Why Do Dogs Bark At Night

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Introduction

You've worked hard all day, and you're looking forward to a relaxing evening at home. Supper is finished, the dishes are washed and put away, and you're curled up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and a good book. The stage is set for the perfect night. The problem is, Fido didn't seem to get the memo. He's been standing out on the back porch barking his head off for what seems like hours. Determined to take matters into your own hands, you go out to investigate, and it appears that Fido is barking at...nothing. NOTHING! Our dogs like to bark; of that, there is no doubt. But why do they seem to bark more frequently at night? While this behavior often leaves us shaking our heads, it makes perfect sense to our dogs. Like most dog activities, night barking has many potential causes.

The Root of the Behavior

Night barking is of particular concern to homeowners. It can really set us on edge. Because our dogs' hearing is so much more sensitive than our own, we are left wondering if Fido is hearing something that we aren't. Is there a potential intruder out there? While it is possible that our dogs are barking to alert us to the presence of a stranger or trouble, what is of greater immediate concern is how our neighbors will respond to the noise. Most city by-laws prohibit persistent nuisance barking, and we don't want to end up with fines or angry neighbors. We have to get to the bottom of this pesky problem. Dogs are expert communicators, and barking is but one way they communicate with their people. If your dog is consistently barking at night, he is definitely trying to tell you something. That part is simple to understand. What is not so simple is the why behind all the racket. 

One of the reasons your dog might be engaging in persistent night barking is boredom. Dogs that are allowed to be outside for long periods of time with little to entertain them will often bark. Why? Barking could serve to remind you that they are there, and they want to see and play with you. If your dog has been home alone all day, it is likely that they spent most of their day sleeping with their only interruptions as the occasional bark at the mailman or a cursory attempt at chewing on a toy or bone. Your dog needs daily interaction with you or even with other animals to provide mental stimulation that is key to your dog's well-being. Barking might help your dog to source a playmate in the form of another lonely dog looking for something to do, but his ultimate hope is that he'll get to spend some extra time with you. Nuisance nighttime barking can find its basis in loneliness. While plentiful, interactive toys can help alleviate boredom, there is nothing other than companionship that will help to eliminate nighttime barking that is rooted in loneliness. Loneliness barking is a plea for attention. Allowing your dog to sleep near his family can make all the difference in the world in completely curbing this bad habit. If sleeping in your bedroom is not an option, it might be time to consider a canine companion for Fido. Having a playmate provides a great deal of comfort for dogs who are lonely.

Encouraging the Behavior

Often dogs will bark out of fear or concern. Since dogs possess hearing that is far more acute than that of our own, they are easily able to detect noises that could potentially be troublesome. Your dog loves you, and he takes very seriously his role as your protector. To add to this, dogs also have an innate sense which allows them to determine when a situation or person is potentially harmful to him or his family. This instinct is based in the wild dog's need for survival, and it is what kept him and his pack alive. Sometimes these fears are legitimate, and the barking that ensues, as a result, is helpful. Other times, the barking is completely unfounded and simply serves as a nuisance. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for us to determine the precise reason for the barking. We just want the behavior to stop, but the truth is someday, your dog's nighttime barking as a response to a specific troubling stimulus could save your life. 

Many dogs suffer from noise sensitivity. This condition causes dogs to be more reactive to sounds than their more average counterparts. Persistent nighttime barking could simply be an instinctual response to the noises your dog is hearing in his environment. These noises might be far too remote for your ears to pick up on, but Fido hears them, and he is responding in kind. Dogs who do not receive sufficient physical exercise on a consistent basis can also be prone to nighttime barking. A tired dog can be a very happy dog, and in general, nighttime is the time when most contented dogs like to catch a little shut eye with their favorite person sitting near to them. If your dog is alone for a good portion of the day and has not had much physical or mental stimulation, this could be the root cause behind any nighttime barking. Your dog is entertaining himself. So, what can you do if you have a nighttime barker? Ensure that your dog has access to toys that provide mental stimulation for him when you cannot be with him. Things like snuffle mats and stuffed Kongs can keep his brain and body occupied for many hours. 

Other Solutions and Considerations

Consider sending Fido to a reputable dog daycare or hiring a dog walker to take him for a walk a few times a week. The physical exercise will help keep Fido entertained and happy, and the companionship of another person or animal will provide great benefits for him and for you. If your family situation allows, adding an additional canine member to your family can be a great way to provide relief from boredom and loneliness. Professional dog trainer, Joel Silverman, recommends a thorough and honest assessment to help source the reasons behind your dog's barking. When you understand what is causing the behavior, it is much simpler to address it. The longer the dog is allowed to engage in this activity, the more it becomes an ingrained habit, so it is important to begin work on changing this behavior immediately. It cannot be overemphasized that yelling at the dog or rewarding barking in any way will simply lead to further barking. The dog must see that calm and quiet behavior is the key to the resources he most desires. 

Conclusion

With a thoughtful, positive plan in place, it is possible to break Fido of the bad habit of nighttime nuisance barking. Whether your plan includes a new family member, more activity, or taking out shares in your favorite pet store for all the toys you'll be buying, there are lots of things that you can do to help your dog learn that calm, quiet behavior can be a great thing!