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Friday, 2 December 2011

Barking at all hours

Hi Dogs Today,

My five-year-old Greyhound, Suki, has developed an annoying habit of barking to be let out in the early hours of the morning. This started a few months ago with the occasional request to go out for the toilet, as we thought. Gradually this has increased until she now barks roughly every other night. I have recently had to move away into rented accommodation for work reasons, and have had to leave Suki and my other dog Oscar (a nine-year-old crossbreed) at home with my parents. Since prior to this I was living at home with my parents, Suki and Oscar have always lived in my parents’ home and have not been disrupted by my move. While very much a 'people' dog, Suki is not particularly attached to me personally, being happy with any family member, and since the barking first started just before I moved out, I doubt that it has any connection to my moving away.

As you can imagine, Suki's barking is very annoying for my parents and wakes first my mum, followed by my dad (my brother, his wife and their three month old baby also live with my parents). Because my mum is worried that my brother and his wife will be disturbed, she has always gone straight down and let Suki out, despite my advice not to as I believe Suki is seeking attention and thus being rewarded by my mum's appearance.

My parents make sure they feed Suki early in the evening and ensure that she goes to the toilet before they go to bed, so I can't believe she genuinely needs the toilet every time. Would it be reasonable to limit the amount of water Suki has access to in the evenings to make sure she isn't drinking too much (she always has drunk a lot more than my other dog, but it hasn't been a problem before)?

Please could someone advise me how my parents can deal with this problem? My mum is very busy and stressed at the moment, and lack of sleep really isn't helping! Times are tight for all of us at the moment, so we really need a solution that we can implement ourselves.

Any advice would be gratefully received!

Many thanks,

Rose Hodkinson, by email


  1. Difficult though it may be for a few nights, you're right - your family needs to ignore Suki's request barking; it will diminish if not attended to.
    Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable with limiting water intake; though I have heard of breeders lifting puppies water dishes in the evening & replacing the dish full of ice cubes instead; that way if a pup goes to the dish but isn't particularly thirsty, there's a little bit to drink & that's all.

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  3. It might help if your parents let her out in the garden later than usual in the evening, just to make sure she doesn't need to go out again until the morning, then when she barks in the night they should shout "NO!" firmly. Perhaps a few more times, if necessary.
    She may well have just got into the habit of going out at night but doesn't really need to.
    Most healthy dogs should be able to last all night.
    The fact she does it so often rules out her having any stomach upset. I wouldn't take away the water.
    Julia Lewis

  4. Late night/early hours barking is often one of the first signs of Doggie Alzheimers. However, five years old is still fairly young. A full vet check is probably the first option though.

    If you can rule out any underlying health issues then look at the behaviour side. She has probably found it rewarding to bark. She barks, gets attention (good or bad attention is still attention) and little stretch in the garden.

    It is hard to do but I would suggest ignoring the first onset of barking and then visit her an hour after the first bark, preferably when she is quiet or during gap in the barking. Set the alarm for a certain time and stick with it nightly. When you see her, be very neutral. Try and cut the communication that she may desire. Calmly let her out and allow her back in, then retire back to bed.
    Visit her at that time for a week and then, a week later, make it an hour later. Again, set an alarm to make the time consistent. Over the course of a month or so you will slowly condition her to see you and be let out at a reasonable time.

    It is not easy and is tough initially but things like this have to be done slowly, consistently and methodically. The good part is that as the weeks progress, it gets easier. Hope this helps.

  5. Is it possible that some outside influence is disturbing Suki during the night, thus causing her to bark and then decide she wants to go outside.

    Have you thought of getting a DAP diffuser or collar to help keep her calm during the night.
    Definately not responding to her barks should have some positive effect after a few nights, if only they can stick it out. Perhaps starting at the weekend, when the family have more chance of getting some extra rest, if they are disturbed during the night.

    Also how about putting some activity toys down, filled with treats or a portion of her food. Freeze a Kong with food in and this should last quite a while, and perhaps with a full tummy, Suki may decide to settle down again. Even something like the radio left on low volume, may help keep her settled.

  6. Joanne Drysdale BSc- dog behaviourist and trainer plus owner of 5 rescue dogs.

    Ideally your parents should ignore the barking but this can be very difficult and is not practical with a sleeping baby in the house. First things first you should get her checked over by your vet to rule out any medical conditions such as incontinence or a bladder infection. If you get the all clear then I would suggest that your parents take it in turn to set an alarm to get up ten minutes before the barking usually begins. Get up, go downstairs and let her outside without speaking to her, looking at her or touching her. Then go back to bed. Do the same for the next 3 nights. On the fourth night set the alarm for ten minutes later and repeat, after another few nights extend the time again and carry on in this manner until she is out of the habit of barking and holding herself until she is let out.

    Although you say you doubt the issues is due to you moving away do consider there might be some sort of anxiety involved. Greyhounds often internalise their stress so it can show up in odd ways or can affect their physical health. An Adaptil plug in diffuser might be worth a shot along with an item of clothing with your scent on it. Best of luck.