Train A Puppy To Stop Barking All Night
You've gone and done it. You've found the perfect puppy and brought it home to spend the next 10 to 15 years with you in blissful happiness. The first day is simply wonderful as the two of you bond tightly. Eventually, it is time to go to sleep. You put the puppy in its crate, get ready for bed, turn out the lights and reflect on what a great dog you have.
Then you hear something.
A high pitched bark.
Then another one.
Then the barks start coming quicker and go on for hours. The barking only stops in the middle of the night when the puppy eventually just runs out of gas and can't help but fall asleep.
A puppy barking all night can drive you, your family and the neighbors batty. Is there anything you can do to change this behavior? Yes. Yes, there is.
Why does a puppy bark? It has little to do with the specific breed. A Bichon Frise puppy
is just as likely to bark all night as a Beagle
is. Dogs are pack animals. They are used to being with other dogs and are very social. In most cases, your puppy has just been removed from a litter where it slept in a warm pile of its brothers and sisters. If you put them in a crate at night and head off to the bedroom, the puppy is faced with spending the night alone for what is often the first time in their life.
Wouldn't you be a bit unhappy if you were in their situation?
The barking is obviously going to be annoying, but it is important to realize you do not have a "bad dog" or that there is a problem of some sort. The pup is just facing a new and often scary situation.
A Critical Decision
You face a critical question the first night you bring a puppy home; one that might address the barking problem. Where will your dog sleep at night? The choices are typically:
- Out in the yard,
- In a crate inside the home in a room other than your bedroom,
- On a dog bed in your bedroom, or
- On your bed.
Remember, the barking is really about the pup being alone. If you let it sleep in your bedroom, the dog is going to sense you are there and not bark. This is the easy solution. Of course, many people prefer to keep their dogs in other rooms or outside at night. Let's take a look at how to deal with barking in these scenarios.
Step One – Ignore Them
The best advice for dealing with a puppy that barks at night is to essentially tell them to suck it up and get used to sleeping alone. The way you "tell" them this is to ignore them. While this may sound harsh, you must realize that the barking is a technique being used by the dog to see what type of reaction it will get.
Remember the story of Pavlov's dogs? Ivan Pavlov was a Russian scientist born in 1849. He became famous as an advocate of the behavioral theory of classic conditioning. To this end, Pavlov found he could condition dogs to take certain actions for which they would receive a reward. This concept is still used today with dogs when they are rewarded with treats for taking a certain action, often during dog training sessions.
What does Pavlov and classic conditioning have to do with a puppy barking all bloody night? If you get up and go to the puppy, you are practicing a form of classic conditioning. By acting, you tell the dog barking is a way to get the reward it wants whether that reward is attention, food or something else the dog desires. This is the last lesson you want the puppy to learn because it will start applying the lesson to other areas of its life. This can make for an unruly dog.
Now consider the other side of the coin. If you ignore the barking, the dog will eventually realize the behavior does not produce the desired reward they desire. Eventually, they will stop barking. The question, of course, is just how long "eventually" will be before the puppy learns the lesson? There is no exact answer. Fortunately, there is another step you can take to shorten the time it takes to learn the lesson.
Step Two - Ya, Mule!
Dogs are active creatures. Huskies
, for instance, can run 60 miles or more a day in a cold climate without any health risk. Puppies tend to be sprinters more than marathon runners since they are physically small and still developing. If you expect a puppy to go to sleep when it has plenty of energy, it simply isn't going to happen. You need to burn off that energy so the dog not only wants to go to sleep, but needs to.
The answer to this energy issue is playing with your dog. You should start playing with the puppy an hour or two before you typically go to bed. Throw a ball. Play tug. Wrestle. The specific activity doesn’t really matter. Your goal is just to wipe out that puppy energy, so giving the dog physical and mental stimulation is the key. Eventually, you should notice the energy of the pup starting to tail off. Keep playing with them until they are exhausted. Then take the dog to its designated sleeping spot and put them in a comfortable position. They should be out cold for much of the night.
Many new dog owners assume their puppy can "hold it" all night long like an adult dog. This isn't actually the case. Most puppies need to go every four hours or so. Smaller breeds like the Papillon
, Shih Tzu
and Rat Terrier
will need to go more often. Even though they may be new to their crate, puppies naturally do not want to relieve themselves where they are sleeping. Given this, a dog that starts barking in the middle of the night might be trying to tell you a bathroom break is needed.
Prefer not to get up in the middle of every night? You need to potty train the puppy and yourself as well. Yourself? Yes, you must make it a habit to take the puppy outside for a bathroom session every single night just before bed. This must happen regardless of how good the movie is, how tired you are or how cold it is outside to name a number of common excuses! Stick to this schedule and your puppy should be able to make it through night, which eliminates one cause of barking.
Should you use a training collar with a puppy to keep them from barking? Invented in the 1960s, these collars are actually shock devices and are somewhat controversial. The reason? They stop your dog from barking by giving them a slight shock every time the pup tries to vocalize.
Most dog trainers will tell you training collars are an appropriate training tool. We disagree. Teaching a puppy through pain, even just a small amount, is unseemly. The puppy is in an entirely new environment. Shouldn't the goal be to give them as positive an experience as possible? We think so and shocking them is anything but a good experience even if the shock is slight.
On a personal note, I used to live in a condo next to a "rambunctious" family. They added a dog to their family that did nothing but bark 24 hours a day. The responded by buying a shock training collar. Did it work? Not at all. The dog just kept barking until the battery ran out. In short, this isn't the cure all some companies try to make it out to be in marketing pieces.
If you are considering using a training collar, let's make a deal we can both be happy with for your pup. Only use it as a last resort. If ignoring the dog and getting them a massive amount of exercise doesn't do the trick, then you can consider it. Before then, however, try to use positive approaches with your fur ball.
A barking puppy acts like a magnet. You just want to go to them and comfort them. Don't! Be tough. Be disciplined. Get through the night and then start a program of tiring out that little fur ball an hour or two before you want them to go to bed. Soon, your pup will be sleeping through the night and so will you!
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