One of the things that nearly every dog owner occasionally struggles with is unwanted barking. However, most breeds are easily trained to control their outbursts. But what does it mean when your dog suddenly starts barking at night?
If your dog is barking at night all of a sudden, it could be that it’s feeling ill or is suffering pain from an unseen injury. However, your dog might also start barking because it’s seeking your attention. And protective dogs may bark after sensing someone near your home or apartment.
It’s crucial to understand your dog’s behavior and needs before attempting to address their barking habits. If you’re a new pet owner, or you’re unable to figure out why your dog is barking, you may want to take your pup to the veterinarian. However, you can also choose to try out some handy anti-barking tips and tricks.
Why Is My Dog Barking at Night All of a Sudden?
Even the quietest, most stoic dog breeds can occasionally bark up a storm. However, if you’ve noticed your dog consistently barking at night, there could be three potential causes. When your dog starts barking at night, they may be experiencing:
- An illness or injury
- A need for attention
- Fear of intruders
By familiarizing yourself with these common causes, you can better determine what’s causing your dog’s barking and address the problem head-on. Naturally, the first thing you’ll want to check is your dog’s health. Sudden barking during the night could be a sign of illness.
An Illness or Injury
If you’re accustomed to your dog’s natural behaviors, you might notice that they bark when a car passes the front windows or a neighbor walks past your apartment door. This type of behavior is relatively normal, especially among breeds known for their loyalty and protectiveness.
Still, the sudden onset of nighttime barking can be a sign that your pup isn’t feeling well or is suffering from a painful injury. If your dog’s barking continues for several hours, is consistent, and they’re exhibiting other worrisome symptoms, you’ll want to seek emergency veterinary care.
However, if your dog seems reasonably healthy, you can schedule a veterinary visit for the next day. But you won’t want to wait if your four-legged family member is:
- Drooling excessively
- Refusing to eat or drink
- Having trouble with coordination
- Failing to recognize you or other household members
Sadly, the most common medical cause behind sudden nightly barking is canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), a disease that typically affects older dogs. However, pups with anxiety disorders may also develop a habit of barking during the night.
Sometimes, patient reassurance is the best solution, especially if your dog needs a little extra love and attention. Just like humans, dogs are social creatures. They need and desire our attention, which can occasionally lead to unwanted barking sessions.
A Need for Attention
Unless you work from home, there’s a good chance that your dog spends a decent amount of time alone. By the end of the day, the thing your pup most wants to do is play and enjoy time with you.
But between cooking dinner, showering, completing some work tasks, and tending to your family, there may not be a lot of time to devote to your dog. When this sort of pattern begins to repeat, you may notice behavioral issues, including nighttime barking.
Giving your dog plenty of attention is the soundest solution to this issue. But if you’ve been laying on the love and ensuring that your dog is getting plenty of exercise and affection, their nightly barking might be the result of fear.
Fear of Intruders
Dogs are known for being man’s best friend, and many breeds come from loyal, protective wolf ancestors. These early pets likely helped protect and warn their owners, attacking intruders and barking loudly to alert their people.
These instincts are far from dead, as most dogs will perk up their ears and start barking if they sense a stranger nearby. If you’re relying on your dog to help you stay alert of potential threats, you won’t want to punish them for the occasional nighttime bark.
After all, barking is one of the best ways for dogs to communicate with their owners and one another. Barking is a surprisingly crucial element of a dog’s wellbeing.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
If you’re feeling frustrated about your dog’s nighttime barking, you might want to take a moment and ask yourself, “Why do dogs bark?” After all, to fix a problem, you need to understand all of its causes.
When it comes to barking, there are two primary reasons why dogs let loose: Communication and defense. Humans primarily vocalize to communicate emotions, needs, and ideas. Dogs are very similar.
Though barking might be the most infamous sound that dogs make, dogs are also capable of:
Each sound is associated with a particular emotion or intent. For example, dogs will whine when uncomfortable, fearful, or in pain. But they’ll growl if they’re feeling threatened and aggressive. This begs the question—What does a bark mean?
Barks could mean almost anything, as dogs use pitch, speed, and body language to better color their barking. A barking dog could be communicating how excited it is to see you, letting you know that you’re getting too close to its territory, or letting you know that it’s feeling lonely.
Still, barks that are punctuated by growls most often mean “back off.” That’s because dogs also use barking as a means of defense. A dog that’s barking rapidly and loudly, often growling slightly between barks, is attempting to defend itself or its territory. This type of behavior is instinctual, and it varies among the many dog breeds.
German Shepherd Dogs, Rottweilers, Boxers, and Doberman Pinschers are some of the breeds known for their defense natures. These dogs often require a little extra training to help them curb their excessive barking habits and overprotective personalities.
However, they’re not the only breeds that can bark loudly throughout the night. Hunting dogs (Beagles and Coonhounds) are notoriously loud and may bark and howl. Additionally, Huskies, Terriers, Retrievers, and Shiba Inu dogs are also known for being vocal. That said, a little love and training go a long way in quelling unwanted barking.
How Can I Curb My Dog’s Barking?
Pet owners can take several courses of action to put an end to their pup’s nighttime barking. If you’ve been pulling at your hair trying to get your dog to relax and keep quiet, then you may want to try:
- Reward or ignore
- Exercise and play
- Provide consistent socialization
Let’s briefly touch on each potential solution to help you choose the best option for you and your pup. Remember, what works for your friend or neighbor may not work for you.
Each dog is unique and has a distinct background and personality. Always practice patience and never physically harm, threaten, or abuse your dog. When training a dog to bark less, positive rewards and consistency are the way to go!
Reward or Ignore
When your dog starts barking, don’t speak to them or look at them. Ignore them. As soon as they stop barking, give them a little love and attention, and perhaps a treat.
If they start barking again, go back to ignoring them. Repeat as necessary, and your dog will eventually learn that being quiet is the best way to have their needs and wants satisfied.
Exercise and Play
Are you not spending a lot of time at home throughout the week? If possible, hire a dog sitter or walker to exercise your pup while you’re at work.
If you have responsible, school-aged children, you can also ask them to make sure your dog gets some playtime each day. By the time everyone is ready to go to bed, your dog will also be yawning and ready to relax.
How often do you take your dog to the local dog park? Do you own multiple animals that your dog interacts with throughout the day? If you’re not allowing your dog to socialize with lots of people and animals, they may struggle to form strong bonds with others.
When placed into a situation with new people or dogs, they can become fearful or aggressive, causing them to bark excessively. Consistent socialization efforts are crucial to curbing unwanted behaviors, including barking.
Dogs tend to bark to communicate or defend their territory. If your pup has recently started barking during the night, they may be seeking your attention or trying to warn you of a possible intruder. However, sudden nighttime barking could also be a sign that your dog is ill.
After ensuring that your dog’s health is not at risk, you can implement several training exercises and activities to help curb your dog’s nightly barking habit. With time, patience, kindness, and repetition, you can help your dog relax, fall asleep, and resist its urge to do some nighttime barking.