It can be confusing to see your dog barking and howling at night. Barking and howling are common dog behaviors, however, when the behaviors occur alongside and also frequently, it is concerning and in some cases become problematic to the people around.
So what does dog barking and howling at night mean? And what can you do about it?
We’ll delve into the various reasons why dogs bark and howl at night and how to address this behavior.
Here’s why dog barking and howling at night happens
Dog barking and howling at night happens due to illness, attention seeking behavior, noise and smell sensitivity, boredom, separation anxiety, fear and old age. To determine the cause of your dog’s barking and howling at night, it’s important to pay attention to their body language and the surrounding environment to help you understand their behavior.
Is it normal for dogs to bark and howl at night?
It is normal for dogs to bark and howl at night. While some instances of barking and howling at night may be harmless and simply a part of a dog’s behavior, other instances may be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.
Reasons for dog barking and howling at night
A dog can also bark and howl at night due to illness because of the pain or discomfort they are experiencing.
howling at night is a way they vocalize how they are feeling and this can indicate to you that they are unwell and need help.
Other changes in behavior due to illness can include a dog becoming lethargic, retching, disinterest in any activities, loss of appetite, irritability, eating of grass, abnormal gait, and other strange behaviors.
Attention seeking behavior
Barking and howling at night is also a way for dogs to get their owner’s attention, either for affection or to get something they want.
Dogs naturally crave attention from both their owners and when they don’t receive enough of it, they might turn to barking and howling to get it.
This is especially true for dogs that are left alone for long periods of time and it occurs due to anxiety or loneliness.
Noise and smell sensitivity
Dogs have a much more heightened sense of hearing and smell than humans, which means they can detect sounds and smells that we cannot hear or smell. This heightened sensitivity can sometimes cause them to bark and howl at night.
Dogs are able to hear high-pitched sounds that we cannot, which includes a distant siren or the sound of a flying insect.
Similarly, a dog’s sense of smell is much more sensitive than ours, therefore they can detect even the faintest smells such as the smell of an animal outside.
Therefore, from a dog’s point of perception, there may actually be a reason for their barking and howling at night, but it may be something that is not noticeable to us.
Another common reason why dogs bark and howl at night is boredom. Dogs need mental and physical stimulation to stay healthy and engaged.
If they’re not getting enough of this during the day, they will resort to barking and howling at night, to vocalize their frustration.
Separation anxiety is a common cause of barking and howling at night in dogs. It happens when a dog becomes anxious or distressed when separated from their human family or left alone. It can also be caused by a lack of training.
Some dog breeds are more susceptible to separation anxiety than others and tend to suffer more from separation anxiety.
The anxiety can show up in a number of behaviors, including barking and howling at night, which is also accompanied by other behaviors including pacing, growling, or crying at night and destructive behavior such as digging, chewing, or defecation in the house.
Fear is a normal response in dogs due to a variety of triggers. These triggers include loud noises, unfamiliar people or animals, and changes in their environment
Fear and anxiety can also be caused by poor socialization, dementia due to aging, traumatic experiences, other perceived dangers, and illnesses that contribute to phobia and fears.
A fearful and anxious dog will show behaviors that indicate that they are distressed such as pacing, trembling, howling at night, drooling, excessive barking, growling at night, crying, snapping, incontinence, excessive grooming, and chewing on objects.
Older dogs may bark and howl at night due to old age health problems. Older dogs may experience sensory decline, which can cause them to become more easily confused or disoriented.
This means they may perceive sights, sounds, or smells that are not actually present. This leads to barking and howling at night because of a lack of understanding of their surroundings.
An aging dog can also bark and howl at night as one of the strange behaviors due to the decline in cognitive function commonly known as canine cognitive dysfunction (CCD).
The condition is similar to Alzheimer’s disease in humans, in that, when a dog gets older, their cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, audio or visual processing, and mental sharpness decline.
This causes them to become more anxious or stressed, and can lead to increased barking and/or howling at night and also during day time.
In some cases, older dogs may also experience physical discomfort or pain from illnesses, which can cause them to become more vocal, meaning they will bark and/or howl at night in response to discomfort or frustration.
Other strange behaviors in old age include sleeping a lot, sleep cycles disturbance, anxiety, restlessness, irritability, staring, getting lost, clinginess, disorientation, bathroom accidents in the house, or pacing for no reason.
What to do when your dog is barking and howling at night
Dogs may bark and howl at night for various reasons, and it is a common dog behavior. However, it can become concerning, and you may wonder what could be wrong with your dog.
You can stop dog barking and howling at night by understanding the reason behind it. Here are a few ways you can help a dog that is barking and howling at night:
Find the trigger
First, generally assess the possible reason behind your dog’s behavior, whether it is due to illness, injury, or any other stimulus. Observe their behavior and try to determine the cause.
Is your dog barking and howling at night repeatedly in a certain situation because they’re scared, sick or they have seen or heard something? Are they barking and howling to get your attention? Are they behaving this way to protect their territory? Are they barking and howling at night because of aging challenges?
Once you have a better understanding of their behavior you can act in a way that is appropriate and meet your dog’s needs. This includes:
Paying attention to the situation
If they are raising an alarm due something they have heard or seen that is a potential threat to them or to you.
If the barking and howling are due to fear caused by a particular trigger. Also, remove your dog from the situation and minimize exposing them to situations that may frighten them.
When to seek help
Consult a veterinarian if you are unsure of the cause of your dog’s barking and howling at night, if you suspect that the behavior stems from an underlying medical issue, or if the behavior is causing distress to your dog or to those around them.
The veterinarian will determine the underlying cause and offer advice on how to address the behavior.
It is also particularly important to see a veterinarian if your dog’s barking and howling at night is:
- A sudden change of behavior: If barking and howling at night is sudden or unusual, it could be an indication of an underlying medical condition or psychological problem. Your veterinarian will conduct a thorough examination of your dog, and perform necessary diagnostic tests to identify the reason for the behavior and provide a solution.
- The behavior is accompanied by other symptoms: When barking and howling are accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms such as loss of appetite, lethargy, or other behavior changes could indicate a medical problem that needs to be addressed.
- The behavior becomes problematic: If your dog’s barking and howling at night become an issue for neighbors, other people, or even for you, it is important to seek assistance. A veterinarian or professional dog trainer will offer guidance on stopping or minimizing the behavior.
The veterinarian may also refer you to a qualified dog trainer who can further help to adjust your dog’s behavior. A certified trainer can help you minimize and stop your dog’s behavior.
It is important to remember that it may take time and effort to address your dog’s barking and howling at night, and it may be necessary to try a combination of different approaches in training. With patience and consistency, it is often possible to adjust behavior.
Key Takeaway: Dog barking and howling at night
Barking and howling at night are common dog behaviors, but they can be due to an underlying medical or behavioral problem.
When your dog barks and howls at night, try to assess the situation to identify the possible cause to respond appropriately to the situation and help them.
Seek medical care if they present signs of sickness, or discomfort, or when you might not be sure what would be causing the behavior.