Dog Barking at Night – Reasons, Prevention, Law, Training & Solutions

dog barking at night

Why is your dog barking at night? Barking is a vocalization used as a means of communication, natural instinct to stimulus, a past time, or a reaction. But maybe you find your dog barking more at night or in some cases, they only bark at night. In order to control behavior, such as preventing night-time dog barking, we first have to understand the cause.

Although we do not want to stifle our dogs, excessive night-time barking can be a nuisance to us and our neighbors. There are various different methods to control and even prevent this. Firstly though, the cause must be identified. It should be expected that the training will require patience.

Laws On Nuisance Dog Barking

Negative consequences regarding general dog barking and your dog barking at night can escalate beyond conflict with a neighbor. There are, in fact, laws concerning disturbances, especially at night. These can be notified to the police through a complaint that will be recorded. You can also contact your local environmental health department for their input.

If you are reading this article now as a neighbor, and want to know what the best course of action is, we would strongly recommend talking to your neighbor first. See what solutions are already in place and what you can help advise them with. If they refuse to help you, you then need to be aware of what laws you can pursue.

A general law exists where a complaint can be filed in about a dog barking if it has been persistent for over twenty minutes. If this law does not take place in your state, there is almost always a noise ordinance. This means any disruptive noise cannot take place persistently after (usually) 10 pm. Other firmer states will allow you to directly complain to the city council if they enforce an excessive barking law. This will induce a hearing for discussion of the appropriate consequences.

Where to Complain about a Dog Barking at Night?

If you are ever unsure, you can call the police on 911. Here you can file a formal complaint against your neighbor in regards to a dog. However, there are specific lines you can call depending on your state.

  • Consider contacting your landlord or homeowners association
  • Keep a record of how many times and when the disturbances have taken place
  • In severe cases, take your neighbor to a small claims court, no lawyer is necessary
  • In the most severe cases, consider hiring a lawyer. This can lead to legal action being applied, such as mandatory training classes or even restraining orders

Why Do Dogs Bark at Night?

We have collected nine various reasons to explain why your dog is barking at night.

Unexpected Noises

An unexpected noise can cause a dog to bark out of fear, anxiety or surprise. An example of a noise that may evoke a sudden reaction is a car exhaust or a large trash can being emptied and resulting in a bang. The negative emotions produced from the alarm of the sound will result in a sudden bark or prolonged bark. It is the same in humans where we will exclaim or gasp when something surprises or shocks us. It is an almost instinctual response of exclaim and warning to danger.

definition of excessive barking
The definition of excessive barking.

Why would they continue to bark once the noise has stopped? Well, if they are anxious, they may believe the noise indicates a threat. By barking continuously, your pup may believe that they are defending you, your family and their home from these worries.

Prey Drive

It is important to remember that although dogs have long been domesticated, they still have an instinctual drive. Some breeds will be more predisposed to this than others depending on how they were selectively bred. Whether it be because of hearing a noise or seeing movements at night, this may activate your dog’s instinctual prey drive.

This will cause them to bark, chase, and try to reach whatever it is that caused this response. This is seen especially if the animal runs somewhere near but not reachable for your dog. They will become increasingly frustrated and this can lead to a higher frequency of barking and intensity. Until the animal has been caught by them or runs away, the behavior will continue. Even if there is no animal there, the idea that their presence is near can set off the instincts of your dog and thereby this reaction.

Boredom

A lot of negative behavior can be presented from your dog when they are not stimulated enough. A lack of proper exercise, enrichment and play can lead any dog, especially high intelligence and high energy breeds, to distraction. It may be that they bark out of boredom to try to attract your attention or anyone’s attention so they are being enriched. It can also be that your dog is simply barking as a pass time. As it is something to do to release energy and frustration.

Boredom based barking can be difficult to identify, but you can usually notice it through what it is targeted at. For example, those barking in one direction or trying to get somewhere usually are displaying behaviors of frustration at a target, and not in general. Boredom based barking can often be identified through directionless aim and alterations in the frequency and how loud it is. This is different in every dog though, so do not assume.

Pain

A worry for any owner is if your dog is attempting to communicate with you that something is wrong. In the case of pain, it is difficult to identify through barking alone as each dog will display things differently. Where one dog may become withdrawn and silent, another may bark profusely. Different breeds, personality types, and ages will react differently to pain. So it is about knowing your individual and being aware of behavioral changes.

Furthermore, if your dog’s barking has changed and you suspect it is because of pain, the next step is to monitor symptoms. Does the barking occur constantly, with more movement or at a certain time of day? Have their habits with walking, eating or defecating changed as well? These are key signs that something is wrong. Furthermore, the barking may be because of an increase in pain and it is an outlet. Or it may be that they are doing so to communicate to you that something is wrong

Anxiety

Anxiety and stress are amongst the main causes of a dog who barks regularly. An individual who has anxiety will often struggle with negative outlets to try and release excess energy and worry. These outlets may include vocalizations, destructive behavior, and increased movement. This is because increased anxiety will often result in an adrenaline rush. Something which biologically influences your dog’s behavior; often to extreme measures. How can you tell if your dog’s barking has anxiety as the main or only cause?

If the anxiety is caused by an event, for example, separation anxiety from you, and this is when the barking increases according to your neighbors, it is logical to assume situational anxiety is the cause. However, if the barking is general, appears to be targeted at nothing but is accompanied by pacing, panting or other anxiety-based behaviors, your dog may have high anxiety constantly. The reason for this then needs to be discovered.

signs of separation anxiety in dogs and puppies (infographic)
Signs of separation anxiety in puppies and dogs!

Other Dogs

Dogs will regularly bark at one another for a form of communication, this can be positive or negative though. Your dog may be excited to play or engage in social interaction with this other dog they can see. Therefore, the excitement manifests itself into barking, jumping and often pulling on the leash. Similarly, your dog may also do so to try to gain the attention of the other dog. This is so both can then pursue a social interaction, usually done so by barking and pulling on their leads in the direction of one another.

The other reason your dog may bark at another dog is out of defense. This is especially common when they are in their yard and a dog walks past. The barking will be used as a warning to stay away from the property and to alert them that the area is already owned and is being defended by them.

Attention Seeking

This reason behind barking is commonly seen in high energy, high anxiety, and high intelligence breeds. This is because anxious dogs will attempt to alert their owner to their feelings and worries in hopes of comfort. A high energy dog, however, may be doing this as a form of communication. They may be trying to ask for enrichment, stimulation, or exercise. Furthermore, when a dog has increased intelligence, they will require more stimulation, challenge, and interaction. If this is not being provided to them, they may bark to try to attract your attention to give these forms of comfort or to express their frustration at you.

Regardless of the cause as to why your dog is trying to gain attention, they are barking to try to communicate with you. Try not to get frustrated as they are just trying to tell you something which they may not be able to communicate in any other way.

Old Age

With old age comes problems. These can be physical, such as arthritis, cataracts or incontinence. Or they can be mental, such as your dog having higher anxiety, needing more comfort or generally being confused about the situation.

There is a form of dog dementia that you need to be aware of. They have increased confusion about themselves, you and where they are. These can lead to unusual behaviors and emotions. For example, your dog may believe that you are an intruder and they do not know you. This may cause excessive barking and aggressive behavior towards you. A similar situation may be if your old pooch has cataracts. They may not be able to see who you are, again think that you are an intruder, and begin to bark, growl and raise their hackles.

Bathroom Needs

You may find your dog barking excessively to alert you that they need to use the bathroom. The more frequent the barking and vocalizations, the more desperate they may be. This comes from a well-trained dog trying to communicate that they do not want to defecate or urinate inside and want you to let them outside.

Some dogs are a lot quieter than others and may infrequently or gently bark to convey the need to use the bathroom. It is one of those situations whereby knowing your dog, and their breed, you will be able to understand their forms of communication more. However, the barking is almost always accompanied by your dog standing by the door to your yard or even scratching on it. This is another form of communication to explain to you their needs.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Barking at Night?

Once you have identified the reason for your dog’s excessive barking, you can put into place the most appropriate method to stop your dog barking at night.

Here are some of the most recommended solutions to curb excessive barking at night.

Ignoring

In a similar way to a child throwing a temper tantrum, sometimes the best option is to ignore your dog. Therefore you will not encourage the behavior of barking. For example, if they are barking at the treat cupboard to try to get you to give them some treats. Yelling at them will not be beneficial as it does not convey to them you want them to stop. It just shows you are angry which may scare or upset your pup. Training will work but may not be the best technique to use in this situation. As it will still be giving your dog attention when they bark and this may be accidentally, positively reinforcing the behavior.

Make sure to never ignore barking when there is a genuine reason that needs aid. If they need the toilet, are frustrated or have been locked inside all day, make sure to cater to those needs. Barking never exists to annoy you, it exists to communicate.

Closing Windows & Shades

This is a very simple technique for when your dog is barking whilst looking outside of your window. They may believe that they have seen a person, dog or small animal. All of these can frustrate your pet and cause them to start excessively barking until they are either outside or have been able to interact with whatever moved. Closing the windows will minimize the noise for neighbors and should prevent you from getting complaints. Which can be a big worry. Closing the curtains can prevent your dog from seeing or thinking that they’ve seen any movement. This should thereby preemptively stop your dog from being frustrated, and in turn, barking.

Note that once your dog has begun barking after seeing movement, shutting the curtains will probably not stop the barking as they have already seen what has frustrated them. In this case, it is better to calm them down or let them outside for a little while.

custody of an excessively barking dog
Repeat offenses may find you liable but a one-off should be fine!

Bathroom Before Bed

This is another preemptive measure you can take to stop your dog barking at night. By making sure your dog goes to the toilet before bed, they are less likely to wake up in the middle of the night, needing to go to the toilet. If they are not waking up desperate, you will not be woken to barking at your back door.

You need to make sure that your dog is actually going outside to use the bathroom and not going outside and getting distracted. They may just sniff, run around or dig a little, but if you are not watching and checking them, they may sneak by you without using the toilet. Therefore, you will probably wake up to them barking once more.

Stand by the door and just watch to make sure they go to the toilet, give them verbal encouragement and reminders if needed to make sure they stay outside and go to the toilet without getting distracted.

Training

If you are able to train your dog a command to stop barking, this is a brilliant way to control excessive barking. Firstly, you must be aware of the potential problems with this method. If the reason your dog is barking is that they are in pain or are trying to communicate something important to you (barking at the postman does not count!), then stopping them from doing so means you cannot help the main problem. For example, if they are barking because they are in pain and distress, and you use a trained word to stop them from doing so, they may remain in pain and poor health.

Training your pup is a great bonding method and can help prevent unwanted behavior. Just be sure that you understand the cause of such behavior first before pursuing this method.

Draining Their Energy

Perhaps you have noticed your dog has a lot of pent up energy and you suspect they are barking from frustration. The best way to combat this is to make sure they are getting enough exercise and stimulation daily, especially before bedtime. Take them on a long walk, and if it is possible, try to let them off the lead to run around. Having this space means they can run around at full speed and burn off all their energy relatively quickly. If you are out walking them, be sure to always have some water and a dog bowl for them to keep them hydrated.

However, if you are at home and cannot walk them for whatever reason, play with them outside. Throw a ball or use a tug rope for a while to stimulate them and burn off energy. Keep playing with them until they begin to show a lack of interest or act like they are getting particularly tired. They will sleep like puppies after that!

What are the Best Solutions to Excessive Barking at Night?

The two top solutions to preventing excessive barking at night from your dog are understanding of the cause and preventing barking at a young age. Often, puppies will start a habit young which is accidentally encouraged through positive reinforcement.

In this case, their little yaps are seen as cute and they are watched and cuddled for doing so. It quickly becomes less cute when you have a large dog with a booming bark telling off all the neighbors regularly. Start training young and often, and notice unusual differences in your dog’s behavior alongside barking. These are the key to altering their behavior.

Positive Training

Positive training is that which uses either positive reinforcement or association to encourage the dog to stop or continue a certain behavior. This is often done on cue or in response to a term. Positive reinforcement is to encourage a behavior or lack of through something the dog enjoys. For example, when your dog stops barking or remains quiet, you can give them a treat or attention, this should not be given until they have completely stopped barking.

Training through association, in this case, is where your dog learns a certain word or noise, for example, means to stop barking. This can be trained by using a clicker and treat whenever the dog stops barking. Eventually, hearing the clicker will result in a positive association with the treat and your dog will stop barking. The younger you start to train them in these ways, the easier and quicker it is for them to learn.

Dog Silencer

A dog silencer is a small, handheld machine that detects a dog’s bark and will emit a high pitch sound to disrupt them. The brand we are focusing on in this post is the ultimate bark control silencer. Advertised as safe and humane, this product can emit sound up to 60 miles away and detect dog barking from 22. The ultrasonic sound will distract your dog from barking and humanely prevent them every time they do so. Although, if they are barking for a reason that requires your aid, this product will prevent the symptom but not the problem.

Citronella Collars

A citronella collar is advertised as a safe alternative to shock collars. It sprays citronella into your dog’s face when they bark. This is negative reinforcement training. Every time your dog barks, they will have the unpleasant sensation of having citronella sprayed in their face. Many do not support citronella collars as it prevents barking entirely, a natural dog behavior. Furthermore, it is unpleasant for your dog and can scare them, a manner of training that many professionals do not encourage.

Bark Collars

Bark collars are a type of collar that negatively reinforce barking, such as the citronella collar mentioned previously. Others can include ultrasonic sounds and electric collars.

Many breeders and owners will not support the use of bark collars, especially electric collars. These are known to cause pain, distress, and anxiety in dogs and will only prevent the symptoms, not treat the problem. Ultrasonic collars are advertised as humane and a safe alternative to electric collars and have a microphone on the to recognize when your dog is barking.

Clicker Training

Clicker training is a positive training technique that helps your dog to learn through association. By clicking the tool alongside a positive reward such as a treat or toy when the dog stops barking, they will begin to associate silence with the clicking and a positive feeling. This means they should slowly begin to bark a smaller amount and this will be done in a positive manner with minimal distress.

Night Time Dog Barking – FAQs

So you can confidently say you understand why your dog is barking, how to treat the problem and what negative effects may come with, we have answered common questions!

Here are the top six questions about why dogs bark at night.

Is a dog barking at night illegal?

A dog barking at night is not necessarily illegal. It becomes a mild offense when the barking is excessive or can be classified as a noise disturbance. This can usually be called so if the dog is barking past 10-11 PM and they do so for more than twenty minutes.

The noise disturbances can be recorded by the police and multiple disturbances can lead to a fine, arrest or a claim in court if small courts have not already been involved. Every state has different laws so it is best to research what your options are, whether you’re a frustrated neighbor or a worried owner.

legality of dog barking at night
About the legality of a dog barking at night.

Can police take my dog if a neighbor complains?

Just because a neighbor complains about your dog’s barking once, does not mean you will lose custody of the dog. Things become difficult when there are added claims or any other cases against your dog.

Have they been aggressive before, perhaps to another animal or human? These can weigh up against your dog and mean that they could be viewed as dangerous, an offense that can result in your dog being taken away. However, disruption is a case where an offense is placed onto a human in most states and the fines and police time will accumulate without progress. Do check your state laws as every state has different procedures.

Why do dogs howl at night?

The main purpose of howling, similar to barking, is for communication. Dogs do not actually howl at the moon but instead communicate using howling more frequently at night. The area is quieter with fewer cars, and dogs are able to hear each other more easily, therefore howling and barking at night is much easier to hear than during the day.

Wolves do the same as a lot of their prey would be asleep during the night and it would make hunting a lot less noticeable. This is a trait that is still deep within the instincts of your dog, even though they are domesticated and far evolved. They may also howl because of similar reasons that they bark. They may do so due to anxiety, frustration and even as a reaction to noise.

Do dogs see ghosts when they bark?

Here at Breeding Business, we know that being open-minded gives us the tools to learn and understand. Whether we believe in ghosts or not, let’s tackle this question for those who do believe and reference those who are professionals. The AKC consulted professionals here to ask for their opinion and they elaborated that dog’s sixth sense, hearing and sight are all much more advanced than ours. Their detection of noises and movement is so much better and therefore it is a certain possibility. Furthermore, we cannot condemn the idea that dogs can see ghosts when we simply do not possess the senses our dogs have.

However, regardless of whether dogs can see ghosts or not, there will definitely be reactions that can be explained by their behavior or physiological state. Regardless, if you are someone that is spiritual and are not sure if your dog can see ghosts, we recommend conducting your search like every other, through their behavior. Their barking may have links to the many other methods we have previously stated, but if they do not match to any and their personality varies in these situations, perhaps they can see things we simply cannot.

Why do dogs howl at the moon?

Dogs do not actually howl at the moon. Dogs will often howl when it is dark because of the reasons we have explained previously, but the moon has no link to why they howl and the frequency. It is usually just that things are quieter at night and dogs feel they are able to communicate more thoroughly and be heard/hear better.

Should I give my dog attention at night when they bark?

This is very much dependant on the reason. If they are barking out of fear and anxiety, such as due to fireworks, attention and love can comfort them greatly. However, if they are barking at night for treats, to attempt to wake you up for attention or anything that is unnecessary, do not encourage or reward negative behavior.

Always put your dog’s needs first, if they are barking for the toilet, frustration or any other reason as such, aid them. However, if they are barking out of bad behavior, ignoring them can be the best protocol because attention will only enforce them that barking gets them what they want.

The method you choose to treat a dog barking at night should all depend on the reason they are doing so. If you are a frustrated neighbor, contact their owner and see what procedures, if any are already being used.

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