Why Is My Dog Freaking Out At Night?

Photo of a scared dog. Why Is My Dog Freaking Out At Night?

Is your dog suddenly acting anxious overnight for no reason? Here are some clues about why is your dog freaking out at night all of a sudden.

If your dog is freaking out at night, it’s often due to unknown anxiety triggers. Typical examples are a change in their schedule, new additions to the household, a change in their medical state, or fear. Other less common reasons for a change in nighttime anxiety include needing to go to the bathroom and pent-up energy.

Why is my dog freaking out all of a sudden at night?

Dogs do weird things, and sometimes those weird things can refer to changes in behavior. From our point of view, there is no reason for those changes; but this is not the case with our dogs! Here are the most common reasons for your dog’s sudden nighttime freakouts:

  • A schedule change
  • New additions to the household
  • They have arthritis
  • They have undiagnosed dementia
  • Their eyesight is failing
  • They are scared of something they don’t understand in their space
  • They have an unmet need
  • They have pent-up energy

A schedule change

Dogs live and die by schedules. If there are changes to their schedule — even mild ones — then it can be enough to disrupt them and send them into anxiety, particularly at night. It’s essential to always keep your dog’s schedule as normal as possible so that their anxiety will be minimal.

New additions to the household

In this case, it could be another animal, a guest staying a few nights, or even just having a children’s playdate. Any of these could be enough to confuse your dog as to why there’s a strange person in their house. After all the excitement and anxiety, they might be wound up at night, causing nervous behavior. This should go away quickly once the guest leaves.

They have arthritis

When dogs are in pain, they can’t sleep properly. If they are older, they’ll struggle with joint and bone pain that leads to their bed no longer being a comfortable place for them. As this pain settles in, they’ll be anxious and restless to try to get more comfortable. If you think your dog is in pain, you’ll want to take them to the vet as soon as possible. Sometimes it can be another underlying medical condition that needs medical treatment.

They have undiagnosed dementia

Older dogs also can start to suffer from dementia. As they get more confused, they’ll get disoriented and feel anxious about the nighttime. This can be very hard for pet parents to bear since there is very little that they can do. Just reassure your dog and consider adjusting their sleeping situation (more on that later).

Their eyesight is failing

If your dog is suffering from fading vision or loss of vision itself, the darkness of the night suddenly becomes a whole lot darker. It also gets quieter, and since they can’t understand what’s going on the same way, they’ll get anxious. This will fade as they adjust to the darkness again with their fading eyesight. 

They are scared of something they don’t understand in their space

From nightlights to fairy lights to a new plush stuffed animal, your dog is scared of something new in your space, and they’re letting you know about it! As they adjust, they’ll settle down again. If they don’t, consider removing it from your space to keep the peace!

They have an unmet need

This is fancy terminology for your dog being hungry, thirsty, or needing to go to the bathroom. That’s why a bathroom break right before bed is such a good idea! If not, they’ll work at getting your attention however they can.

They have pent-up energy

A bored dog is a restless dog. If your dog has the zoomies or just doesn’t have enough time to move around throughout the day, they could be unable to sleep since they have all of this pent-up energy wasting away. Either playtime or a walk before bed will be a good idea to help them work out whatever energy is left.

Why is my dog restless and panting at night?

If your dog is restless and panting, it’s because they are either very anxious or in pain. You should address this behavior by taking them into the vet first to ensure that it isn’t pain. If it is, you can consider pain medication and other changes, which will elaborate on below!

Why is my dog scared and shaking at night?

If your dog is noticeably fearful and shaking, then you can assume that something is making them very anxious and/or fearful. While it can take some time to figure out what is causing it, it’ll be worth it to help your dog start to feel safe again! 

Why does my dog want to sleep with me?

If your dog is suddenly sleeping with you, assuming that they don’t usually, it could be that something to do with their typical sleeping location is causing them pain or fear. If they’re older, it is most likely going to be due to needing more support in their bed itself.

Why is my older dog restless at night all of a sudden?

A senior dog is most likely having pain and discomfort due to arthritis and losing their senses. Whether it’s vision or hearing loss, not understanding their vision or hearing change will be very confusing and fearful for them. This will lead to restlessness, whining, and more.

There could also be the option that they are dealing with the beginning of dementia, leading to serious confusion and disorientation. As this sets in and it becomes worse, this behavior may worsen. 

How to calm dog anxiety at night

So, now that you know all about the causes of your dog’s anxiety. You’ll want to figure out how to help them calm down and feel better at night to give you (and them) a better night’s sleep. Here’s the best plan to do just that:

  • Discover the underlying issue and address it
  • Adjust their sleeping quarters
  • Take their behavior seriously

Addressing whatever underlying issue you discover will help relieve their stress and worry, which is the first priority. 

When it comes to their discomfort in sleeping, be it from age or general anxiety, you can look at adjusting their sleeping quarters. For example, get them a bed that is going to support their joints and aching bones that set in as they age. Move their bed closer to, or further from, the air conditioner or heater, and offer them lots of blankets to cuddle up in.

The last and most important thing is to see that any behavior like this is a cry for help. If something is bothering your dog that much that they’ll be panicking at nighttime, chastising them for this behavior won’t do anything other than further stress them out. Address the problem, and you’ll do what is best for them in more ways than one!

What can I give my dog to sleep at night?

If you’ve done everything you can to quell your dog’s anxiety and you’ve reached the point where your vet and other specialists are recommending products, the best one will be calming treats. You can get a variety of them as far as flavor and portioning, so ask your vet for some guidance on those! This helps “take the edge off” and give your dog some much-needed support.

You can also try calming vests and some old-fashioned love and attention from you to help them find serenity. Sometimes that little extra attention can be all it takes for your dog to return to its normal self!

All in all

Seeing your dog have nighttime panic attacks can be frustrating and distressing, but you can help them get back to normal by learning about what’s happening behind the scenes and addressing their needs!

Any sudden change in your dog’s anxiety at night means that something has triggered it. It could be a schedule change, a new addition to the household, a medical issue that needs attention, or classic fear. Occasionally, it could actually be something more “normal,” such as needing to go to the bathroom or having pent-up energy.

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Andre Neves

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.