Dear Porky and Buddy,
My dog Butch is driving me crazy. He barks and barks all night long. He has a nice house to sleep in and I keep him tied there at night so he can’t get loose and get into trouble. There is nothing going on when he does this so there is no good reason to bark. I am not getting any sleep at all and am about to try to find him a new home because I just can’t stand it. But I really love Butch and want to find a solution. Why does he do this and what should I do?
Where to begin? First, try putting yourself in Butch’s shoes (paws) for a minute. You are outside; it’s dark; your family is inside; if something frightening happens you can’t get away because you are tied up. What would you do? Yell? All night long until somebody finally came and rescued you?
Butch, in spite of his name, is not brave, certainly not when he is in a situation where he feels helpless and defenseless. He is scared, so he barks. He is also lonely, so he barks. Dogs are pack animals and his pack (that would be you) is separated from him for reasons that he cannot understand. He wants to get back to his den (that would be your house, possibly your bed). And there is also a good chance that he is bored. If, on top of everything else he is not getting the exercise he needs during the day and is not tired enough to sleep, then he is just sitting there in the dark with nothing to do. So he barks. And there is also good chance that at least a few times during the night you open a door and yell at him, right? Perfect. Now he knows that by barking he at least gets attention from his pack (you) for a little while.
So just bring him in, for crying out loud. Give him a bed of his own in a secure place and you go back to bed. Problem solved.
OK, but what if for some outlandish reason you feel that you just can’t bring him in at night. What then? Give Butch a den of his own. This should be a safe, secure and weatherproof doghouse. It should be comfortable inside, and you can make Butch feel as if you are sort of nearby by placing a one of your old, worn, unwashed shirts or a shoe, in his house along with his blankie and pillow.
Put his dog house somewhere that he can’t wander around and get in trouble, a fenced area or your garage maybe. DON’T tie him. This is the fastest way to create a serious problem barker with fear-related aggression problems and all sorts of stresses and phobias that lead to chronic and even pathological barking.
And make some daytime changes that may help. Make sure that Butch is getting plenty of exercise. During the day, he may not bark because he has things to watch and interact with. But if he is not tired at night, he may get bored and start barking. Concentrated, hard play time like fetch, jogging or traditional chase right before bed will help Butch sleep and get him into the habit of going to bed after his evening romp. It will help you sleep too.
In short, Butch is not barking just to irritate you. He is barking to tell you something, and it is your job to figure it out and answer him in a way that lets him be the happy dog that he wants to be.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter assistance, information and referral, adoption assistance to pet owners, humane education programs, foster care and adoption for pets in urgent need, assistance with lost and found pets. Our administrative offices and spay/neuter clinic are located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Check our web site at www.oswegohumane.org or call (315) 207-1070 for more information or to be placed on our mailing list for our newsletter.