I was hoping to get some advice from you about a new annoying behaviour my dog Frankie has just started displaying – barking at night! It’s very tricky because she has always slept well outside but has suddenly become aware of cats and possums (I think), gets excited and starts barking. I often yell at her from my window or go downstairs to tell her to stop but by the time I get there she is already silent…. then I go back to bed and she barks again! This might go on for a little while but I am reluctant to let her bark since I don’t want to wake the neighbors. I end up letting her come inside to sleep which is probably rewarding her bad behaviour and ideally we would like her to continue sleeping out side. What would you suggest we do?
Thanks for your question Brigid. Night barking is a very common problem dog owners face and it can be a difficult behaviour to change. To start, let’s think about the perfect training scenario-
It’s during the day, you have your treat bag full of fresh meaty treats, your dog is hungry, the distractions are not too great, you have completed all of your jobs for the day, and now have some free time to walk and train your dog.
If you think of trying to change night barking behaviour it flies in the face of the perfect training scenario, it’s dark, you are in your pyjama’s, you have no time, no patience, no treats, and your dog is distracted. This is why night barking is so difficult to change. So Brigid, I would say, do not even bother trying to change Frankie’s behaviour, you will only exhaust yourself and reinforce the night barking by giving Franke attention.
The solution, lock Frankie up at night. It is best to lock her up inside somewhere so that she cannot be disturbed by night noises, dogs need sleep, and if she is being kept awake all night she will also be very tired and may not be at her best for you during the day.
You will find, over the course of time that you will develop a bedtime routine for Frankie. This routine should consist of going out to the toilet for the last time and sending her in to her night sleeping quarters with a treat. The routine will help Frankie predict what is going to happen and you will find that she will become comfortable with this. Once daybreak has occurred you can let her out again, you can even go back to bed if you wish.
Locking your animals up at night has the added bonus of keeping them, and other animals safe. A couple of weeks ago I was tapping away at my computer very late at night when all of a sudden I saw a huge creature pass by my office window, it was an enormous Brush Tail Possum, it wandered right past the laundry door (and dog door) where my cat and Dog, Nemo, sleep at night locked in. I hate to think what might have happened had the door been open. Night creatures can inflict horrible wounds on our pets, and I was so glad my animals, and the possum were safe.
Take care, and enjoy the peace and quiet of a good night sleep.