You’ve been tossing and turning all night trying to get to sleep. You realized the barista at the coffee shop gave you a caffeinated latte, not decaf. You’re exhausted from work and errands, but finally, you fall asleep. An hour or so later, the sleep you fought so hard for is disrupted because your dog is barking. You get up once with your eyes half open, let him outside, and go back to bed.
Ten minutes later, he starts again. When you get up once more, and you walk into a wall. You check his food and water bowl, refill his water bowl with fresh water. Pat him on the head and tell him to be quiet. You crawl back into bed.
He barks again, and this time you pull the covers over your head in hopes that by hiding, the noise will go away. It doesn’t. At this point, you sit with him on the couch and have a conversation about the need for sleep. Is it really necessary? Why doesn’t he want you to sleep? How much sleep does one person really need? On the other end of this conversation, your dog might just say, “Hey! I wanna play!” or a myriad of reasons for his midnight noise.
The Root of the Behavior
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific breed that barks take to the midnight howl because all dogs can chime in. However, some dogs tend to bark more than others. Smaller dogs, like a miniature schnauzer, Yorkshire terrier, corgi, Maltese, Beagle, and Chihuahua, are known to be yappy pups. Their tendency to bark gives them a high probability of calling out in the middle of the night. But this does not mean your larger dog won’t keep you awake at night, either. Your friendly tail wagging dog barks at night for a lot of possible reasons. He could be bored or lonely, hearing noises, anxious, or just chatting with other dogs.
You count sheep over your bed when you’re trying to fall asleep, but your dog doesn’t count sheep or squirrels, he hears sounds, misses you, or just wants to play. A dog might bark because he’s bored. Counting sheep and squirrels wasn’t enough, and he wants something fun to do. Unfortunately, everyone is sound asleep, and nobody will play with him, so he’s left to his own devices.
Have you noticed the sounds in your house seem louder and more frequent at night? Stairs creak, someone runs the faucet, the heater rumbles. These sounds can be bothersome to you and your dog as well. Chances are, he hears more than his human friends, and he’s barking at the noises instead of ignoring them. A human’s hearing ranges between 20-20,000 Hz., while dogs hear a range between 40-60,000 Hz. Your dog can wiggle his ears to focus on a sound, and he can even listen with one eat at a time. You might hear the stairs creaking, but he hears so much more.
Dogs bark to communicate, and it’s possible one dog started a neighborhood choir at 1 am. It’s common for a dog to bark if he hears other dogs barking, even in the distance. This behavior can be traced to social facilitation or social contagion, which means that dogs are participating in communal behavior. There’s a long history of dogs barking to each other, and it’s not exclusive to dogs. At one point in time, it could have been for survival to bark when hunting or to warn about intruders or predators.
One sweet but annoying reason for barking at night is separation anxiety. Your dog might just be lonely and want to snuggle. He knows your bed is comfier than his, and he wants in. His barking stems from him expressing his loneliness, or he is trying to get your attention.
Encouraging the Behavior
We all want to sleep, so this midnight choir needs to stop. If your pooch is left alone all day and sleeping, you can encourage exercise and play when you get home. His boredom could be caused by excess energy. He knows you’re not home during the day, but he does know you’re in the next room and wants to play. Get him outside to play fetch or go for walks to get out his energy, give him socialization, and tire him out. It’s a good way for you to unwind from a stressful day and for him to expend some energy.
It’s hard to eliminate sounds in the middle of the night, but placing a noise machine in the home could be helpful. However, reducing a dog’s barking due to noise sensitivity might need the help of a professional trainer. Unlike closing the window blinds, you can’t remove sounds from his environment. You can learn how to train your dog to respond to you instead of the stimulus, but you’ll probably need a professionals’ help.
The same goes for barking in response to other dogs. You may need a trainer’s help to eliminate this behavior, as the stimulus is something you can’t control. The longer any behavior occurs or a reaction that could be perceived as rewarding continues, the worse it will be to reverse the behavior.
If your dog is experiencing separation anxiety, it’s up to you to decide where you want him to stay at night. You could let him on your queen-sized bed and snuggle against you, or his bed could go on the floor in your room. If you choose to do this, make sure he has all his flea medication, and he’s wiped his paws at the door. You want your dog to join you, not pesky bugs or dirt.
Other Solutions and Considerations
The unwanted crying and yipping and howling at night can drive anyone crazy. You don’t want to become an insomniac, addicted to coffee because you have no energy during the day. Or the hated neighbor with a loud dog. You need sleep, your neighbors need sleep, and so does your dog. Get to a vet or trainer before you go crazy and start howling at night.