Dog Crying or Barking At Night: What It Means and What To Do

Have you ever been jolted awake in the middle of the night by the sound of your dog crying, howling, or barking? It can be an unsettling experience, leaving you worried about what’s distressing your four-legged friend. Dogs cry and bark for a variety of reasons, ranging from physical needs to emotional states. Understanding what’s motivating the behavior can help you address the underlying cause.

Here’s a quick interpretation:

Dogs typically cry or bark at night due to stress and anxiety, physical discomfort, alert behavior to strange noises or intruders, attention-seeking from boredom or loneliness, or lacking proper daily care and exercise. Identifying and addressing the underlying motivation through vet checks, training, routine, and meeting their needs can curb the nighttime vocalizations.

Common Reasons Dogs Cry or Bark at Night

There are a number of explanations why man’s best friend may act out in the wee hours. Here are some of the most common:

Need or Want

  • Hunger – A hungry dog may cry while searching for food. Make sure you are meeting your dog’s dietary needs.
  • Bathroom – Some dogs bark or cry when they need to go potty. Let them out to relieve themselves.
  • Boredom – Dogs left alone all day can bark for activity and companionship at night. Make sure your dog gets enough daily exercise and playtime.
  • Attention-seeking – Your pooch may want some quality time and petting from you. Spend bonding time together.


  • Pain or illness – Dogs in pain often vocalize. Have your vet check for underlying medical issues.
  • Confinement – Being crated or closed in a room away from family can cause crying. Slowly crate train to avoid this.

Stress and Anxiety

  • Separation anxiety – Dogs with this condition panic when left alone. Desensitize your dog to being alone through progressive training.
  • Phobias like thunderstorms or fireworks – Distressing noises can trigger vocalizations. Provide distractions to ease your dog’s mind.
  • New home, family members, pets – Major life changes are stressful. Ease transitions with patience, routine, and affection.

Alert Behavior

  • Intruder or threat – Your watchful pup may sense an intruder outside or hear strange noises inside. They “bark the alarm” to alert you. Do a perimeter check for peace of mind.
  • Wildlife activities – Nocturnal critters like raccoons or coyotes can also trigger protectiveness and barking. Block access so your dog feels safe.

Spiritual Theories

Some believe a dog’s night cries and howls hint at unseen dangers, mystical communications, bad omens, or the grieving process:

  • Warning of danger or evil
  • Seeking guidance from divine or supernatural forces
  • Signaling impending misfortune or death
  • Expressing grief over loss of a loved one
  • Detecting spirits or paranormal activity

These ideas may provide comfort to more spiritual-minded owners. However, more earthly explanations likely account for most cases of dogs vocalizing at night.

What To Do About Night Barking

Now that you know why your dog may be barking or crying out in the night, here are some tips to stop the behavior:

Rule Out Medical Issues

Start by taking your dog to the vet to address any pain, illness, or conditions contributing to the vocalizing. Medical causes can compound stress and anxiety.

Provide Proper Daily Care

Make sure you are meeting all of your dog’s fundamental needs – nutrition, bathroom breaks, exercise, playtime and training, a comfortable place to sleep, etc. Prevent discomforts that lead to crying.

Ease Anxiety and Fears

If stress is the culprit, work on positive conditioning tools like crate training and desensitization to the specific triggers. Secure your home environment so your dog feels safe.

Reinforce Calmness

Use treats, attention, and affection to reward your dog when they are relaxed and quiet during the nighttime hours. This positive reinforcement can help extinguish the barking behavior over time.

Ignore Attention-Seeking

If your pup cries for attention at night, resist the urge to respond. Giving them what they want teaches them to keep crying for your reaction. Divert their attention elsewhere instead.

Use an Anti-Bark Collar

As a last resort, citronella spray or shock anti-bark collars can be effective for excessive night barkers. Use proper training first before trying collar corrections.

While easing nighttime crying and barking takes time and effort, identifying the motivation and addressing the real issue through training, routine, and TLC leads to the best results for helping your dog – and restoring your sleep!

Common Night Barking Triggers

HungerRegular feedings
Potty needsAccess to outdoor relief area
BoredomMore exercise and mental enrichment
AnxietyDesensitization and crate training
Medical painVeterinary exam and treatment
Perceived threatsSecuring yard, blocking windows


1. Why has my dog suddenly started barking or crying at night?

There are a few possible reasons why this behavior may have developed, including separation anxiety, changes in routine, pain/illness, or even sensing potential household dangers. Take note of what else has changed lately or when the vocalizations happen to identify the cause.

2. My dog barks all night long – what can I do?

Excessive all-night barking likely stems from stress, boredom, lack of exercise, or attention-seeking behavior. Try providing more daily exercise and playtime, keeping them close to you at night, blocking outdoor views that overstimulate them, or training them to be comfortable in a crate for sleep.

3. I think my dog is barking at ghosts at night – could this be true?

Some believe dogs can sense spirits, but claims of ghost-sensing are unproven. More likely, the barking stems from hearing odd noises or seeing small movements that alert them. Desensitizing your dog to triggers and securing windows/doors can help ease their vigilance.

4. My neighbor complains that my dog barks and howls all night – what can I do?

It’s important to curb excessive night barking to keep good relationships with neighbors. Identify and address the motivation, whether it’s anxiety when alone, reactiveness to wildlife, or needing more daytime activity. You may need to bring them indoors at night.

5. What does it mean spiritually if my dog is crying at night?

To some, unexplained crying is seen as the dog communicating with the spirit world or supernatural forces. More likely explanations involve the dog being distressed, hungry, or responding to stimuli. Focus on addressing any physical or emotional issues driving the vocalizing.

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