Why is my dog barking at night?
While annoying to us, barking comes naturally to dogs. Because it's a natural instinct, it can be a challenge to get them to stop barking at night. Why do dogs bark at night? Often it's because they see or hear an animal in the yard, or because they hear other dogs barking in the neighborhood. Other reasons they bark include loneliness, lack of supervision, or inadequate exercise and play. To get them to stop barking at night, you need to give them a more rewarding option.
Top Causes and Solutions for Barking at Night
Many dog breeds, regardless of size, were originally bred to let their humans know a possible intruder or other disturbance is on or near the property. This is why your dog barks when someone walks past your house or a car drives down your street. Your dog may also bark at night when she knows a nocturnal animal, like a possum or a raccoon, is in your yard.
To stop your dog from barking you need to use high-value treats, like chicken or another special treat, and allow her the time she needs to learn the new behavior. When your dog barks at night, wait for the moment she is silent (often in between barks) and say "thank you" and give her a treat. (You can use any other desired verbal cue instead of "thank you," if you prefer.) When you do this consistently, your dog will begin to connect the silence to the reward. And she will start to be silent on her own. When you notice a sound or movement that would have previously triggered the barking, praise your dog and give her a treat.
2. Lack of Supervision
Dogs often bark when they are unsupervised. This is also true when you let your dog outside at night. Even in a fenced yard, the night is full of strange and interesting sounds that your dog may be curious about, afraid of, or just want to make sure you're aware of.
In order to stop your dog from barking at night, don't let your dog go outside without you until he learns the desired behavior. Instead of opening the door and letting your dog run freely, put your dog on a leash and go outside with him. This way, you stay in control of the situation. Be sure to praise your dog and give him a treat anytime he looks at you or remains quiet (just like you do inside the house!). He will begin to associate being quiet outside and paying attention to you gets rewarded.
Unfortunately, many dogs do not get the physical and mental exercise or playtime that they need during the day. If your dog doesn't play and exercise enough, you end up with a dog full of pent-up energy without the ability to express it in positive ways. Bored dogs struggle to be quiet at night.
Make sure you spend time every day with your dog to give her the physical and mental exercise she needs. This amount can vary by breed. You'll know you've given your dog enough exercise for the day when she is calm at night. It is a good idea to take your dog on a walk every day. She will also enjoy more vigorous play like tug and fetch. There are great toys you can use to help tire her out physically and mentally. These activities can help provide the mental and physical stimulation your dog needs. And that will help your dog sleep soundly and quietly through the night.
Dogs will often bark at night when they are lonely. This is especially true if you work all day away from the home and your dog is alone all day. Your dog is a social animal. Long workdays can be just as hard on them as they are on you! Your dog's loneliness can lead to undesirable behaviors like late-night barking.
Spend as much time as you can with your dog when you're home. At bedtime keep your dog in your bedroom with you. Many people let their dog sleep in their bed. If you rather they didn't, provide them with their own bed—just keep it as close to yours as possible.
If you can't trust your dog not to have an accident during the night, consider crating your dog. This is a wonderful way to keep him contained and safe overnight. (This is called "crate training.") Like the dog bed, keep the crate in your bedroom at night to curb loneliness.
If your dog is not used to a crate, introduce your dog to the crate slowly and positively and use plenty of treats. The crate needs to be a safe and comfortable place, so make sure you use a nice bed or crate pad. Also consider providing a safe chew to use in the crate, like a hollow hard rubber toy stuffed with peanut butter. This will help calm your dog and give him something to prevent boredom while in the crate. Crate training your dog helps you establish a nighttime routine and encourages your dog to sleep instead of responding to the world around him.
Barking is a normal way for dogs to communicate with us and other dogs. They are going to bark—it's bred into their DNA. To avoid excessive barking at night, teach your dog the behaviors you want her to practice inside and outside. Make sure she gets plenty of exercise, playtime, and time with you. And provide her with a safe place to sleep at night. All these combined will help your dog stop barking at night, and may help you sleep more soundly.