There is nothing like that shot of pure adrenaline when your dog lets out a short sharp bark in the dead of night. You usually wake up with a gasp, and the sense that a murderer is in the house. After confirming that there is no impending doom about to happen, you look over at your dog, who is now looking at you with innocent eyes, or curled up back asleep. Great.
So why does your dog go from sleeping so peacefully for weeks on end, to barking during the night?
There are a few reason to consider:
1) He needs the toilet
If your dog usually sleeps all night without needing the toilet then there could be a few reasons why this wasn't the case that night.
He could be ill, in which case, a trip to the vets might be needed.
Or he could have drank more than normal before going to bed because you went for a long hike that day.
Or someone forgot to let him out before everyone going to bed!
2) He is responding to another dog barking in the neighborhood
Remember that scene from 101 Dalmatians where all the dogs in the neighborhood are barking to one another at night? Yep. That could be what is happening in your neighborhood...though hopefully not to do with puppies being stolen.
3) He can hear something rustling in the garden or on the street.
Mice, foxes, raccoons, rats, owls, people, cars, doors closing, deliveries; all things that can make noise during the night depending on where you live. He is telling them that he is there, and you that they are there!
4) He wants some attention
He made a few whines during the night, and got you up for some attention. He has now learned that any time he makes vocalizations in the night, you will get up and talk to him! Or if he is downstairs at night, he barks, and then you let him upstairs into your bedroom...well, that will definitely be happening again!
5) He thinks it is time to get up!
If your dog hasn't had enough stimulation and exercise during the day, he is less likely to sleep all the way through the night, especially if he is a young dog.
So now you know some reasons why your dog is barking at night, it is time to figure out which one applies to your situation, and how to prevent it from happening again.
Listen to the type of bark your dog is letting out.
Is it high? Usually this is an attention seeking sound.
Is it low? This is usually to warn something to get out of his garden.
Is it a whine? He might need the toilet or isn't feeling great.
What is his body language telling you?
Stiff and a lowered neck and head is a sign of an intruder in the garden.
Facing you, tail wagging? Definitely wanting some attention.
Is he by the door looking at you? He probably needs the toilet.
How can you stop your dog from barking in the night?
Now that you have an idea as to what might be the cause of his barking, it is time to prevent it from happening again.
If he is barking because he needs the toilet, you may want to take him to the vet. There can be an underlying medical problem like a bladder infection that will need treating ASAP.
It can be just as simple as removing the thing that can be causing him distress from your garden. For example, foxes digging around in the trash means that you should secure your trash better so that they can't get into it. A security light coming on can also cause a dog to bark. Neighborhood dog barking can be harder to prevent as you have no control over the other dogs. If you believe this is the case, try to tire him out more during the day so that he falls into a deeper sleep for longer. You can also play the radio in the room where he is sleeping (if it is not your room too!)
If he is barking for your attention:
You must ignore this. Unfortunately he is likely to ramp up his barking for a few nights if he has previously gotten away with barking for attention and you have caved. You may need to wear some earplugs or go to bed a little earlier in order to get a bit more sleep!
Take a look at his daily routine. Does he get enough exercise, mental stimulation and attention from you throughout the day? Increase these throughout the day and he is much more likely to sleep through the night as he will be tired.