6 Reasons Your Dog Barks at Night (And What to Do)

Author: K. Marie Altoby K Marie Alto Updated 11 min read

6 Reasons Your Dog Barks at Night (And What to Do)

Do you ever wonder why your dog barks at night? You may love your fur baby to pieces, but sometimes it feels like that love is tested when you're trying to get some sleep, and they just Will. Not. Stop. Barking!

Don't they know you're trying to sleep, and that barking just keeps you up? Why won't they listen when you scold them and tell them to be quiet?

The truth is, dogs bark for many different reasons, and some dogs are much noisier than others by nature. They aren't barking just to make noise.

In this post I discuss some of the main causes of nighttime barking as well as some practical fixes. From fear to attention seeking to pain. I’ve also included a great FAQ video on dog acupuncture. This is a must watch!

If you are looking for more dog care guides, do not miss the read further section at the bottom. You can also visit my blog. I'm sure you will learn a thing or two that will help you improve the life of your pup.

Generally speaking, if you can identify why your fur baby is barking in the evening or the late-night hours, you can take steps to address the issue and let both you and them sleep peacefully.

1: Loneliness or Separation Anxiety

Have you ever seen the video of a particularly dramatic husky vocalizing at the top of their lungs in abject depression over their pet parent closing the front door and after realizing they aren't going on a walk?

Sometimes they can also look so sad, so distraught, whining and crying when they can't find their owner, even if you're just standing in another room.

While huskies are some of the most dramatic and vocal about it, many dogs can experience loneliness and anxiety when they don't know where you are or can't find you.

It comes from their deep history, back when they were wolves living in packs. And while the domesticated dog may not technically be a pack animal, they do thrive in the comfort and presence of others of their kind as pack animals do.

Since you and your family (and perhaps other pup siblings) are their social group, they want to know where you are and be able to find you if they need you.While that may be fine during the day, especially if you like a cuddly lap dog, it can be a little more difficult at night.

It can be tricky trying to sleep with a dog in the bed or even in the bedroom; their snoring, their odors, and their midnight activity can all wake you up or disrupt your sleep.

And, if they find another reason to bark, it's so much more irritating when it's right beside your bed.

The trouble is, if your dog is lonely or has situational anxiety because they can't find you, you don't have many options to solve the problem.

One quick fix is to try to bring their bed into your bedroom so that when you're sleeping nearby, they can be comforted by your presence and sleep alongside you.

But, if they insist on climbing all over you in the middle of the night, or if you have other reasons not to have a dog in the room with you – allergies, perhaps, or a new baby – it may not be an option.

Another choice is to get another animal that can comfort your dog. Often, this might just mean another dog.

As social animals, dogs will typically get along with one another (after some time to adjust) and be that element of comfort they both need to sleep through the night.

Of course, there’s always the risk they’ll both have separation anxiety, and then you've just doubled your problem.

2: Alarm or Fear

You've heard the term "watchdog" for a reason. Many dog breeds originated for specific purposes – hunting, tracking, chasing, racing – but some dogs were bred to be guard animals.

Dog Barking At Intruder

They would alert their humans if an intruder approached, whether that intruder was another human with nefarious intent or even a large animal that could be a threat to livestock.

Of course, your living room doesn't have a herd of livestock in it, and chances are pretty good that the nice neighbor walking down the street in the evening isn't a threat.

Your dog doesn't know that, though; all your dog knows is that something – a person or an animal – is approaching your territory and they want to alert you and scare off the intruder.

Dogs also may not quite understand property boundaries. You might understand that your sidewalk is the edge of your property, and you don't need to worry about anything on or beyond it, but your dog might not.

To them, your territory is much larger, and passers-by can be seen as a threat.

On top of that, there are plenty of nocturnal animals that roam the streets at night. You might never know if there's a possum or raccoon wandering by, a deer trekking through, or something a little more threatening like a coyote, porcupine, or skunk.

You'll happily sleep right through it, never knowing the animal existed. Your dog, though, with their keen senses, can detect those critters and will warn you about their presence.

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to handle this. You can't exactly explain to your fur baby that the sidewalk isn't important enough or that you don't care about the neighbor's cat walking through your yard.

A simple action that can make a world of difference is to close the blinds or curtains at night, but this doesn’t address the underlying behavior.

It takes dedicated training to reduce barking. Keep high-value treats on hand and watch your dog's behavior, in the evening or during the day.

When they're having a barking fit, wait for lengthy pauses in between barking and give them both praise and a treat.

Over time, they'll associate their silence with the treat and will keep quieter. When you notice an animal or a sound that would normally trigger a barking fit, and they don't react, reward them. This reinforcement can, over time, train in a quieter demeanor.

3: Boredom or Attention Seeking

Do you ever get bored and just start tapping your fingers or toes, hum to yourself, or otherwise make noises just to break up the monotony?

Bored Dog On Couch Image by Toe Beans

Well, your dog may possibly be doing the same thing. Dogs can often bark simply to alleviate boredom and break up the monotony of a long night.

Dogs may also have learned behaviors relating to seeking attention. During the day, if they do something disruptive and it breaks you from whatever you're doing to pay attention to them, even if it's scolding, it's reinforcement.

They know that bad behaviors – which can range from pawing at you, to chewing something they shouldn't, to barking – will get your attention. Well, there's not much difference between day and night to a dog.

After all, they don't have to worry about work in the morning. All they know is, it's nighttime and you're not paying attention to them. And if they want your attention they know just how to get it.

Often, boredom-based barking can be alleviated in a few different ways.

  • Keep interactive toys on hand. These can be something as simple as a treat puzzle or some safe solitary play toys that only come out at night. Enrichment is key to keeping your pup from acting out.
  • Spend more time training away attention-seeking behaviors. If you teach them that they get attention on your terms, and when they do good things, and not when they do bad things or bark, they'll stop barking for attention.
  • Wear them out. Much like children, if you want them to sleep at night, you need to burn off their energy during the day. This is also why many senior dogs (and older people) sleep through the night; we're all just so, so tired. After a long day of work don’t cut the evening walk short or you may pay for it later. If you can afford it, doggy day camps are a great option as your pup will get all the stimulation s/he wants during the day and will come home tuckered out.

You can tell if boredom is one of the problems if your dog is also doing other attention-seeking behaviors, like chewing on things they shouldn't, scratching at the floor, or pacing a room.

These behaviors can lead to barking if you’re not catching the more subtle hints.

4: Distress from Pain or Hunger

Dogs tend to vocalize when they're in distress. Unfortunately for us, "distress" can mean a lot of different things.

Dog Distressed From Hunger Image by Toe Beans

Those dramatic huskies may seem funny behind a screen, but when anything from a stubbed toe to a hunger pang can set them off, it becomes a lot less adorable.

Hunger is a form of distress, and a hungry dog is a vocal dog. Some dogs are also very food-motivated and will do anything they can to get that extra meal.

You may be able to test this by leaving some food available if they want it in the evening, though if your dog is a glutton and cleans their bowl immediately, no questions asked, this obviously won't work.

A solution for a hoover pup is to purchase a timed feeder that will serve a small meal during the evening.

Pain is another common source of distress. It's difficult to diagnose, too; a joint ache, a pulled muscle, or an internal pain can all trigger a vocal response when, to you, there was no obvious trigger.

For hunger problems, you may need to adjust your feeding schedule. Instead of an early morning breakfast and evening meal, consider breaking the servings into three. A morning feeding, one after work (or early evening), and a small meal before bed.

Pain is harder to diagnose, especially if there are no other obvious signs like limping, digestive problems, or heavy breathing. You might be thinking if my pup is in pain, wouldn’t that be an issue all day?

Consider the temperature. Many of us lower the thermostat at night to help us sleep better, the colder temperature can make achy joints feel worse. It’s always a good idea to mention new vocalizations to your vet so then can confirm it’s not related to a medical issue.

5: Call and Response

There is a lot of controversy about dogs being pack or social animals. The truth is whether they are pack or social, they oftentimes exhibit some pack animal behaviors.

Dog Responding To Barking Image by Toe Beans

For example, they're very sensitive to the behaviors of other dogs. If you've ever spent time with a group of dogs where one of them seems to be the "lookout" that will bark at nothing and set off all the other dogs, you're seeing it in action.

Well, at night, it's quiet out, and your dog has very keen ears. Dogs throughout the neighborhood can start to bark for pretty much any reason, including those night visitors we mentioned earlier.

Your dog, upon hearing those other dogs start barking, may start barking as well.

Often, this goes in cycles. One neighborhood dog spots a raccoon outside and starts barking, which sets off other dogs until they all settle down.

Repeat throughout the night, as any neighborhood dog spotting anything can set off the whole "pack" or "social group" even if you don't consider the other dogs part of your pack/group.

Unfortunately, much like the first few entries on this list, there's not a lot you can do to keep your dog from barking in response to other dogs in the neighborhood.

You could ask your neighbor to bring their dog in at night – that will help prevent your dog from hearing their barking. If you live in an apartment or townhome, this might be unavoidable.

Your best option is training, much like the alarm/fear response training mentioned above. Reward them for their silence, especially if other dogs have been set off.

6: Old Dog Problems

Sometimes, as your dog gets older, they start to bark more than they used to.

Old Dog Sleeping Image by Toe Beans

This can come from many different reasons.

  • Pain. We mentioned pain earlier, but this is obviously a more common problem as your dog ages. Joint aches and arthritis are commonplace.
  • Anxiety. Older dogs can sometimes experience cognitive changes, including an increase in anxiety when they're left alone.
  • CCDS. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome is essentially dementia for dogs. Declining cognition can lead to confusion or forgetting training, and your dog might bark at nothing simply because they may not realize they are home and safe. While you may think of cognitive decline as happening to “old dogs” only, clinical signs of this syndrome can start to manifest as early as 5 years of age in some dogs, especially larger breeds.

"Signs of CDS an owner may recognize include: Wandering, anxiety, confusion, urinating/defecating in the house, pacing, often at night, less interaction with owners, not recognizing familiar people, animals or commands, less interest in eating, playing, walking and socializing, restlessness, waking up in the night; increased daytime sleeping, inactivity, increased vocalization, often at night, going to unusual places, can’t locate food dropped on the floor, getting lost in familiar environment." – Veterinary Partner.

If you suspect your dog of suffering from CDS, the first step is to get a diagnosis. Some treatments include a combination of: dietary changes, dietary supplements, drugs and cognitive enrichment.

  • Poor vision and hearing. As your dog ages, their eyesight and hearing may start to decline. Combined with a dark room at night, any motion, any noise, or a shape they no longer recognize as familiar can trigger a barking fit. Even if they recognized it in the past, they might not be able to now, and the uncertainty can trigger a barking response.
  • A sudden urge to potty. Older dogs may not be able to make it through the entire night without having an accident. Your pup might be warning you, “hurry up I gotta go,” or “help I had an accident on the floor.”

Sadly, there isn't much you can do to stop aging, but you can talk to your vet about medications that might help.

Of all the reasons old dogs bark at night, pain is perhaps the most pervasive and common. There are a number of options to manage pain. Consult your veterinarian, they may recommend a pain management plan for your dog.

For pet parents looking for natural ways to help their dogs tap into their natural powers to heal themselves, CBD oils specially formulated for pets may be a good alternative.

Here is a great guide on how to pick the best CBD oil for your dog or cat.

Another wonderful natural option for pain is dog acupuncture. I've tried acupuncture myself and can speak to its health benefits.

"Acupuncture is often used to treat dogs with arthritis and joint inflammation. For example, dogs with hip dysplasia or degenerative joint disease are good candidates for acupuncture, which may alleviate pain and improve joint range of motion. Dogs with chronic back pain and even dogs with serious spinal cord conditions also benefit from acupuncture."VCA Animal Hospitals.

Check out this 3-min FAQ video on Dog Acupuncture:

And last but not least, consider an orthopedic dog bed. Some dog beds are specially designed to help dogs with joint pain.

At a certain point, the best you can do is accommodate them and help keep them comfortable in their later years.

While there are many sources of barking in dogs of all ages, the solutions will generally come down to the same handful of options.

  • Remove triggers. If you can identify something within your control that triggers a barking fit, do what you can to remove it. Of course, this assumes you know your dog well.
  • Training. One of the best ways to alleviate nighttime barking is by training your dog to be quiet. Positive reinforcement over time can associate silence with beneficial treatment, and eventually, that's all you'll need.
  • Exercise. Getting in a good play session in before bed will help expel any pent-up energy. Providing some mentally challenging games can give your pup something interesting to focus on if they become restless.
  • Health checks. In some cases, the trigger is something a vet can treat, so a health checkup – especially if the barking is new or otherwise unexplained – can be important.

You love your fur baby, but sometimes, you just need some peace and quiet. We all do our best as pet parents, so while training may take time, it's worth the investment.

Does your furry friend bark at all hours of the night? Have you attempted any of these potential solutions to get them to stop? If so, were the results what you were hoping for? Do you have any funny stories about their night time escapades? Be sure to leave all your thoughts and stories in the comments section down below! I love hearing about your thoughts and experiences!

Additionally, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is unique, made right here in the USA, 100% pup and cat safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans online pet supplies store!

K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more

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