As a human, a full night of rest is crucial to your overall health and sanity. It's important for your dog, too. Adult dogs can sleep upwards of 14 hours daily, part of which is napping during the day. However, many dogs get accustomed to their owner's slumber schedule, allowing them to sleep soundly for 60 to 80 percent of the nighttime hours.
But what if your dog doesn't do that? Unfortunately, some dogs won't sleep throughout the night. Instead, they bark like maniacs and keep you up at all hours of the night!
Your dog might be the most adorable and well-behaved dog during the day. But this frustrating habit can grind your gears, prevent you from getting the sleep you need, and lead to nasty complaints from your neighbors.
So that begs the question: How do you stop your dog from barking at night?
Lucky for you, this is a behavior that you can address. Read on to learn more about why dogs incessantly bark in the dark and what you can do to stop it.
Understanding Canine Sleep Cycles
Before we get into the tips, let's clear up common misconceptions.
Many people incorrectly believe that dogs are diurnal, which means that they're active during the day and sleep at night. While many pups will adopt habits that help you get some shut-eye, dogs aren't necessarily diurnal.
As mentioned above, adults can spend 12 to 14 hours sleeping.
Senior dogs can spend as much as 20 hours a day sleeping! But of course, you probably know by now that it rarely happens in one big session. Instead, dogs sleep in shorter increments.
You might see your furry friend doze off for an hour or so before getting up and running around and playing!
The average sleep time for a dog is about 45 minutes, but that period repeats several times a day and quickly adds up. Your dog needs more sleep than you do!
The best way to look at the canine sleeping pattern is to forget traditional descriptors like diurnal, crepuscular, or nocturnal. Many dog experts choose to describe them as social sleepers instead.
Related: How Long do Puppies Sleep a Day?
Why Dogs Are Social Sleepers
While your precious domesticated pup hasn't had to worry about safety, they still have the instincts of their wild ancestors.
In the wild, dogs always sleep in packs. Sleeping alone is unnatural because it makes dogs vulnerable to attacks. The pack can stay alert while sleeping in groups and dramatically reduce the risk of outside aggression.
Over time, dogs developed the instinct to sleep when others slept.
It's not so much a time-based thing as it is a "following everyone else" thing.
Understanding that fact is important. Your dog doesn't live in an enormous dog pack. However, it still has your family and other pets in the home as its pack.
The best-case scenario is that your dog realizes it's time to sleep because everyone else sleeps.
In most cases, that's exactly what happens. But sometimes, certain triggers cause your pup to act out, resulting in that all-so-annoying barking!
10 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks at Night
Dogs are complex animals, and we don't have the means to get inside their heads and figure out what they're thinking during those late-night bark sessions. However, dog behaviorists have a pretty good idea of why they do it.
There are several potential causes, and understanding the reason behind your dog's behavior can give you the power to stop it.
Here are the most common reasons why dogs bark at night and what you can do to put that behavior to rest.
1. Alerts to Something You Can't See or Hear
One important thing to remember about your dear dog is that it has heightened senses.
Canines can hear twice as many frequencies as humans. Not only that, but they can hear sounds up to 80 feet away, a far cry from the average of 20 feet that humans can hear. On top of that, the canine sense of smell is thought to be as much as 10,000 times stronger than ours!
That's a lot of overwhelming experiences for your dog! While you might think it's dead quiet and peaceful in your home, your dog might sense something you don't see or hear.
It could be cars driving by your street, a stray cat walking outside, or a wild animal minding its own business.
Related: 10 Scents Dogs Hate
Dogs are natural protectors. From small Chihuahuas to intimidating Rottweilers, your dog's instinct is to alert its pack about potential dangers. To make matters worse, the territory they guard doesn't stop with your property line.
They will try to alert you of anything remotely coming your way, creating some problems at night.
The Solution: Training and Preparation
There's no quick fix to this issue. Your dog runs on instincts; the only way to change it is through continued training.
Before you do that, try and prepare your home for a night of rest. Close the blinds, turn off the lights, and make it as difficult for your dog as possible to see and hear things that may trigger them.
Consider placing their kennel in an interior room with few windows. Then, implement training techniques. When your dog starts barking at night, listen for extended lulls. When they happen, reward your dog.
Avoid negative reinforcement, yelling, or hitting. Never resort to negativity, no matter how frustrating or tired you are. It'll only worsen the problem. The same goes for coddling.
If you need additional help, consider working with a trainer or canine behaviorist. Preventing your dog from freaking out at every little sight or sound isn't easy, but a professional touch can make all the difference.
Related: How to Discipline a Dog Without Hitting or Punishment
2. A Cry for Attention
Sometimes, barking is nothing more than a cry for attention. Dogs don't sleep uninterrupted throughout the night. Even dogs that learn your sleep cycle will have a few hours alone.
During the day, your dog doesn't need to do much to gain your attention. You respond to their actions naturally, so they'll try to do the same at night. Barking can be their way to let you know that they want your company.
The Solution: Wear Them Out
The best thing you can do in this situation is to spend more time wearing your dog out before bed. Go for a walk and play with your dog.
We get it: You might be tired after a long work day. But your pup spent the day waiting for your return. If you go straight to bed without providing some much-needed affection, don't be surprised if your pup starts barking like mad.
Make a habit of spending time with your dog. Consider doing a nighttime routine. You can go for a stroll around the block, play with your dog for 20 minutes to tire them out, have a short potty break, and hit the hay!
Establishing that routine will let your dog know it's time for quiet time. Furthermore, the extra time you spend with them will fulfill their social needs and tucker them out enough to go to sleep.
Throughout the day, try to avoid rewarding attention-seeking behaviors. When your dog barks at you or nudges you because they want your undivided attention, please don't give it to them!
When you do, you're teaching them that they have full control over when and how you interact with them. You should be in charge, so do your best to ignore those pleas and puppy-dog eyes.
3. An Answer to Boredom
This potential cause is similar to the previous one. However, it focuses more on the boredom factor.
When your dog wakes up from a nap and has nothing to do, it may bark out of sheer boredom. This behavior is common when dogs don't get much social interaction or have very few opportunities to run and play. Fortunately, the fix is simpler than you might think.
The Solution: Toys
In addition to wearing your dog out with play, consider leaving some mental stimulation toys for your dog at night. There are plenty of great options out there.
You can use a slow-feeding tumble toy, a puzzle gadget that unveils treats, or even a simple stuffed animal. We recommend steering clear of anything with squeakers or noise-makers for your own sanity!
Leave those toys out for your dog to interact with when they get up at night. It'll keep them occupied for a bit before they tire out and doze off once again.
4. Potential Illnesses and Medical Problems
Here's something no dog owner wants to think about, but it's a reality for many.
Barking may be a distress call. Dogs try not to put their weaknesses on full display. It's another callback to their ancestral roots.
Weak dogs are the ones that are plucked by predators first, so domesticated pups today tend not to make a big deal about injuries and pain. But inside, they're suffering.
Your dog could be experiencing pain because of a pulled muscle. If your dog is older, it could be worn-out joints and arthritis. It's common for senior dogs to cry and bark in pain when sitting down or getting up. It may even be an internal problem causing them to bark in distress.
Whatever the case, those barks of pain aren't something you should ignore.
Related: Best Dog Beds For Seniors & Arthritis
The Solution: A Trip to the Vet
If you suspect health issues are affecting your dog's behavior and well-being, always go to a vet. There are many potential health problems that could encourage your dog to bark at night. The only way to know what's happening is to have your vet examine your dog.
They can provide a proper diagnosis and go over treatment options if they find something. Even with chronic issues like arthritis, medication can significantly improve your dog's quality of life and put an end to late-night barking.
5. A Response to Hunger
Hunger pains are a big deal for dogs! Your pup could start barking at night simply because they're hungry.
While many commercial dog food brands have feeding recommendations, there's no binary right and wrong amount to provide. Every dog is different, and their caloric intake requirements can vary based on age, size, breed, and activity level.
It's not that your dog is greedy and gluttonous. The issue could be how you feed your dog.
The Solution: Reevaluate Feeding Cycles
Here's another issue where your vet can provide valuable insight.
Consult your veterinarian for more guidance about what your dog needs. They can work with you to ensure you're providing all the vitamins and nutrients your dog needs to stay healthy.
Once you get a better idea of how much food your pup needs daily, reconsider the frequency with which you provide it. Instead of doing one or two big meals, consider breaking their daily requirements up into three or four smaller meals.
A bump in feeding frequency can help keep your dog satiated, making those hunger pains a thing of the past.
6. Calling to Others
Remember how we said dogs have a strong sense of hearing? Well, that could be your dog's downfall at night.
In addition to sensing cars and stray animals outside, your dog might hear other pups in the neighborhood. Believe it or not, one barking dog can spoil things for the entire street!
Canines are social animals and rely on barks to alert one another of potential dangers. Your dog might not know the pup across the street, but when it starts barking, you better believe that your dog will soon follow!
It's a unique call-and-response behavior that many dogs will participate in when they hear barks from another.
The Solution: Good Training
Unfortunately, this isn't a quick fix, either. It can take time to get your dog to stop, and you can't control the barks of other canines in the neighborhood.
Like before, the best thing you can do is make it as difficult as possible for your pup to hear others. Try keeping them in an interior room. You can even try white noise machines to drown out the barks of other dogs.
Training is also crucial. Reward your dog when it stops barking, and think about getting help from a professional trainer if your techniques don't offer results.
7. Separation Anxiety
Dogs can be pretty dramatic when they don't get enough socialization. These animals are supposed to live in groups. They thrive in the presence of others! That doesn't mean you need to have multiple dogs in the home. You're part of the pack, after all.
Dogs can grow anxious when left alone. That often turns into destructive behaviors and excessive barking.
The Solution: Calming Aids and a Comfortable Sleeping Spot
There are a few different ways to address separation anxiety.
The first is to spend more time with your dog. Allow them to socialize with you and others. When they're alone, provide mental stimulation toys. The same techniques for tackling boredom also work with addressing separation anxiety.
Calming aids are another great thing to try. These products often come in the form of edible treats or sprays. They usually contain calming essential oils or ingredients that positively impact hormone production.
For example, you often see ingredients like chamomile and melatonin to encourage sleep.
They can ease your dog's anxieties and help them fall asleep faster. Use the product before bed; it won't be long until your pup drifts off to dreamland!
Another tip worth trying is changing where your dog sleeps.
If they usually stay in a separate room, think about moving them into yours. You can still use crates and beds. But being in the same room with you provides enough security to help dogs relax and sleep soundly.
8. The Pains of Aging
As dogs get older, they encounter many more issues. Bodily pain is the most common issue and can keep dogs up all night. Arthritis is no joke!
But beyond that, senior dogs also suffer from more anxiety. As their hearing and vision wane, even simple sights and sounds scare them. Many dogs also develop canine cognitive dysfunction symptoms.
It's a form of canine dementia that often results in excessive barking.
The Solution: A Conversation with Your Vet
There's no cure for aging. Watching a senior dog go through these difficult experiences can be painful, but there's no simple fix. The best thing you can do is to work with your vet.
They'll rule out any pain issues and provide treatment options. They can also work with you to address anxiety and other problems that cause your dog to panic at night. The only thing you can do is manage these issues.
There's no cure, but a mix of calming aids and medication can be life-changing for your senior dog.
9. Nighttime Discomfort
Dogs need a comfortable place to sleep at night. If they have a lumpy bed or ultra-cramped crate, it's a recipe for disaster. Discomfort can keep dogs up, leading to hours of unwanted barking!
The Solution: Create a Comfortable Sleeping Space
If you suspect that discomfort is to blame, it's time to upgrade your dog's sleeping corner!
Invest in a high-quality bed. This is especially important for older dogs or those suffering from bodily aches. Get a bed with memory foam to cushion those joints and prevent pressure from causing pain.
There are plenty of fantastic beds available. Many even have bolsters for your dog to lay its adorable little head on.
Next, think about where they sleep. If they use a kennel, is it big enough? Is the area where they sleep warm? What about lights? Fix those issues, and your dog should have no problem sleeping.
Related: reasons Why Your Dog is Suddenly Sleeping on the Floor
10. Potty Time
Finally, your dog could start barking because they need to do its business.
Don't assume that your dog is OK because they don't have accidents. These animals will hold it in for as long as possible, but they'll try to get your attention to relieve themselves.
If your dog darts out of the house whenever you first let them out in the morning, take it as a sign that you must reevaluate your nighttime routine.
The Solution: Establish a Bedtime Schedule
Earlier, we discussed how having a bedtime routine can encourage your dog to sleep with everyone else. When you make that routine, ensure that you give your dog plenty of time outside.
Make outdoor potty time one of the last things in your routine. If it's still an issue, consider limiting access to water about half an hour before bed. Give your dog a chance to empty its bladder before bed, and barking should no longer be an issue.
Related: Best Indoor Dog Potty System
Enjoy Bark-Free Nights
There are many reasons why dogs bark at night. It's the only way they can communicate. Whether they're alerting you of activity outside your home or they're expressing pain and discomfort, pay attention.
Understanding the cause of excessive nighttime barking is key to successfully addressing it. Follow our tips and invest in professional training. Once you knock this problem out, you and your dog can enjoy peacefully quiet nights.