Dog Barking At Night For No Reason: What Do I Do?
Is your dog keeping you and your neighbors up all night because of its barking? This is not an ideal situation, especially when you can't seem to figure out what's behind it. As this is a common problem, we decided to take a look at possible causes and solutions to this issue.
Dogs bark for many reasons. They may bark because they want to warn us, out of excitement, out of fear or when they want to drive away someone. These are not the only reasons and sometimes it can be a combination of a couple of reasons.
Not all barking is bad of course, so wanting to stop barking that is productive, for example when barking is an alarm, wouldn’t make sense. However, we want to stop the unwanted barking, when dogs don’t want to stop even though we ask them to.
That’s what we’re focusing on today, as barking during night isn’t something dog owners, or the neighbors, want.
To you it may seem like your dog is barking for no reason, but even when there’s no apparent reason, such as a dog or an intruder, something is behind the barking.
What’s Behind The Night Barking?
Let’s take a look at some possible reasons!
Dogs, like people, can get bored if they’re alone for a longer period of time or if they don’t have anything to do. If that’s the case, your dog’s barking could be a sign of boredom.
According to psychologist and author Stanley Coren and his guide How Dogs Think how long a dog barks is indicating the message sent. According to this theory, if the sound is longer it’s probable that the barking is a conscious decision. The frequency is also important. Namely, if the sound is more frequent or fast, the barking can indicate urgency.
Dogs who are bored should be provided with various activities, such as fun toys. It goes without saying that you should pay more attention to your dog and provide exercise, both mental and physical.
Humans are not the only ones afraid of dark and the unknown. Dogs share the same feelings, especially fearful dogs.
When dogs hear any noise that startles them or is scary for some reasons, they will most probably start barking. This is their way of saying that something is going on and that those around should be aware of it, almost like an alarm.
”Alarm barking” is important when something is actually going on, but when your dog barks at every little sound during night it becomes a problem.
A very common factor that could be behind barking is loneliness. If your dog is feeling lonely, this could be an attempt of getting attention.
The explanation for this kind of behavior can be found in the fact that dogs are pack animals with a need for companionship. While being alone doesn’t represent a problem for some dogs, there are those dogs that hate being alone.
Dogs can bark for many different reasons, for example when they want the food you’re eating or they want to get something else during night. It’s important to distinguish attention seeking and loneliness.
When the problem is loneliness, you have to ensure your dog that being alone doesn’t mean that you’ve abandoned him. On the contrary, when a dog is seeking attention you should ignore it if you don’t want the barking to become a way for your dog to get what it wants.
Dogs are, in general, much more sensitive to noise than humans are. Because of their acute hearing, they’re not able to shut out noises and distraction.
Don’t compare you and your dog when it comes to this. You may consider your home to be very quiet while your dog won’t share this opinion. This can create a big problem for dogs and as a response to the frustration he or she will start barking.
Lack Of Exercise
Naturally, if your dog doesn’t get enough exercise during the day, it will be restless during night. After having spent the entire day home alone, a couple of hours of fun before bedtime isn’t enough.
The way to solve this is naturally by providing more exercise to your dog. Of course, you can’t quit your job, but you can take your dog to a daily boarding facility where it can run around and play with other dogs.
Now, the question of the day is:
How Can I Stop The Barking?
Different cause calls for different measures.
If your dog is barking because it wants attention, here’s what you should do.
This is the solution for attention-seeking barking, a very common problem. The first thing you have to stop doing is giving your dog what it wants when barking.
No matter how much he or she barks, don’t give in. Even the smallest sign of acknowledgement, such as shushing, can reinforce your dog to continue barking.
The longer a dog has had this habit, the harder it will be to break the habit. But don’t give up! By time it will get better and better.
Ignore The Barking
It will take some time to break the habit of barking for getting attention and what he wants. During the process, it’s better to ignore than to punish.
If you yell and get angry at your dog, it will only be considered as attention in your dog’s eyes. The next time the barking will be even longer because your dog now knows that a reaction from you isn’t impossible.
If you want the barking to stop, you have to ignore it completely. Don’t even look at your dog,pretend that you’re sleeping or occupy yourself and wait for your dog to get tired of barking.
Reward Good Behavior
When the barking does stop, be sure to reward your dog for being quiet. Over time the barking will stop if you keep insisting and rewarding good behavior.
Rewards should be given as soon as possible in order to have most effect. Always keep treats around and give them when your dog doesn’t bark. Treats should be followed by vocal praises, such as ”well done” or ”good dog”.
With time, you’ll have to extend the period of time before giving a treat, by a few seconds every time. You should also vary the amount of time before you give the treat so that you don’t create a certain kind of expectation, learning your dog to be quiet just to get the award.
Find A Replacement Behavior
Teaching your dog an alternative behavior can be a great way to get rid of unwanted behavior. Even if switching to another behavior takes time, it will all be worth it in the end.
Examples of this kind of behavior could be teaching your dog to bring a toy to you if it wants to play, instead of barking when it feels like playing.
And last but not least, don’t give up! It will take time and require patience, from your neighbors as well, but in the end it will be worth it.
Barking Caused By Loneliness
If your dog is feeling lonely, it’s probable that it suffers from separation anxiety. The most common signs of this are destroying the house and barking non-stop.
This is likely to happen during night as well, if your dog is feeling left out because he’s not sleeping in your bed or because he’s in another room.
Countercondition Your Dog
Counterconditioning means associating something fearful, in this case being alone, with a reward. In order for your dog to stop feeling lonely and stop barking, he will have to associate being alone with something fun or enjoyable.
One way to do that is by giving your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food, which will keep him occupied for a period of time. During this time, your dog will probably forget being afraid.
Leaving something that could interest your dog when he’s afraid during night can help in reducing the barking. By taking the toy away during the day, your dog will associate this enjoyable period with night time and will hopefully forget to be afraid.
Counterconditioning usually only works in mild cases of separation anxiety, so if your dog has more severe problems, more serious approaches will probably be necessary.
Desensitize To Solitude
One approach that is a bit more serious is desensitizing your dog and trying to make clear that being alone doesn’t mean being abandoned. This will not happen over night, but if you’re persistent enough the results can be long-term. Here are some tips how to do that:
- Expose your dog to departure signs throughout the day, without leaving the house. For example, get dressed or jingle your keys, but don’t go out.
- Teach your dog to be comfortable alone, by stepping out of the room or out of sight. When that step has been mastered, close the door and prolong the time outside the room every time. However, don’t start with the front door at once as this is the biggest step.
- After a couple of weeks, or when you think it’s appropriate, try going out the front door and extend your stays step by step. When you’ve come this far, counterconditioning methods can be included in order to keep your dog distracted.
Loneliness during night and separation anxiety during day are often connected, so once your dog is comfortable with being alone he will probably not feel left out during night and the barking will stop.
Alarm barking is excellent when there is an actual problem to bark about. However, as mentioned, dogs can be super sensitive to sounds coming from outside. If your dog is barking at every little sound during night this has to be stopped.
Teach The Quiet Command
When your dog starts barking for no apparent reason, hold up a treat which will distract and gain attention. When the barking stops, say ”quiet” in a calm, but firm, way and give the treat.
The goal is for your dog to associate the word ”quiet” with the action of being just that. When your dog has done this 10 or more time, the command should be given without the treat.
When this command is completely mastered your dog will be able to be quiet without a treat, but you should still use verbal praise and show that you’re proud of your dog.
Even though your dog has learned to be quiet on command and has reduced the barking, it can still happen that he barks due to various sounds during night. Naturally, you can’t go up every time and do the quiet command if your dog doesn’t sleep in the same room.
Therefore, leaving some background noise in the house would be good. Leaving the TV on, some relaxing dog music or the washing machine for example can reduce the noise from outside and distract your dog.
Boredom barking is different than loneliness barking because there aren’t any other symptoms accompanying the problem, such as bathroom problems or destructive behavior. Boredom barking happens for no reason, usually when you stop paying attention or when left alone, but without signs of separation anxiety.
Exercising and playing can really reduce boredom barking. A couple of walks a day may not be enough for your dog, so try to make the walks more active and tiring.
Taking your dog to run with you is one idea, if that’s your kind of thing. Another idea is to make your dog run and play, by playing fetch for example.
20 minutes per day of running and playing is a minimum if you want your dog to stop barking out of boredom. He will probably be so tired after an active day that there will be no time left for boredom barking.
Learning tricks require focus and attention, which will be both a physical and mental occupation for your dog. Instead of barking when bored at night, your dog can practice her tricks.
Leaving distractions around, as mentioned above, can really help in reducing the barking. Toys, treats, music, TV – whatever seems to be working for your dog can be a good distraction and prevent barking out of boredom.
Night barking can be really annoying, but it’s not a problem without solutions. The first step is trying to establish why the barking is happening in the first place.
Once you’ve figured out the cause, arm yourself with patience and try the methods listed above. No change can happen over night, but if you’re persistent you will see some results and the night can become a peaceful time again.