Dog Barking at Night for No Reason: Why the Sudden Barks?

why is my dog suddenly barking at night

Nothing beats that feeling of being completely relaxed as you finally drift off to sleep, nice and cozy in your bed. Then you’re dragged back to reality by your dog barking at night for no reason. The first time it started you might have thought your dog was suddenly barking at night due to a burglary, but after a few days came to realize there was nothing out there.

And that’s why this can be so frustrating; dogs can bark at night for no reason, but you never truly know so it always means you need to get up and check what’s going on.

I’ve times when my dog suddenly barks at night, and occasionally I have been able to figure out why he’s doing it. But other times, it has been for no reason (as far as I can tell).

In this guide I will explain why I think your dog is suddenly barking at night, with some tips on what you can do to stop it…. or at least understand the root causes better.

Why is my dog suddenly barking at night?

There are three main categories of possibilities as to why your dog is suddenly barking at night. The bottom line is, a dog is not barking for no reason. It could be for behavioral, medical, or environmental reasons.

The good news is that there are possible resolutions for each reason for a dog that has suddenly started barking at night. But, an element of detective work is needed so you can start to out how you and your dog can return to getting an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

dog barking at night for no reason
There are many reasons why a dog starts barking at night.

Reason 1: Behavioral

The first one to check would be behavioral reasons for why your dog is barking at night all of a sudden. For example, let’s say you’ve spent a lot of time with your dog during the day, then he may become anxious or frustrated when he is suddenly being separated from you.

The sudden night-time barking is his way of telling you that he needs you back by his side. Now, you could decide to take the easy option here and simply let your dog into the bedroom. But you need to be aware that this is a ‘sticky plaster approach’ to the problem because the issue is still there, you’re just covering it up.

Helping your dog to become more confident in spending time by himself even when you’re in the home is the key to resolving this issue. Here are my top tips for achieving that:

  • Stairgates: can be great options so that your dog can still gain reassurance from seeing you, but you’re creating that physical distance.
  • Combine your absence with getting something they love: for example, a new chew toy which is going to last them a while. It won’t take long before they’re delighted that you’re heading out or off to bed!
  • Take it slowly: a dog who is very calm by themselves for a minute is much better than one who becomes agitated after three minutes.
  • Plan time apart: for when your dog is tired and has a full tummy, they’re much more likely to then go to sleep.

If it’s a new puppy who is barking at night suddenly, then the chances are that he’s lonely. The move from being with his mum and litter brothers and sisters to being all by themselves is a huge change, so it’s no wonder they are feeling a little worried and concerned… your dog isn’t barking at night for no reason after all!

One of the best ways to resolve this to help with the sudden barking at night is to have your puppy sleep in their crate next to your bed.

Did You Know? Your dog could end up damaging his vocal cords by barking too much. Check out my investigation into how barking can give your dog a sore throat.

Now don’t worry, this is not the plan forever; it’s just for the first few nights. The added advantage of this approach is that you will hear them when they wake up and need to go to the toilet.

I mentioned that this wasn’t a permanent set-up, but if you suddenly move the crate from your bedside to downstairs, you’re going to get some barking suddenly. So instead, it needs to be a gradual process undertaken over a few weeks.

Your plan to adjust them could mean the following schedule:

  • Nights 1 to 4 by your bed.
  • Nights 5 to 8 at the foot of your bed.
  • Nights 9 to 12 at the bedroom door.
  • Nights 13 to 15 outside of the bedroom.
  • Nights 16 to 18 by the top of the stairs.
  • Nights 18 to 21 at the bottom of the stairs.

An alternative to this would be to leave the puppy to cry in the hope that they eventually become tired and fall asleep.

However, there are several reasons why we don’t recommend this option. First off, your puppy is barking because they are worried and lonely, and that’s not how you’ll want to start your relationship with them.

Then, there is the very real possibility that your pup will keep on barking suddenly for several nights and never be completely confident in their own company. Then there’s the nightmare of trying to function on a few hours’ sleep and having to apologize to your neighbors for also keeping them awake for half the night!

Handy Hint: I’ve previously written an in-depth guide to help you keep an anxious dog calm at night which includes tips to stop the sudden barking.

Reason 2: Medical 

The second possibility that dog is barking at night for no reason (although they are) is something health and medical related. Eeverything related to your dog’s physical wellness and bodily functions are included in this section for sudden nightly barking.

1. Your dog barks due to needing a pee or poop 

Now there could be a whole heap of reasons as to why your dog suddenly needs to toilet in the middle of the night. If they can’t get out of the room they are in, then you can’t blame them for suddenly barking at night to get your attention – that’s the sign of a well house-trained dog!

However, most dogs who have been walked outside towards the end of the day should be able to hold their pee until the morning.

  • Upset stomach from something they ate: this might be a new food or treat or something unidentifiable that they scavenged on their walk! Usually, most upset stomachs clear up by themselves, but If you find that things are no better after 24 hours or seems to get worse, then you should contact your vet for advice.
  • Drank more than usual: maybe it’s been hot, or your dog had been running around a lot before bedtime, meaning that they then needed to drink more to replace fluids. If this continues to be a problem, then you may need to change routine or swap to on-leash walking rather than running around before bedtime.
  • Didn’t go before bedtime: this is more usual with younger dogs who so very easily become distracted when they are let outside to toilet. What then happens is that they never get around to going before then being called back in. This might also be the case when it’s raining outside, and your dog doesn’t want to get wet so suddenly starts to bark! These are the times when you need to go out with your dog, perhaps on a leash so that you can supervise and ensure that everything that needs to be done is before bedtime.
  • Fed later than normal: if you’ve been out of routine, which has meant that your dog didn’t get fed until later, then their need for the toilet is also going to shift to a later time. To resolve this might mean making the evening feed a lighter meal.

Handy Hint: Your dog barking at night is one reason to not feed them too late into the evening. I’ve discussed this in depth and the other reasons why late-night feeding is bad in this guide.

2. Your dog barks because they are getting older

Sadly, as our dogs get older, age-related cognitive decline can be the reason as to why they begin to suddenly bark ay night for no reason, when they have previously slept through the night. Many older dogs start to bark at night due to developing changes in their behavior.

One way that this might show itself is through more barking than usual and becoming anxious when separated from their family.

At this stage in life, your dog will gain great comfort from being able to be close to you. There are also several medications and supplements which may help, so do have a chat with your vet – this could be an early way of spotting dementia in your dog.

3. Your dog barks due to pain or discomfort

You know what it’s like when you’ve got a painful back or a headache, it seems impossible to get comfortable to be able to get to sleep. Well, it’s just the same for your dog.

If you know that they have joint pains, then you might want to invest in a good quality bed (here’s the best on Amazon), which provides your dog with lots of support and lets them get comfortable.

This is also a good time to get your dog to the veterinarian to be checked over for any new problems or for medication to be adjusted for known issues.

Reason 3: Environmental

Another possibility for your dog seemingly barking for no reason at night, could be down to something that your poor human senses cannot detect.

Your dog has an amazing sense of smell. They can smell through vacuum packed sealed bags, it really is that good.

Dogs also have insanely good hearing that means they can detect movement even if they can’t see it. So that means that there could be things either inside or outside the home which are causing your dog to react, for example:

  1. Pipes and heating: check for noisy water pipes and the time that heating goes on and off. Your dog may be in a deep sleep, but when he hears those noises, it causes him to wake with a start and then suddenly begin barking at night.
  2. Noises from your neighbors: does someone come home or set off for work during the night? Even if they’re being super quiet, your dog will hear the slightest noise and let you know that there’s someone around with sudden barking.
  3. Other dogs barking you don’t hear: if your neighborhood has problems with other dogs barking, then it’s pretty likely that your dog is going to join in with the night-time chorus.
  4. Small pests making noise: is there any chance that there could be any other animals or pests inside or outside the home? Mice, for example, are nocturnal, so that means that they sleep during the day and come to life at night. Outside the home, depending on where you live, there could be a whole number of different creatures from foxes to squirrels through to coyotes and rabbits.

But how to manage environmental causes of night-time barking?

Well, often just leaving some soothing background music on overnight can make a big difference, it’s just enough to mask those noises. I’ve previously written a guide to what kind of music dogs like if you’re stuck for inspiration.

Other solutions include getting heavy curtains to reduce the opportunity for your dog to see what’s going on outside your home.  You might also find that having your dog sleep in a room that is more insulated from the noises could resolve the problem.

Conclusion

That startled response as the noise from your dog pierces the air, suddenly changes to panic as your thoughts flick between being scared of intruders and then of the neighbors being woken up.

Thankfully it’s unlikely that there it is someone breaking into your home, and anyway, most burglaries actually happen during the day. So, that might mean that there’s something else going on which is causing your dog to suddenly bark at night for what appears to be no reason.

But there always is a reason for your dog suddenly barking at night, so try to investigate all possibility and don’t scold them. They bark for a reason.

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Dog behavior always has a root cause. I personally love finding out about things like this, and here’s some other knowledge I can share with you.

Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/doodle-barking-dog-woof-brown-dog-2965983/

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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