We love our dogs. They can be a perfect companion for daytime activities, but when the sun sets, your dog’s barking diminishes the sleep of you, your family, and your neighbors. This incessant barking might make you tired, grumpy, or otherwise resentful of your canine companion. Sound familiar? Here are the top reasons your dog is barking, and how to finally get some sleep!
First, Dogs & Sleeping
Comparative databases use the value of 10.1 hours of average daily sleep for the domestic dog, with reported values ranging between 7.7 and 16 hours. To put this in context, humans sleep 7-8 hours daily.
Homeostatic and circadian processes regulate sleep. Evidence suggests that homeostatic pressure influences circadian rhythms – this means that when sleep is lost, this loss is compensated by extending subsequent sleep. Several findings indicate the presence of sleep homeostasis in dogs, in addition to human models. The majority of sleep in dogs occurs between 9:00 pm and 6:00 am, with a period of rest in the afternoon. These sleep patterns mirror human activity. It is hypothesized to reflect an adaptation to humans, as the sleep activity of other canine species does not reflect as strong of a diurnal (awake and active during the day) rhythm.
Why is this important? Well, this means that your dog is programmed to sleep at night, and their body will adjust to abnormal sleeping patterns by sleeping more or less to retain a relatively consistent average daily number of sleep hours. Your dog should be sleeping at night with you, but there are several reasons they may wake up and bark. Often, pet parents will notice sleep-compensatory behaviors in pups lacking sleep, like extended daytime naps and generally reduced motor activity.
The Top 5 Reasons Your Dog is Barking At Night
Before you can get your dog to stop barking at night, you need to resolve, or at least understand, the cause of the noise-making. Some critical factors to note include: What your dog’s bark sounds like, where your dog sleeps, and what makes the barking start and stop.
Here are the top five reasons your dog is barking at night:
- New Puppy
New puppies are a special case. They may have poor bladder control and are experiencing sleeping in a new environment. Sleeping alone can be scary for a puppy who previously slept with its mother and siblings. To help subdue your dog’s anxieties, create a sleeping space in your room, and gradually move the crate closer to the door, eventually moving the puppy’s sleeping area outside your room.
Bladder control is a real concern for puppies, and some pups may be indicating they need to go outside. But, because night barking can become a habit, it is best to set an alarm around 4 hours after your new puppy goes out to take them outside. This may sound counterintuitive: why would I set an alarm for the middle of the night when my dog’s barking serves the same sleep-diminishing purpose? Well, if your pup learns the only way it gets what it wants is by barking or makes a habit out of nighttime barking, then after your puppy reaches the age where they can control their bladder (around 5 months), they may continue barking.
As long as they don’t make it a habit, new puppies barking during the night should be a temporary issue.
- Physical Discomfort, Old Age & Cognitive Decline
Nighttime barking behavior can be quite common in older dogs, and there are numerous potential causes, including:
- Confusion: Canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD) is common in senior dogs and can wreak havoc on your senior dog’s personality, routines, attitudes, and behavior. To help alleviate CCD, you can help your dog with lifestyle and dietary changes as well as medications.
- Incontinence: Older dogs can have issues with bladder control. It can be exhausting to wake up in the middle of the night to help your dog relieve themselves. There are treatment options for incontinence, and you may want to book an appointment with your veterinarian to better understand the root of the problem and the best course of action.
- Pain: Older dogs are more likely to develop chronic conditions and suffer from the wear and tear they put on their bodies. If you suspect this to be the issue, a veterinarian may have a range of medications and treatment options available to help your dog live comfortably.
- Sensory Issues: age-related deterioration of sight and hearing quite common. You can help your dog by making sure they understand they are not alone to limit their fear.
Dogs have very good hearing, and it’s significantly better than ours. They can hear things we can’t, so if there is rustling wildlife or commotion outside, your pup may respond with a bark. First, if your dog sleeps outside, bring them in. If your canine companion is sleeping inside and still barking at the outside commotion, try putting on a noise machine, TV, or radio.
Our pups are social animals. If they hear other dogs barking, they may join in. They also may bark to release energy. Try to increase your puppy’s activity level – both mentally and physically, with training and exercise to ensure that they are getting the engagement they need to have a restful night’s sleep.
If your dog is physically healthy, free from consistent disturbances, and getting enough exercise, it is likely that their nighttime barking is a habit. The way to stop the barking may seem counterintuitive, but it is to ignore their attention-seeking behavior. Once your dog recognizes that their barking will not grant them the attention of their owner, they may lighten up on the nocturnal noise-making. This can be difficult because the barking may get worse, but eventually, it should subside.
Bottom Line: New pups will likely only pose a temporary barking problem, and if you suspect health issues with your dog take them to the veterinarian. Ensure your pup has a relatively distraction-free area to sleep, with plenty of physical exercises during the day. Finally, physically healthy, distraction-free pups often take to nocturnal barking for a simple reason. Without realizing it, you’ve taught your dog that their noise-making will bring them your attention, no matter the hour.
Hopefully, this is helpful, and you and your pup can go back to getting a good night’s rest.