Aggression is something that an owner would dread in their dog. When your dog is aggressive, he will display it through his body language and gestures. You may find him barking, growling, lunging, snapping, and biting. These are warning signs for you as an owner to act accordingly. Otherwise, your dog’s aggression could aggravate and reach a dangerous level.
Suppose you have one of those breeds with a reputation for being aggressive, like the German Shepherd, Chihuahua, or Rottweiler. In that case, you must immediately start socialization and obedience training to ensure his anger issues don’t flare.
Having said this, even the gentlest dog, like a Beagle or Pug, can get aggressive at the slightest trigger. Coming to the topic, has it happened that your dog gets primarily aggressive after night? He may be calm during the day. But, it’s after sunset that you notice aggression in his behavior. This could be problematic to you, and you may be pondering on the reason behind the same. Let us read on to know more.
What do You Mean by ‘Dog Getting’ Aggressive at Night?
You may have a dog who is calm and gentle throughout the day. But, when night sets in, there is a change in his demeanor. He turns aggressive and expresses his anger through intense vocalizations like growling, grunting, lunging, barking heavily, and biting. His aggression could be territorial.
Another dog is at home, and your older dog has to share his dwelling with the new entrant. This could trigger nighttime aggression.
Your dog might have the habit of resource-guarding his belongings, and the insecurities of losing them mainly at night might lead to aggressive tendencies.
It might be his fears or anxiety about something that aggravates at night. Your pet might even be in pain, which worsens at night. All these may account for nighttime aggression.
8 Reasons Why Your Dog Gets Aggressive At Night?
When you identify that your dog is getting aggressive, mostly at night, it could be bothersome for you as a pet parent. The onus lies on you to discover what is troubling your dog.
Once that is done, it will be easier to get to a solution. Here are some probable reasons why your dog can get aggressive at night.
1. His Anxiety Levels Could Get Higher At Night
Your dog could be anxious about something at night. It might be a phobia or a fear. You may have shifted him to his crate of late, and that is making him scared. His room is probably dark, leading to fear and aggression.
Each evening, your house might get noisy, which your dog doesn’t like. This makes him nervous and causes your dog to lash out at everyone at home.
2. Your Canine Demands Attention
Dogs are attention-seekers; they might become immensely aggressive when this behavior gets out of control. Your dog might get less of you during the day. So, at night, he needs your undivided attention.
He might vent his grievance by being aggressive if that doesn’t happen. This holds more relevance for puppies than adults, who always crave their owner’s love and attention irrespective of the time of the day.
3. Owner-Directed Aggression
Your dog’s aggression could be owner-directed, and he may vent his anger at you or his master. Aggression of this kind could be due to anger or fear. Your dog might either be afraid of you or has had an unpleasant experience with you that has triggered such an aggression.
You may have yelled at your dog for something he was doing that you disapproved of. It could also be that you went on to pet him when he was sleeping. This startled him and triggered aggression.
If this mostly happens at night, it could be that he doesn’t see more of you during the day. Whenever he interacts with you, he is reminded of the unpleasant occurrence. Hence, the aggression.
4. Increased Serotonin Levels in Your Dog
Serotonin is a type of chemical that is significant in controlling sleep, mood, and appetite. When these levels aren’t normal in your dog, it could hamper their sleep cycles. Your dog will likely sleep during the day and stay awake most of the night.
If your dog has serotonin syndrome, he will also display aggression and other signs. These include restlessness, disorientation, muscle rigidity, tremor, excessive panting, etc. It is a medical urgency, and you must contact the vet immediately.
5. Vision Problem at Night
Dogs do not see as many colors as humans do. Their vision is mainly limited to the blues and yellows. However, they have night vision, too, and can see in the dark. If you have a senior dog, then he could develop eyesight problems with age.
When your dog has glaucoma or other eye conditions, then he may have vision loss or night blindness. If your dog cannot see well at night, he could be frustrated and aggressive.
If your dog has a problem with his night vision, you could find him stumbling while walking or going up the stairs. He may even be reluctant to go out at night. If you identify that your dog has difficulty seeing at night, do not delay contacting the vet.
6. Effects of Medication
A sudden display of aggression by your dog could be an outcome of the effect of any medication your dog is taking. Some anti-inflammatory, anti-depressant, and anti-seizure medications could trigger aggression throughout the day or only at night.
Contact the vet immediately if your dog’s changing demeanor concerns the medicines he is taking.
7. Your Dog May Be in Pain
Some aches and pains aggravate at night rather than day. If you have an older dog, you might find him uncomfortable at night as his pain may intensify. If your dog suffers from osteoarthritic pain, it could worsen at night.
If your dog has arthritis, his joints appear swollen and may show lameness. So, when your dog is in pain, it is evident that he will show aggressive tendencies.
8. They Might Have Trouble Hearing
If your dog suffers from hearing loss wholly or partially, he will also be startled, anxious, and even aggressive. He could have ear problems due to old age, wax buildup, inflammation, infection, or a tumor.
So, under such circumstances, if there is too much noise around that your dog can’t comprehend, it could make him nervous, anxious, and aggressive; it could be that your home is silent during the day but noisy in the evening. That’s why your dog is calm in the morning and afternoon but gets aggressive at night.
Besides aggression, if your dog has ear problems, you will find him shaking his head excessively. His ear canal will appear red and swollen; you might spot dark discharge.
What to do if Your Dog is Aggressive at Night?
When you find your dog getting aggressive at night, you must find out the triggers causing aggression. Do not yell or shout at your dog.
Instead, you should understand what is causing the behavior and look for a solution.
1. Identify the Trigger
This is the foremost thing to do. Identifying what has led to aggression in your dog at night is essential. Is it the dark room that is making him scared and angry? Did you get another dog to sleep with your older dog? Does that make him aggressive? Is your dog mostly aggressive about toys, food, and other people?
Does he also look disoriented? When you look for all these questions, getting the answer and solving the issue causing aggression will be easier.
For instance, if you think the noise at home in the evening makes your dog aggressive, you can take him to a quieter part of the room and see if he calms down. It will be more of a trial-and-error process.
2. Calm Your Dog
When you find your dog aggressive, it is essential not to be harsh on him. If he is barking or lunging, it is better to maintain a safe distance. If your dog is command-trained, you could firmly say, ‘Quiet.’ But remember to be gentle.
If he listens to you, reward him with praises and treats. However, you must never try to calm your aggressive dog by giving him a treat. That would be a negative reinforcement. You could devise other calming techniques to soothe your dog if he gets aggressive. Relaxing music and messages may help lessen anxiety.
3. Be Calm
When you find your dog barking aggressively, losing patience and screaming at him may exacerbate the matter further. You must be calm and do your utmost to alleviate and soothe your dog.
4. Fix a Routine
If your home’s ambiance makes your dog anxious and aggressive, you could fix a routine so that he understands evening means relaxation. When you train your dog on socialization since his puppy days and get him used to thriving in varied environments, he will become more adjustable when he grows.
You may dim the lights and play soothing music to make your dog understand the changing times. When you have kids at home, ask them to lower the evening noise to relax and comfort your dog.
5. Talk To The Vet
Consulting the vet is essential if your dog is recurrently aggressive in the evenings. Do provide the vet with the minutest detail of your dog’s behavior. These include his feeding and sleeping schedule. You should even inform your vet if your dog is on any medication.
The vet will do a physical checkup to examine the reason behind your dog’s aggression. He will prescribe medications if it is because of any physical condition.
The vet may recommend training techniques for behavioral issues to help your dog overcome the problem.
Prevention of Aggression in Dogs at Night
When your dog shows aggression at night, you must find out what is causing it. Once you have identified the reason, you must devise preventive measures to control his aggression.
- Once your dog gets aggressive, things become unmanageable. You should begin training early to ward off such incidences. Socialization training may start when the puppies are 7-8 weeks old. The more you expose them to different people, environments, and situations, the better they will be able to adapt to their surroundings as they grow.
- You must take your dog for regular vet checkups to ensure he isn’t suffering from any ailments. Clean his ears regularly to keep wax buildup and any infections at bay. You should also take special care of his diet and ensure he gets all the essential nutrients. Sometimes, nutrient deficiencies could lead to several health problems and trigger dog aggression.
- Another important aspect is to give your dog sufficient exercise. When your canine is physically and mentally stimulated during the day, he will feel more relaxed and comforted at night.
- If you have senior dogs at home, you must ensure they are given a comfortable living space. You could arrange orthopedic beds to lessen their pain and discomfort during bedtime.
What to do if your Dog Growls and Snaps at You?
Whenever your dog is growling and snapping at you, some steps must be taken to ensure his anger doesn’t get into a bite. Here are some steps to take:
- If you perceive that your dog’s growling will manifest into biting, it is better to stay at a distance. You could let out a firm yet gentle ‘no’ or ‘quiet.’ If your dog follows your commands, he will stop. If he listens to you, do not forget to reinforce your dog positively.
- Never punish your dog for growling. When you do that, your dog might stop barking for a while, but the reason that caused it will not be eliminated. It will recur.
- You should identify the underlying reason for your dog to growl and address it immediately to prevent future occurrences. Your priority should be to soothe your dog in the heat of the moment and later find ways to prevent the reoccurrence of the situation. For instance, if your dog is uncomfortable seeing other dogs at the park, consider leaving the place immediately to lessen your dog’s anxiety. The next step would be to address the issue. If your canine has trouble adjusting to other dogs, seek the assistance of a dog trainer or behavioral therapist to help him out of the problem.
- Controlling the situations that led to growling and snapping is essential. If your dog is anxious when people are around during his mealtime, let him eat alone. He can be back with his group once he is done eating.
What Causes Nighttime Aggression in Puppies?
The reasons for nighttime aggression in puppies are closely similar to those in adult dogs. Let’s take a look at them.
- When your puppy isn’t sufficiently exercised during the day, he will try to release it at night. Your pup will want to play and run around. He may react aggressively when you don’t allow him to do the same.
- Fear and phobia are the other reasons your pup gets aggressive at night. Your pup may perceive unfamiliar sights and sounds as a threat in a new environment. So, he becomes startled and aggressive.
- If your pup is in pain and discomfort, which mostly intensifies at night, then he could also be aggressive. Perhaps your pup engaged in boisterous play throughout the day, which injured him. This could cause him to be aggressive at night. If he is of the teething age, it may be that the pain and discomfort elevated at night, causing your pup to growl and bark aggressively.
When you pet your dog at night, if he responds with a loud growl, then it is his way of saying ‘No.’ You must respect your dog’s decision and back off for now. Your dog could also be in pain, and if he has any injury or wound, he may let out a growl when you touch that part of his body.
You should also learn to distinguish a happy growl from an angry one by looking at your dog’s body language. When your dog is happy, he gives submissive grins and plays bows. If your canine is angry, he will appear stiff and maintain a serious expression.
Sleep aggression occurs when you wake up a sleeping dog suddenly. He is puzzled and startled and displays aggressive behavior. One of the several things you can do is to make noise and call out his name rather than coming in physical contact with your dog to wake him. Also, keep their bed in a silent zone so loud, uncomfortable noises don’t wake them up.
Seeing your dog calm during the day and aggressive at night may be stressful for you as a dog owner. Do not delay intervening immediately once you know what makes your dog aggressive each night.
This will provide relief to you and your pet. A well-trained dog will have fewer behavioral and adjustment issues. If you find coping with your dog’s problem difficult, do not delay contacting the vet.
Dr. Lillian is a D.V.M. passionate about promoting awareness of dogs. She shares her expertise through her blogs on canineweekly.com and provides animal care services, including internal medicine, dermatology, and emergency care. Dr. Lillian is committed to contributing to animal welfare.