Whether your dog's nighttime barking is causing dark circles around your eyes or problems with your neighbors, you may be looking for solutions to this troublesome behavior. Since dogs don't come with an "off" button, it's your job to figure out what's triggering the barking. Once you have determined the underlying matter, you can properly address it.
Check for Critters
If your dog is a mellow fellow for most of the day, but as night falls, he shifts into bark duty, there are chances he's barking at some nocturnal critters. A family of mice may have established under your deck or there may be bats flying at dusk. Skunk, raccoon or opossum are also nocturnal creatures. You may not hear them, but your dog may hear their presence in the attic, walls, ceiling gaps, crawl spaces and yard. Calling an exterminator may help you figure out if there are critters sharing your home and yard.
Bring Him Inside
If you keep your dog outdoors at night, he may bark at noises that aren't under your control such as your neighbor working night shift or police sirens. He may be barking as a response to other dogs barking in the distance. Also, he may be hungry, thirsty, cold, lonely or frustrated. Getting up angry and scolding your dog will only add to the noise. Best to bring him inside where noises are less intense, and preferably, let him sleep in your bedroom so he'll feel happier and less stressed.
See Your Vet
At times, a medical condition causing discomfort may play a role in your dog's nocturnal barking behavior. Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome, the canine version of Alzheimer's disease affects older dogs and may cause them to feel disoriented and confused at night. Dogs with bladder problems or bowel disorders may bark at night to ask to go out for a potty break. It's always a good practice to see the vet when you notice any new or unusual behavior.
Enrich His Life
If you're at work all day, your dog likely feels lonely and bored and will get overly excited when he hears you unlock the door. If you eat, watch TV and then go to sleep, your dog likely will not know what to do with all his pent-up energy. Barking may be his way to request attention or vent his frustration. Try cutting out some time to exercise your dog, play with him and provide mental stimulation. Alternatively, find a dog walker, family member or friend who can provide midday potty breaks and companionship. A tired dog is a good dog.
Change the Emotions
If your dog is particularly reactive or stressed by a specific noise, you can help him calm down by changing his emotional response. For example, if your dog barks when he hears sirens, toss him several treats in a row as soon as you hear them. Once the noise is no longer audible, stop giving treats. With time, the sirens will become a cue that treats are coming and your dog will anticipate them rather than focusing on barking. The process of changing emotions is known as counterconditioning.
Train to be Quiet
Your dog doesn't have an "off" button, but you can train him to stop barking on cue. Pat Miller, owner of Peaceable Paws, suggests practicing by saying "quiet please" in a cheerful tone when your dog is calm and not barking and feeding him a high-value treat when he pays attention. Repeat several times and then practice gradually in more distracting areas. When your dog gets really good in this, use the command to interrupt barking.