The Nocturnal Hounds - Dogs that go woof in the night

DrPaul -

The Nocturnal Hounds - Dogs that go woof in the night

Have you ever heard your dog sleepwalking, eating or playing in the middle of the night? Here are a few reasons why this might be happening and how you can help to combat your pooch’s unsettled sleeping.


It could be all about the breed!

Now most dogs will generally adapt to your schedule and will likely choose to sleep when you do but there are some breeds of dog that are naturally nocturnal. The Great Pyrenees, Tibetan Mastiffs, Border Collies and German Pointers to name a few. These dogs are working breeds that are traditionally used as livestock guardians and so are used to being on high alert for potential threats in the night. This means that, as pets, they need to be worked and given plenty of active stimulation during the day in order to help them adapt to a ‘normal’ sleeping pattern.


A change in routine

This might be especially true if you have just moved home or changed your dog's feeding or walking schedule. A dog that is feeling insecure in new surroundings may manifest stress and anxiety by pacing the halls seeking comfort. Also consider that a change in their usual routine, such as a later dinner without a corresponding later evening walk, may also create anxiety or inadvertently cause your dog to need the toilet in the middle of the night. When moving home ensure your dog has their own personal safe space that they can retreat to straight away. It is always best to try and keep to your dog's routine as much as possible but if your personal schedule requires that adjustments be made, try to phase these changes in gradually.



If your dog is suddenly pacing the home after the loss of a family member, be it human or a fellow pet, your dog may be feeling lonely. The answer isn’t to necessarily replace the void, but to provide lots of comfort during their bereavement. Allowing your dog to sleep in their own make-shift bed in your room for a few nights may help to reassure them that somebody is there at night. Some dogs may benefit from additional exercise in their daily routine to help channel any anxious energy in a positive way. Calming pheromone diffusers and some anxiety medications may also help if your dog is really struggling with the changes in household dynamics.


Ill Health and Cognitive Dysfunction

Pain is one of most common causes of interrupted sleep so if you are unable to explain their restlessness easily it may be that your dog is uncomfortable. Dogs that suffer with arthritic joints or chronic health  problems may struggle to get comfortable or need to use the toilet more frequently. Nausea and gut cramps can also cause pacing and restlessness. Any changes or concerns should be discussed with your vet in order to treat any pain or discomfort your dog may be experiencing.


For some older dogs a condition called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). This condition is very similar to dementia in humans and can be the cause of an interrupted wake-sleep cycle. CCD is also accompanied by other symptoms such as house soiling, irritability and altered interactions and behaviour with family members. It is important to consult with your vet if you suspect your dog may have CCD and whilst there is no cure for this disorder there are things you can do to help settle your dog. A night light to aid poor vision, soft music and a bedtime massage and late night toilet trip are all beneficial in providing a calming bedtime atmosphere.


Some medications can also have side effects that could affect your dog's sleeping pattern. Always consult with your vet when starting a new medication and be aware of any potential side effects as this could explain a dog's restless night.

Paul Manktelow

Veterinary Surgeon

Dr Paul Manktelow is a vet who's worked for almost 20 years on the front line in some of the UK's busiest veterinary hospitals. Paul also appears regularly in the media as a TV and radio presenter, writer, public speaker and podcast producer.