A puppy barking with his mouth open.
A puppy barking with his mouth open. Photography ©cmannphoto | Getty Images.

Is Your Dog Barking at Night? What to Know and What to Do

How do you handle a dog barking at night? What could cause a dog’s nighttime whining or barking, and do the reasons for a dog barking at night vary by a pup’s age?
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Is your dog barking at night? Is a dog barking at night normal — or something to worry about? Anyone who has ever had a puppy knows what it’s like to have sleepless nights. It’s inevitable that some puppies, to begin with, have a hard time adjusting to a new home and vocalize their discomfort and loneliness, particularly at night. While this is a very normal behavior in young pups, it is less common to hear an adult or senior dog barking at night, especially if the behavior starts without any known trigger.

When a puppy is with his mom and siblings, his basic needs for food, warmth and comfort are met. He can choose when to eat, eliminate and play, but everything changes when he comes to you. Regardless of how welcoming you make his new home, the transition can sometimes cause anxiety and confusion and is one of the main reasons for a dog barking at night.

How do you help a dog barking at night — if that dog is a puppy?

A woman in flannel, holding a puppy.
Soothe a puppy who barks at night. Photography ©Alena Kravchenko | Getty Images.

New puppy parents are often told to ignore their pup’s whining and only give attention when their puppy is quiet. While this technique can be successful in some cases, the potential for fallout is great. There is not much research on the effects of controlled crying in puppies, but there have been numerous studies in human infants.

Controlled crying involves leaving an infant to cry for increasingly longer periods of time before providing comfort. The period of time, rather than the infant’s distress level, is used to determine when to go to the infant or toddler. The aim of controlled crying is to teach babies to settle themselves to sleep and to stop them from crying or calling out during the night.

According to the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, controlled crying is a “signal of distress or discomfort from an infant or young child to let the caregiver know that they need help. From an evolutionary perspective, crying promotes proximity to the primary caregiver, in the interest of survival and the development of social bonds.” While some research suggests that controlled crying works, other studies demonstrate that this process can actually raise cortisol levels in the infant’s brain, and too much stress can be harmful.

Holding and soothing a baby helps give a sense of security and creates secure bonds. To deny an infant reassurance during these times can be distressing and may have a negative psychological impact.

Because puppies are similar to young babies in terms of brain development, it stands to reason that holding and soothing the puppy when he cries will help him feel safe and secure. Studies have shown that giving a puppy these basic needs leads to greater independence, exploration and more confidence when left alone.

Prevent a dog barking at night by having your dog sleep with you

A dog nose closeup in bed.
Sleeping with your dog can help prevent your dog barking at night. Photography ©Solovyova | Getty Images.

Social sleeping helps facilitate the development of strong bonds, and many dog caretakers have their dogs sleep in bed with them.

If you’d rather not share your bed with Fido, put his crate or bed next to yours so he feels comfortable and safe. Add a warm, cuddly toy in your puppy’s bed so he has something to snuggle up to just as he did when he was with his littermates.

If your puppy continues to cry, he could be hungry, needs to toilet or has some medical issue that needs to be addressed.

How do you help a dog barking at night — if that dog is an adult or senior dog?

A dog barking.
How do you help an adult or senior dog who’s barking at night? Photography ©cynoclub | Getty Images.

If we’re talking about a dog barking at night who’s an adult or senior dog, this could be because he is nervous, doesn’t feel well, is having problems with his wake and sleep cycle or is responding to a noise he hears in his environment. Senior dogs suffering from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or doggie dementia, often have disturbed sleep cycles and become restless and vocal at night. If your dog is experiencing any unusual behaviors, take him to the veterinarian before you seek help from a veterinary behaviorist or certified positive trainer.

Some final thoughts on what to do about a dog barking at night

Exercise and mental enrichment can significantly decrease a dog barking at night, as well as giving your dog plenty of opportunities to toilet throughout the day. Never use punishment or intimidation to stop your dog from expressing himself, as this will just serve to increase anxiety and make the behavior worse.

The key to reducing nighttime vocalizations is to make sure all your dog’s wants and needs are being met, regardless of why the behavior is occurring. A dog who is tired and fulfilled from positive enrichment activities throughout the day is more likely to sleep through the night.

Tell us: Have you ever dealt with a dog barking at night? What was at play?

Thumbnail: Photography ©cmannphoto | Getty Images.

About the author

Victoria Stilwell, dog trainer, TV personality, author and public speaker, is best known as the star of the TV series It’s Me or the Dog, through which she reaches audiences in more than 100 countries. Appearing frequently in the media, she’s widely recognized as a leader in the field of animal behavior, is editor-in-chief of positively.com, CEO of the VSPDT network of licensed trainers and the founder of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior — the leader in dog trainer education. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter at @victorias.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!

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18 thoughts on “Is Your Dog Barking at Night? What to Know and What to Do”

  1. Pingback: Dog Anxiety At Night – Dog Anxiety Symptoms

  2. I took my puppy from a dog foster home about a year ago. I love him to bits; he has a great personality, and I feel that he loves our family so much. BUT, whenever I take him for walks, we have problems. He hates other dogs and other people sometimes even growls at us. My husband and I were thinking about taking him to ‘doggy school’, but then again, it’s extremely expensive, and the nearest ‘doggy school’ is far away from us. Maybe you have some advice? THANK YOU!!!!

  3. Pingback: Dog Anxiety Barking – Dog Anxiety Symptoms

  4. Pingback: Is Your Dog Barking at Night? What to Know and What to Do – The Dog Delight

  5. Pingback: Is Your Dog Barking at Night? What to Know and What to Do – Educate Questions Information Answers

  6. Do whatever you need to do, and do it now, because none of your neighbours has to endure the barking. They will not tolerate such noise nuisance and will complain, call the police, sue or maybe even poison your dog.

  7. We have an 8 year old dog who doesn’t bark at night but our 2 1/2 year old dog began a few months ago.. We live in a town. We tried white noise from the internet and she got a lot quieter. We ended up buying a white noise machine and it is great! Barking is rare now.

  8. The neighbor’s “dog” (which looks to be part coyote) was whining and/or howling this morning pretty badly inside their house. There were sirens going on in the nearby area, but later it was just me & my dog (who was not barking outside) & she was howling & whining like crazy. Could she be in heat and her wild side coming out?? I don’t know how they could stand it inside the house as it was very high pitched. To my knowledge, the neighbor has not yet had her fixed since he “rescued” her as a stray. I don’t think he’s even taken her to a vet yet.

    1. Hi there,
      We suggest contacting your neighbor if their dog’s barking is affecting you! Best of luck. Here’s more info on dogs barking and howling:
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-training/why-do-dogs-bark
      https://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/why-do-dogs-howl-dog-howling

  9. I am struggling right now with my Pyrenees Lab mix barking at night. He just started doing it recently. He seems to be communicating with the farm dogs a few miles a way. He never barks with the neighborhood dogs, only the ones that seem to be doing it for protection. I wish he would stop but realize it is his job. And I am sure it isn’t because he isn’t getting enough exercise. We spend at least an hour and a half at the dog park and also do a 2 mile walk together daily.

  10. Our Morkie barks at fireworks, people getting up for work or walking their dogs or running by house. He barks at us if we do not go to bed when he wants. He has started to bark at everything. He has two walks a day and I am home with him where he runs in a large fenced yard. I take him once a month to play with friends. All small dogs. He runs our lives. Oh and he sleeps with us or anywhere he would like. I have started putting him in the “naughty room” after several “uh, uh” warnings. Nothing is helping.

    1. Hi Daniel,

      These articles might give some insight. Please ask your vet if you’re concerned:
      https://www.dogster.com/dogs-101/dogs-that-dont-bark-relatively-quiet-dog-breeds
      https://www.dogster.com/dog-training/why-do-dogs-bark

  11. Dogs are a human’s best friend,and with the right kind of dog training that allows a dog to exercise daily, along with mental stimulation, and also the oppertunity to expresss themselves freely without fear and intimidation is a dog that is generally well balanced and most likely will have good sleeping patterns.

  12. “Exercise and mental enrichment can significantly decrease a dog barking at night, as well as giving your dog plenty of opportunities to toilet throughout the day. Never use punishment or intimidation to stop your dog from expressing himself, as this will just serve to increase anxiety and make the behavior worse.”
    This is very true and should be taken to heart.excellent information .thanks

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