Bedtime routines are supposed to help you settle down for the night.
Your dog doesn’t think so, though.
Saying the word “bedtime” is like pushing on the launch button. You release a furry missile that streaks all throughout the house.
You haven’t even made it under the covers yet. And already you’re having a nightmare.
At your wits’ end, you’re wondering what’s happening and how to stop it.
Well, wonder no more.
Read on to find out:
- Why your dog freaks out at night.
- What you might be contributing to it.
- 5 tips to help you avert this nightmare.
- And more…
Table of contents
- Why is my dog freaking out at night?
- 13 reasons why your dog freaks out at night
- 7 tips to calm down a dog that freaks out at night
Why is my dog freaking out at night?
Your dog is freaking out at night because they’re having zoomies or suffering from PTSD, illness, or phobias. It could also be that their routine was disrupted and their needs were unmet. Other factors include their diet, weather, changes, intruders, sleeping area, or separation anxiety.
13 reasons why your dog freaks out at night
#1: Post-traumatic stress
A lot of unpleasant things are associated with the night.
Dusk brings with it an uneasiness. That’s for most living on the side of the globe turned away from the sun.
It doesn’t include nocturnal creatures (the proper ones). Or self-proclaimed “nocturnal” humans, of course.
But your dog doesn’t count themself among those.
They might have a troubled history. If you look into their past, you might see a traumatic accident. A loss of a loved one. Or even physical and/or emotional abuse.
Dogs also suffer from post-traumatic stress, just as humans do. And this can be triggered at night.
The traumatic event might have happened after sunset. Or it might even have happened while the sun was high in the sky.
But nighttime brings with it a melancholy mood that can affect your pooch. And this can trigger an episode of PTSD that’s sure to have them freaking out.
You might prefer something more scientific. If so, VetMed lists one of the symptoms of PTSD in dogs: hypervigilance.
#2: Disrupted routine
You and your pooch stick to a schedule like bubble gum sticks to hair.
That’s great for you both!
You’re not the only one who likes doing particular things at a precise time. Your fur baby appreciates a routine as well. Hill’s Pet tells us that “dogs are creatures of habit.”
But the downside to this is they can get thrown off when that routine is disrupted. And unforeseen circumstances can and do visit anyone.
Perhaps you got held up at the office. Or you had to change the tire on your way home.
Or maybe it was actually something foreseen on your part but not your pup’s. Like a function at work.
Whatever the reason, you missed parts of your daily routine.
It won’t necessarily knock points off of your fur parent awesomeness rating. But it will have an effect on them.
You might find yourself dealing with a restless doggo. The energy they usually spend is pent up. They’re stressed because dinner was late. They don’t want to go potty after dark.
It’s going to be a very long evening for you both.
#3: Unmet needs
It’s similar to a disrupted routine. But with some variations here and there.
The routine was not entirely ripped up and thrown out the window. And by all appearances, you’re on schedule. But some things might have been overlooked.
It might have been the wrong kibble you gave. Or not the right amount. So you have a hangry pooch on your hands.
“I want more, dad!”
You realize your mistake later on. And you add more. Problem solved.
This particular problem, I mean. Because it just leads to another. Now they need to go…
You can train your dog where to do their business.
And for poop, you can also train them when to do it. If you strictly follow a feeding schedule, their bowel movement will do likewise.
Pee is a little trickier, though. Sure, you can measure out the right amount of water for their daily intake. But you can’t influence when they drink it.
Okay, you can actually do that when you play with them. They’re sure to refresh themselves. But you can’t determine how much they lap up at a given time.
And while you know that 6:45 AM and 6:45 PM are poop o’clock, pee time is up in the air. Even your dog’s bladder doesn’t know at what approximate time it’s going to empty.
So if your dog is restless at night, it might be that they want to go out for a tinkle.
It’s every dog parent’s bane. The zoomies.
You shudder just reading that word. It brings to mind all those damaged furniture and broken decor.
But it’s only natural. I mean the zoomies. According to AKC, zoomies are formally called F.R.A.P.
It’s an acronym that stands for Frenetic Random Activity Periods. It’s very self-explanatory.
“Tell that to my favorite vase.”
But allow me to elaborate.
Zoomies are your dog’s way of releasing pent-up energy. And as you and your vase have seen, there’s a lot of it. And it’s even more if they’ve been kept on a leash or in a crate.
They go throughout the day with virtually no activity. So they’re bound to erupt like a volcano come nighttime.
And this might be what part of your bedtime routine looks like:
Have you ever made the mistake of giving your little cousin too much chocolate? If you have, then you’ve also witnessed human zoomies.
Okay, that’s not what they’re called. They’re known as sugar highs.
But they’re essentially the same thing. Just in different species.
“The same thing?”
Why, yes. Certain foods humans ingest, in this case sugar, can cause a change in energy levels.
The same goes for dogs. It’s obviously not when they eat chocolate, though. But other sugars in their diet or treats can cause a similar spike in energy levels.
Dr. Karen Becker is an integrative wellness veterinarian. And she strongly advises against giving dogs food or treats with any kind of sugar.
This can lead to a number of health problems including diabetes and obesity. And it also gives you a ball of fur overflowing with energy.
So you don’t get the satisfaction of watching your baby sleep. You find yourself running around the house after them instead.
Human-canine communication is remarkable. But it has its limits. And this is most apparent when your dog is sick.
It doesn’t matter what you grew up watching on Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel. Your dog can’t come up to you and ask for a Tylenol.
It can be very overwhelming. They’re whimpering and you don’t know why. Pain is a good guess. But where does it hurt?
And sometimes, you have no idea they’re even in pain at all. Some dogs don’t make a sound. They suffer in silence instead.
But there’ll be other indicators of illness. For instance, they may grow restless at night.
They usually spent their evenings relaxed. They chilled at your feet while you watched something on Netflix. Or they snuggled up to you while you read a book.
But now they’re pacing back and forth. Just like grandparents-to-be outside the delivery room. This uneasiness can even cause them to get easily spooked.
So if they start freaking out at night for no apparent reason, you should get them checked. They may be suffering from illness.
Your dog freaks out on New Year’s Eve, the 4th of July, or on stormy nights. The night itself is not the reason why they do this.
It’s because they have phobias.
Yes, dogs are plagued by phobias too. Fireworks and thunderstorms are probably the first to come to mind. And for good reason.
Their most common fears have to do with noise.
Astraphobia is the fear of thunderstorms. It comes from the Greek for lightning, astrape.
It also goes by the term brontophobia which comes from the word for thunder, bronte, also in Greek.
Astraphobia is quite specific. It’s a fear of “extremely loud but natural noises in the environment.”
Perhaps that explains the findings of a study on noise sensitivity. It examined 17 dog breeds. They were exposed to:
Fireworks caused the highest frequency of fear. They came too late, though. The Greeks didn’t get to lend this phobia a name in their language.
But these fears can certainly explain why your dog freaks out at night.
Check out also: Can Dogs Die From Stress Of Fireworks? 9 Dangers + 7 Tips
Dogs aren’t the biggest fans of change. Even the slightest one can be a great stressor for them.
You might have moved into a new house. Or you’re in the same one but your partner has moved in with you. Or you just had a baby.
Nighttime routines are now different. And your pooch doesn’t like it.
If they’re in their adolescent stage, it could be worse. And yes, dogs go through adolescence too. And also yes, according to Blue Cross, they can act out the way human adolescents do.
Your little fur baby is becoming a, well… a big fur baby. They go through this stage sometime between 6 and 12 months.
So your pooch checks off the box on that age bracket. They’re freaking out at night because some change displeases them.
It could be down to nothing more than an adolescent throwing a tantrum.
Is it the turn of the season? If so, that could be why your dog is freaking out at night.
We’ve already established that dogs despise change. And that they can fear weather-related phenomena like thunderstorms.
But this specific change in weather can bring with it certain discomforts. It may be getting too hot for breeds that originated in the icy northern regions.
Or it could be getting too cold for your not-so-furry fur baby.
And the weather doesn’t just change with the seasons. It can change throughout the day. Temperatures drop during the night.
This discomfort could set your short-haired pooch on edge.
Your dog might be freaking out at night because you have new neighbors. And they might not necessarily have moved into the house beside yours. But in your very yard.
You might not mind. But in your dog’s book, these “neighbors” are more accurately intruders.
They can range from stray cats, squirrels, or raccoons. These critters are looking to spend the night in the security of
your yard your dog’s yard.
Or it could just be an owl perched on the tree outside. Or another stray dog having a look about.
Whatever and whoever they are, they’re not welcome.
Their presence could get your dog all worked up. So when night falls and they come “home,” Fido starts freaking out.
#12: Sleeping area
You’re starting to think that “Time for bed” means a completely different thing in dog language. Some incantation, maybe.
Because whenever you say those words, they’re suddenly bolting all over the place. You’re sure it can’t be a case of frapping.
They had their exercise. They were already tired and calm.
But when it was time to go to the bedroom, they turned into a ricocheting bullet.
If that’s the case, then they might not be too fond of their sleeping area. It could be the room they sleep in or the bed itself.
Think about it. If you knew you were going to be locked up, wouldn’t you relish your last moments of freedom? That’s what bachelor/bachelorette parties are all about, right?
Your dog knows they have to spend the next 8 hours or so in bed. So before you close the
cell bedroom door, they’ll run down the clock on the dying minutes of their freedom.
#13: Separation anxiety
This is probably the most common issue faced by dog parents. Especially if they got their fur child when it was still a wee pup. And even more, if said pup imprinted on them.
Konrad Lorenz was a trailblazing ethologist who described imprinting. It’s the phenomenon that occurs when a puppy sees and regards a human as “a parent or other object of trust.”
Most dogs are good boys and girls who just want to be by their hooman’s side. But some are more insistent than others.
Here’s a story.
My friend got her pup, Valkyrie, at 1.5 months old. Poor little Val had a bad case of separation anxiety.
If her fur mom moved a single inch or centimeter away from her line of sight, she would cry like it was the end of the world.
And that’s not an exaggeration. Once fur mom was out of Val’s view, she would immediately start crying. Even if her fur mom so much as bent down to pick up something.
Luckily for Val, though, she gets to sleep on her fur mom’s bed.
You can imagine how unpleasant bedtime is for other dogs who can’t do the same with their fur parents. And they know when it’s about time for fur mom/dad to retreat to their bedroom.
Of course, before they do that, they tuck in their four-legged baby. But four-legged baby doesn’t want to be tucked in just yet.
Like babies with half that number of legs, they ask for “5 more minutes” of something they love. And they’ll do anything to steal more time with you.
Even if it means part of your bedtime routine includes you chasing them all over the house.
7 tips to calm down a dog that freaks out at night
Dogs that freak out at night likely need more outlets for their energy during the day. But that’s easier said than done.
Fur parents have other responsibilities. And most of the time, this entails being away all day. It’s normal practice to keep the dog in a crate while they’re left alone at home.
And unlike some people may think, it’s not down to something selfish. Like making sure they don’t trash the house, for example. Or relieve themselves indoors.
Sure, those are some advantages. But the primary purpose has to do with the dog’s safety.
They could get themselves into all sorts of accidents with no one around to get them out. Keeping them in a crate is for their own good.
When you do come home to your safe pooch, though, you need to give them that much-needed exercise.
You can take them out to the park. Or if it’s too late for that, a walk down the street will do. You could also opt for some playtime in the yard if that’s more convenient.
But whichever you decide on, go all out. See to it that your pooch really expends all that energy.
Any leftovers will still have them freaking out at night. So make sure you exhaust them. A tired dog is a calm dog. And that’s what you’re hoping for, right?
Further reading: 15 Easy Tips To Calm A Restless Dog At Night (How-To)
#2: Music therapy
A review of 9 studies on music therapy in dogs gave its verdict. They found it guilty of being effective.
Classical music, especially, was found to have a calming influence on canines.
It’s no surprise. This genre has long been credited with several wondrous effects. For instance:
- Pregnant women who listen to it give birth to geniuses.
- Studying while listening to it will make you smarter.
- Cows that listen to it yield more milk.
- Playing Mozart helps in sewage breakdown.
But the thing is, not everyone is fond of it. If you aren’t either, I might have something more for you.
Another study was conducted and it found something interesting. Pooches have musical preferences too. And no, it isn’t Mozart or Rachmaninoff.
They actually like soft rock and reggae more.
So you’ll just have to figure out which of the 3 genres works best on your fur baby. Then play it for them in the evenings. Preferably after an exhaustive exercise session.
Then you’ll be able to cross out the word “zoomies” from your vocabulary.
#3: Make diet adjustments
Your doggo has nighttime episodes of freaking out. And you’ve figured out that their kibble and treats are the culprits. It’s time for a new menu.
The importance of a dog’s diet cannot be overstated. And while I’m sure you’re buying the products you think are healthiest, it’s best to double-check.
Read the nutritional content on the packaging. Do a little more research. And consult your vet about any changes you do decide to make.
A new brand of kibble just might result in a better-behaved pup.
#4: Make provisions for events
The calendar says December 31 or July 4.
The weatherman says there’s going to be a thunderstorm.
I say prepare for it.
Your dog has been with you for years and there’s no more doubt about their phobias.
Or you might have a new pup and it’s going to be their first New Year’s Eve, 4th of July, or thunderstorm.
Whatever the circumstances, make preparations.
It’s important to keep your fur baby as comfortable as possible. If you have certain phobias of your own, then I don’t have to tell you twice. You know how much it matters.
Now, New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July are big events. So I’m not suggesting you should sit them out and stay in with your dog.
But do something for them before all hell breaks loose in the skies.
You could build them a little fort. Or get them one of those collapsible tent beds. They can retreat there while waiting for things to quiet down.
Their favorite toys, some treats, and/or a stuffed KONG can help them get through the riotous evening as well.
Make sure to include their favorite toys, some treats, and/or a KONG. The KONG is a chew toy and puzzle toy in one. It’s a popular purchase for dog parents as it can be stuffed with treats or kibble. And it’s vet recommended too.
All these can keep your pooch preoccupied throughout the riotous evening.
And you can replicate the same setup for thunderstorms. But this time, you can be right by their side. Your presence will make it all better.
#5: Fix up their sleeping area
Your dog might be reluctant to go to sleep because they don’t like their room or bed. If this is the case, a revamp is in order.
You might not be on the same page as your dog about what makes a great bed.
But remember, they’re the ones who’ll have to spend the night in it. So don’t make a purchase based on what you think looks cutest. Or even which has the highest reviews.
Give a lot of thought to your dog’s individual needs.
Of course, the size of the bed you buy would be appropriate for your pooch. But there are more things to consider.
For instance, senior dogs would need a softer mattress. As would other dogs suffering from bone or joint conditions.
A long-haired breed would not appreciate a warm and fuzzy bed. But a short-haired one would.
You might also like: 17 Reasons Why Dogs Scratch Their Beds (Before Lying Down)
And as for the room in general, something might be ruining it for them.
There might be a draft. Or there are hooting winged inhabitants on the tree outside the window. Or crickets chirping away.
Or it’s next to your human baby’s room and they don’t like the wailing that goes off randomly throughout the night.
You need to make your dog’s sleeping area more comfortable for them. This way, you won’t have to chase them around when it’s time for bed. They’ll happily turn in for the night.
#6: Establish a bedtime routine
As I’ve mentioned earlier, dogs love a routine.
“Yes, but part of that routine is them running all over the place!”
I hear you. But once you’ve zeroed in on the main reason for that, a routine can help them settle in. Especially if you have a new little pup.
The success of a routine depends on your consistency. So stick to it, come hell or high water.
You may encounter hiccups with other aspects of the daily routine. And that’s totally understandable.
But there’s little to no excuse for not sticking to a bedtime routine.
You can plan it out according to your preferences. But allow me to throw in some ideas to help you get started.
At your chosen time, get your pup to put away their toys. If you haven’t yet trained them to do this, now’s a good time to start.
Afterward, take them out to pee. Then head back indoors and tuck them into bed. They won’t understand a bedtime story. But cuddles and belly rubs are perfectly comprehensible.
Shower them with those. It will help them look forward to bedtime. And you can even give them supplements to help them sleep through the night.
#7: Get them checked by the vet
I give this tip time and time again. And for a wide range of issues. That’s because it could mean the difference between life and death for your pup.
I don’t mean to sound so grim. But even if it isn’t a fatal illness, think of the pain and discomfort your dog has to endure.
Now, I’ve highlighted 12 other possible reasons why your dog freaks out at night. But even if they seem to fit one of those described, don’t entirely rule out illness.
Your safest bet is always to check with the vet.