Why does my dog bark at night?

Whether your dog just recently started barking at night or this is already an ingrained habit, nighttime barking is frustrating and stressful for any dog owner. It is not always clear why a dog gets up to woof in the middle of the night and how to stop it.

The good news is that the faster you address this issue, the quicker your dog will stop barking at night.

Let’s look at the most common causes for nighttime barking as well as how you can address it!

Table of Contents

dog barking at night

Why is my dog barking in the middle of the night?

Barking is an expression of excitement for dogs. This excitement can stem from being startled, from wanting to play, from having a reactive or aggressive response, from stress (such as separation anxiety) or even because your dog is frustrated or bored. 

Dogs that bark in the middle of the night experience excitement then. Nearly always this is due to some sounds they hear. Because dogs have a much better hearing than we do, owners often do not know what exactly sets their dogs off. It might seem as if the dog is barking for no reason whatsoever.

small dog barking inside

Why do dogs bark at night when there’s nothing going on?

While it is often not obvious to us what our dogs bark at, they usually bark at some sound that makes them feel excited, threatened or nervous. These sounds can stem from a large variety of different sources, such as:

  • An animal outside the home (both wild animals such as raccoons or even a domestic cat)
  • The sound of the wind in the trees 
  • A car driving by outside
  • People coming or going in neighboring homes

Dogs are especially likely to bark in the middle of the night if there have been recent changes in their environment. This could be you moving to a different house, but it could also simply be that your neighbor’s work schedule changed and they now come home later at night. Even your neighbors replacing their front gate could result in a new sound that is perceived startling by your dog. And of course – once one dog is barking, they often entice all other dogs in the same area to bark as well.

Should I ignore my dog barking at night?

How you address the barking at night will depend on your dog’s overall disposition, how long he has been carrying on with this habit, how old he is and also how frustrating it is for you.

First of all, your dog should be restricted to one area during the night. Dogs that are excited and barking like to move around – and this motion will add to their stress. Especially if they can run up and down the hallway or from one window to the next, they are unlikely to calm down by themselves.

Ideally you should have your dog sleep in a room that does not have windows to the road or the backyard. That way he is not as tempted to bark at the window. You can also try to have your dog sleep in a crate to further restrict his access and keep him from running around and barking.

If your dog never previously barked in the middle of the night and you know what caused the sudden change in behavior (such as another dog moving in across the street), you can ignore it for a bit. Chances are your dog will settle down by himself once he gets used to the changed sounds.

On the other hand, if your dog already has a long history of barking at night, ignoring will not improve the issue. In this case you need to have your dog sleep in a quiet room as far away from any outside noise as possible. You can also try to use a white noise machine to add some background noise – this helps many dogs sleep better.

Your dog should always sleep inside, but especially if he has a problem with barking. If he sleeps outside, he will be able to hear all kinds of sounds that will set off his alarm system. Should your dog currently sleep outside and carry on with barking at night, bring him inside for his nighttime sleep.

Why do dogs bark at 3am?

Owners tend to notice their dogs’ barking the most around the early morning hours such as 2 or 3am. Once more, the reason dogs bark at this time is that they hear something that sets them off. If you live in an area with wildlife, it could be a variety of different animals outside such as:

  • Coyotes
  • Rabbits
  • Squirrels
  • Rats and mice
  • Raccoons
  • Badgers
  • Bears
  • Owls
  • Foxes
  • Hedgehogs
  • Bats

Because everything else is quiet at night, dogs are much more likely to react to sounds at this time. In the middle of the day there is usually enough noise (from cars, people chatting, household appliances etc.) that the quiet sounds of animals are not heard.

The Bottom Line

Dogs bark in the middle of the night because they hear sounds that excite or alert them. The best way to have your dog quiet down is to restrict him to one room while he is sleeping. This room should ideally not face the road if you live in an area with traffic, or the backyard if you live in a place with a lot of wildlife.

Your dog should not sleep outside, especially if he is barking at night. He won’t be able to settle by himself if he can constantly hear sounds that make him nervous. Bring your dog inside, both for the sake of your neighbors and your own peace of mind.

If you have had any recent changes in your surroundings – such as a move, or neighbors getting a new pet etc. – your dog may bark for a while at night as he gets used to the new sounds.

Once dogs get accustomed to the noises around them, they usually quiet down and sleep well at night.