging on their crate or scratching a bedroom door. The extra noise may convince you that they must go outside.
If you find yourself giving in to their demands, set a hard bedtime for your dog after which you will no longer take them outside.
You can firmly say, “No, I will not take them out after 10 p.m.”
Their barking may continue, but they will eventually get used to this deadline if you ignore them after it.
Do understand that puppies, especially those under 14 weeks old, have their own set of rules about nighttime routines.
They cannot hold for a potty break through the night like adult dogs.
Puppies under 14 weeks old will need to be let out every 2-3 hours. Those 14 weeks old and older should be let out once at night or every 4 hours.
Figure out how long your puppy can be left alone before it barks to be let out. For example, if they bark 3 hours after you sleep, set the alarm to wake up 2.5 hours from then.
You will catch them before they start making noise, so being let out will not be associated as a “reward” for barking.
Think back to your childhood days of trying to fall asleep in an unfamiliar room or during a thunderstorm.
Did you wake someone up to communicate fear or anxiety?
Like you, your dog reaches out to others for help if it cannot sleep. Barking is your dog’s way of communicating its needs.
A comfortable space and a nightly routine can help them fall asleep peacefully. It may continue while they adjust to new surroundings.
But with time, patience, and perhaps some ear plugs, you and your dog will be sleeping soundly. Your relationship with your pet will be all the better for it.