Walk through any neighborhood when the sun goes down and you'll hear barking dogs. What causes dogs to sound off so much at night? Why does your dog bark when it gets dark -- sometimes to the point it keeps you and your neighbors awake?
Dogs are dogs, of course, and there are many reasons dogs bark. Dogs have cultivated a fairly sophisticated vocal range over time; whines and barks are used to communicate with you and other dogs. Incessant barking, however, can quickly become a nuisance that annoys neighbors, disrupts sleep and in some cases can even lead to eviction from rental properties.
Understanding why dogs bark at night can help you determine the best path to peace and quiet.
So why do dogs bark at night? There are many reasons, depending on the dog, his environment and whether he’s inside or outside at night. Some common causes include:
- Noises. Dogs have significantly better hearing than humans and hear sounds we cannot. Although you may not hear anything while standing in your backyard at night, your dog might. If your dog is noise-sensitive and reacts to strange sounds with barking, distant sounds will set him off.
- Wildlife. Most dogs have an instinctive interest in wild animals, whether it's a squirrel, raccoon, deer or a opossum. You usually won’t be aware of wildlife near your yard at night, but your dog will be. “Dogs will bark at sounds and movement in the night, and raccoons and coyotes are often the culprits,” says Jill Goldman, a certified applied animal behaviorist in Laguna Beach, California.
- Other dogs. Social-facilitated barking, or “group barking,” occurs when a dog hears another dog barking and follows suit. Since dogs are pack animals, they react to the behavior of other dogs. Your dog assumes that if a dog in the neighborhood is barking, there must be a good reason. That’s why your dog and all the other dogs in the area are motivated to chime in. “There are coyotes in my neighborhood, and every so often, one visits our street at night. The neighborhood dogs will alarm bark, which will trigger social-facilitated barking, and of course, territorial barking to any foreign visitor,” Goldman says. “Depending upon how many dogs are outside and in earshot, a group barking bout may ensue.”
- Boredom. Dogs become bored easily when they have nothing to do and will bark to entertain themselves. They may bark at every sound they hear, join neighbor dogs in a group barking session, or just bark to release energy. Perhaps the simplest solution is to bring your pup inside, but if that’s not possible, then bark-control solutions might be a good option.
- Loneliness. Dogs are very social animals and get lonely when left outside alone at night. Dogs express loneliness by howling, but they may also bark incessantly to get human attention. Again, your dog wants to join you inside, but that might not be practical, so a bark-control solution might be your best bet for your best friend.
If you have a dog who barks at night, there are ways to calm him down. If your dog is outside at night, you can bring him inside or try bark collars or outdoor ultrasonic bark deterrents that nestle unseen and unobtrusively in birdhouse-shaped containers.
The innovative PetSafe® Spray Bark Collar is another good option for bark control. When the dog’s specific bark is detected, the collar releases a quick, safe burst of spray in response to his barking. The collar sensors are designed to recognize your dog’s specific bark profile to avoid arbitrary spraying.
If you have a dog who barks at night while he's inside the house, he may be looking out a window and seeing or hearing sounds outside that are prompting him to bark.
“If he is reacting to things he sees in the window, close the shades and prevent him from visiting the window,” Goldman says. You can also consider keeping him in a room where he can't see outside.
Ultrasonic deterrents also limit barking inside. Indoor Bark Control devices from PetSafe® detect barking and emit an unpleasant but harmless ultrasonic sound only heard by dogs. Most dogs will associate the ultrasonic sound with unwanted barking and will limit their nuisance barking within a few days.
Another way to discourage night barking is to exercise your dog before bedtime. A good game of fetch or a long walk can help tire him out and make him less interested in barking at the faraway moon or that pesky unseen opossum.