Everybody loves dogs (unless they don’t, in which case we’re suspicious of these individuals and question whether they cast a reflection in the mirror). There’s one thing about the average canine that anybody could do without, however – barking.
A hound with an overactive voice box can be an annoyance for an owner and his or her neighbors. A dog randomly barking at night and keeping everybody awake at all hours is particularly frustrating.
Whether your puppy is not sleeping through the night anymore or your older dog is barking up a storm all of a sudden, any vocal canine could be accused of disturbing the peace.
If you want advice on how to stop your dog from barking at night, read on. We’ll get to the root of why your dog is restless and not sleeping and how to stop it.
So, why is my dog barking at night all of a sudden?
Table of Contents:
Why Do Dogs Bark?
There are many possible reasons why your dog may be barking, whether it’s in the day or during the night, but it all comes down to one explanation; your dog is trying to communicate in some way.
Sometimes your dog is excited to see you, and other times they are warning you that they’re in distress in some way. Listening to what the pattern of your dog’s barking should give you an idea of what they are trying to say, as the American Kennel Club explains.
- Brief, high-pitched barking when your dog sees you is typically your dog’s way of saying hello, and expressing that they’re delighted to see you. It’s the equivalent of, “Hey! It’s been so long! Great to see you!” The fact that it’s only been two minutes and you just nipped to the convenience store is neither here nor there.
- A series of short, sharp barks is a dog announcing that they are bored and lonely, and are requesting company – whether that comes in the form of a friendly human or a fellow canine keen to form a pack. A single bark, especially when accompanied by non-threatening body language, may be an invitation to play.
- Rapid-fire, almost machine gun-like barking is a message to the rest of your dog’s pack that strange things are afoot and they should come along to investigate. This may be a new or unique smell or sight, or something has moved location. This bark could also be engineered to attract the attention of an owner; it could mean that your dog needs the bathroom, or that they’re hungry or thirsty or that they have been conditioned to expect a reward for barking!
- Constant barking in a low, almost growling pitch is a warning to both pack and owner that something is about to go down. Maybe your dog has seen an intruder and is giving a final heads up they are about to display some aggression if they don’t go away.
Why is My Dog So Restless at Night and Not Sleeping?
It’s not uncommon for owners to question why their dog is barking at night all of a sudden. If your dog barks for attention at night, there will be a reason for this.
If your puppy is barking in their crate at night, the chances are they want attention and company. Remember, a puppy is used to sleeping in a pile with littermates and their mother; it can be pretty scary to sleep alone in the dark.
Other common explanations for dog’s barking at night include:
- Your dog has not had enough exercise: This is the most common reason why your dog may be restless and unwilling to sleep when the sun goes down. Different dogs and breeds have different exercise needs but remember that dogs are creatures of routine. If your dog is used to getting an hour of exercise per day and you don’t manage to get them out for a day or two, they are going to start climbing the walls in frustration.
- Your dog needs to eliminate: Your dog is most likely happy with their bathroom routine and understands that they’ll have a chance last thing at night and first thing in the morning to empty their bladder and bowels. However, if they’re feeling unwell, they will be keen to let you know – no dog wants to have an accident in the house. This is particularly likely with senior dogs, who may find that their bladders are not as strong as they once were.
- Your dog may be anxious about something: Maybe they can hear a strange noise outside or have picked up a unique scent that they’re not used to. Perhaps you are tossing and turning and struggling to get to sleep due to something on your mind, and your dog is picking up on those stress pheromones. Maybe your dog is feeling under the weather, and they’re a little worried about the impact it will have on them. If you have any concerns about your dog’s mental health and behavior, speak to a vet.
- Your dog may be experiencing separation anxiety: Separation anxiety is triggered when a dog becomes upset because of the separation between them and their guardians. Excessive barking and howling are just two of the more common symptoms of separation anxiety. If you are crate training your dog and the crate is located in a room away from you, this may be what is causing your dog’s separation anxiety.
- It could be a canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome: If your dog is older and you are experiencing new nighttime barking, it could be due to cognitive dysfunction syndrome. It is similar to dementia in people. This cognitive dysfunction can cause confusion, disorientation, changed sleep patterns, behavior changes, and excessive barking and whining at night. If you have an elderly dog, monitor the dog’s behavior more closely.
- It could be territorial barking: Something else that can cause this new barking behavior could be related to territorial barking. Territorial barking is often also called alarm barking and can be triggered by people approaching the home, walking outside, or in any way crossing into the dog’s territory. To reduce this barking behavior at night and even during the day, try closing the blinds or lowering the part of the windows, your dog can easily see out of.
- You may be in the process of crate training your dog: Again, if you are crate training your dog and the crate is located away from you, then you may be setting the stage for excessive vocalization at night. To combat this, try crate training in the room to start with where you are. Once you get over the nighttime barking phase, you can then move the crate out of your room. You can move the crate inches away every night until they are in another space where they will continue sleeping.
- Boredom may also be the cause of unwanted barking: Did you ever stop to think that maybe it is boredom causing the unwanted barking? A dog can become bored very easily if they are not tired and everyone else in the home is sleeping. When this happens, they must make their own fun, and this can ultimately result in some unwanted barking at night.They may begin to bark at every sound they hear and might even choose to join in on the unwanted barking of a close neighbor dog. This is why it is so important to ensure they receive enough exercise each day. Once they let all their energy out, some of the reasons for the nighttime barking may dissipate.
Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing Outside?
Ever watched your dog barking at thin air outside and started thumbing through the Yellow Pages in search of the Ghostbusters? There’s no need. The chances are, your dog is picking up on noises that you’re not – and it will very much be alive!
Many of the reasons that a dog may bark at what appears to be absolutely nothing are covered above, where we discuss why a dog struggles to settle down at night.
Other distractions that get your pet excited could include:
- The scent of a wild animal. Dogs have extremely sensitive noses, and they may be able to smell something from several miles away, especially if the wind is carrying the aroma. The barking could be due to excitement, or your dog may be warning you that something is coming.
- A strange sound. Not only can dogs smell better, but they also have fantastic hearing. If your dog can hear something in the distance that he or she cannot see, they might become rattled and start barking up a storm.
My Neighbor’s Dog Won’t Stop Barking at Night
If your neighbor’s dog keeps barking at night, and it’s keeping you up, the most obvious solution is to knock on the door and have a polite conversation with them. After all, if you can hear it through the walls, then chances are they will be acutely aware of the racket themselves.
If you decide to attempt to prevent the noise yourself, however, there are specific steps that you can take.
If you decide to attempt to prevent the noise yourself, however, there are specific steps that you can take.
- Make friends. Ensure that your neighbor’s dog knows who you are and that you’re not a threat in any way. Barking isn’t always aggressive, but to be on the safe side, ensure that recognizes your sight, smell and mannerisms. This way they will not feel the need to alert their owners every time you step in your yard at night to take out the trash or take in some late-night air.
- Train the dog if your neighbor won’t. This is potentially a risky or controversial angle to take, but if your neighbor refuses to do anything about the fact that their dog costs an entire street their beauty sleep, you may need to take matters into your own hands. Consider some of the techniques that we’ll cover later – a dog whistle is probably the most impactful and least intrusive.
- We’ll discuss your legal options shortly, but if you’re prepared to risk falling out with your neighbor, you could take the matter to a higher power before going truly nuclear and getting the police or ASPCA involved. You could have a polite word with their landlord, for example, or a resident’s association. Only consider this if you have exhausted all other options, however, as the long-term impact could be infinitely more unpleasant than dealing with an overly vocal dog!
When is a Dog Barking Considered a Nuisance by Law?
This depends on the state that you live in and the local by-laws. As a general rule, if a dog barks for around twenty minutes of every hour, you may have a case for noise pollution, but it’s advisable to check the law of your local area before attempting to take this route.
Also, be aware that assistance animals and working dogs will generally be excluded from prosecution. However, it’s equally safe to assume that these canines will have the appropriate training not to bark and howl at all hours.
Can You Call the Police About a Barking Dog?
In most states, sufficient noise caused by a barking dog will become a reason for the police to get involved. Don’t clog up the emergency services by dialing 911 – find the number of your local police department, and they’ll get somebody to come out and investigate.
Remember, though, this should always be the last possible resort! The only exception will be if you are worried about the neighbor in question. If you haven’t seen from for a few days and their dog is barking uncharacteristically, there is a chance that they are hurt (or worse), and the dog is trying to alert somebody else so that help can arrive.
If you are worried about the welfare of a dog that lives with your neighbor, you could always check in with the ASPCA first. Try to cut your neighbor a break, too. Once you speak to them, you may discover that they are doing what they can to housebreak a rescue dog with a troubled past, or they have recently adopted a new puppy, and it’s just having a hard time adapting to their new surroundings.
These situations are very temporary, but unwelcome ill feeling and awkwardness among neighbors caused by reporting a barking dog can be permanent.
How to Stop Dog’s Barking During the Night Using Training
We have discussed why your dog is barking and night, but that doesn’t change the fact that you may be keen to put a stop to it.
Your dog’s nocturnal barking may be causing all kinds of problems. While you don’t want to prevent your canine from fulfilling guard dog duties when it matters, you’ll also need to make sure they’re not keeping yourself and your neighbors awake – in addition to stressing themselves out. After all, dogs need their rest too.
Let’s take a look at the many and varied ways that we can stop a dog from barking at night. The Humane Society has a few suggestions to get you started.
Tire Your Dog Out Earlier in the Day
As we have already suggested, your dog may be barking because they have not enjoyed enough exercise and stimulation over the course of the day. More often than not, ensuring that your dog gets sufficient exercise will keep them content and stop them from disturbing the peace in the evening. Here’s another way of looking at things – your dog cannot bark if they are fast asleep.
It’s not always possible to spare multiple hours in a day, and like children, dogsometimes seem to have boundless reserves of energy and will not grow exhausted and doze off. Also, much like children, however, a dog that is restless and not ready for bed can make your life a living hell if they have the mind to do so!
Remove Any Inspiration for Barking
Once you have pinpointed what causes your dog to start barking at night, it shouldn’t be too hard to put a stop to it. If, for example, it’s the scents and sounds of the great outdoors that set your dog off, start locking the door at night and not allowing your pooch to wander free into the backyard. You may need to engage in some different toilet training if this is the case to ensure that your canine does not grow concerned or confused!
Alternatively, if your dog doesn’t like the sight of something that takes place outside, or they’re prone to being hyper-vigilant about the sight of anybody walking past, start to draw the curtains or drapes as soon as the sun goes down. If necessary, remove your dog from the room every time he or she starts barking unnecessarily (but do so without scolding – remember, your dog thinks that they are doing you a favor and warning you about a potential danger.)
Any trigger for barking should be investigated and desensitized. It may be that one of your neighbors works night shifts, so your dog never sees them around in the yard and is suspicious of their motives. Introduce this neighbor to your dog in such an instance, and you’ll find that this wariness is soon dissolved.
Don’t Reward Your Dog for Barking
No doubt you’re aware of the theory behind Pavlov’s Dog and the fact that dogs are prone to associating particular behaviors with other sights, sounds, scents, and human reactions. Next time your dog starts to bark, stop, and catch yourself before you react – are you accidentally rewarding your dog for behavior that you would prefer they avoid?
Is your reaction to rush over, shower your dog with attention, tickle, and stroke them, promise that everything is OK and that there’s no need to worry? That’s all fantastic for your dog, and they will soon start to think that barking at night is a fast track to all the attention they could wish for! Likewise, if you’re worried about how the neighbors will react and quickly toss your dog a favorite treat or toy, they’ll again assume that they’re being rewarded for informing you that something is afoot.
Ignoring your dog’s barking at night can be a risky business, and if you’re going to attempt to retrain your canine chum, you should probably warn your neighbors to avoid any irritation. Likewise, it’s like sleep training an infant – don’t ignore it permanently, or you will break the sacred bond of trust between dog and owner.
Instead, wait for your dog to calm down and then reward them after a period of silence – extending the period on each occasion, so they start to understand that this is all part of a training process.
Other behavioral concerns should also be discussed with a vet or some other kind of canine specialist, but this should help curb the tendency of a dog to bark and howl throughout the evening.
Don’t Leave Your Dog to Sleep Alone at Night
Take a look at where your dog spends his or her nights, and question as to whether this is why they are barking at night. As pack animals, dogs are not used to sleeping alone. What’s more, this is a very vulnerable time for a dog – while they are dosing, canines cannot react as quickly as they ordinarily would protect themselves and their owners.
Many dogs will bark when left alone at night, so if your furry friend is making an unholy noise when you shut the bedroom door and banish them to the kitchen, consider letting them sleep in the same room as you. If it settles your dog down and prevents them from barking all night, this is the one example where it’s acceptable to agree to Fido’s demands for the sake of a quiet life!
How to Stop Dog’s Barking During the Night Using External Tools
Beyond basic behavioral training, you could also take a trip to the pet store to pick up a handful of materials that will prevent a dog from barking at night.
A dog whistle, for example, could be very helpful. These tools make noise at an ultrasonic pitch that we, as humans, cannot hear – but it’s very loud indeed to a dog! This will distract them from what they’re doing, and in some cases, it’ll become pretty annoying.
Blow the whistle when a dog starts barking, and they’ll soon stop. You don’t even need to drive all the way to the pet store – imitation dog whistles are often available as dog barking apps on a smartphone or tablet.
Alternatively, you should try filling up a water pistol and squirt your dog if they bark at night to distract them and show that the behavior is unwanted – though some dogs love water and think this is a fantastically fun game!
Here are some additional methods that you could stop a bark from barking at night.
Training Tips and Tools
Crate training can be a great solution for dogs that bark and whine. Staying in the crate at night, or when the dog is alone, can help reduce anxiety and make the animal feel safe. It also reduces distractions and keeps noice down. You could even consider covering the crate to keep the light down and the dog warm and cozy. We have a how-to guide for crate training your dog. We also have one about crate training cats.
White noise machines are another tool to help keep your dog calm and sleeping well at night. These white noise machines prove a soothing sound that can cover the distracting neighborhood noises that could catch your dogs attention. I absolutely love my white noise machine!
Dog Calming Diffuser
As we have already explained, a dog will bark because he or she is agitated or restless in some way. If your dog struggles to settle down at night when it’s time for everybody to start contemplating catching some Zs, you may want to look into a dog calming diffuser.
These will release pleasant-smelling pheromones into the air and help your dog to settle down – it’s a similar effect to a nice, hot bath in lavender oil for a human. You can pick up a calming dog diffuser from any pet store, which is advisable over creating your own. This way, you can be sure that the components are pet-friendly.
Dog Barking Collars
Perhaps a final resort would be to look into a dog barking collar. These items are typically strapped around a dog’s throat and emit a correctional behavior if your dog starts to bark.
This may be an ultrasonic noise akin to a whistle, and a blast of cool air that annoys a dog, or in some cases, a mild electric shock.
Are Dog Barking Collars Cruel?
As you can probably imagine, this means that dog barking collars can be thought of as cruel. We would not recommend using them – there are all kinds of humane methods for training a dog out of barking at night without resorting to inflicting pain or discomfort upon your dog.
Does Behavior Modification Work for Nighttime Barking?
If you give up because you think your efforts to curb your dog’s nighttime barking aren’t working, then you may actually end up reinforcing even more intense behavior. With behavior modification, you are modifying the dog’s behavior to decrease or increase unwanted or wanted behaviors.
In the case of nighttime barking, behavior modification can be used successfully to help eliminate excessive vocalization. For example, desensitization is one technique that may be used to make your dog less sensitive to a trigger causing the barking behavior.