Nighttime aggressive behavior is distressing because no one enjoys a puppy biting or nipping on the way to bed.
Why does your cute puppy start biting and behaving aggressively at nighttime?
What Causes Nighttime Aggression in Puppies?
There may be a single cause or a combination, but nighttime aggression in puppies is not a rare occurrence.
Possible causes include:
1. Energy Excess
If your puppy doesn’t get enough physical activity and mental stimulation during the day, it will have excess energy at night.
Although your puppy may release this energy with a zoomie, it may also behave aggressively towards you and other family members.
This aggressive behavior is a demand for attention. Your puppy has energy to burn and is demanding attention.
2. Tired and Grumpy
Your puppy’s nighttime aggression may be from excess exercise and a lack of sleep.
A tired and grumpy pup may express unhappiness with growls and nips because it is too tired to think straight.
Your puppy needs a balance of daytime activity and restorative sleep to be content.
If your puppy feels insecure while napping in the day, it will end the day feeling sleep-deprived.
Your puppy behaves like a tired toddler – refusing to go to bed and throwing a tantrum.
3. Fears and Phobias
Nighttime aggression may result from your puppy’s fear of the dark or another fearful association with nighttime.
A traumatic event happening at night may result in nighttime routines becoming a fear trigger for your puppy.
Your puppy has enhanced hearing and smell compared with your senses. Nighttime noises or the scent of wild animals won’t disturb your sleep but may make your puppy afraid.
Or perhaps your puppy was frightened by nighttime fireworks or a loud thunderstorm.
The original trigger has gone, but the fear associated with night remains.
4. Medical Issues
Typically, older dogs develop nighttime aggression because of medical issues like vision loss, poor hearing, or unbalanced hormones.
But if you eliminate all other causes of puppy nighttime aggression, your puppy may have an underlying condition that needs attention.
Although it is rare, if nighttime aggression persists despite all the actions you take, ask your vet to check for potential medical issues.
5. Fight for Dominance
If your puppy’s aggression seems to target you at night, your puppy may be asserting dominance.
As your puppy matures, it may try to assume the top dog position in your family pack.
Nighttime is probably the primary time you maintain your will that the puppy goes to bed.
During the day, dominance may not be a prominent issue, or you may not spot dominant behavior because it comes across as cute when your puppy demands playtime.
For whatever reason, your puppy may get into the habit of nighttime aggression.
Your puppy forgets the original trigger and behaves aggressively at night because this session is part of its routine.
Puppies are creatures of habit, and once a pattern becomes established, it takes significant effort to change.
Is Nighttime Aggression Normal Puppy Behavior?
Your puppy has limited communication options.
Nighttime aggression, where a puppy bites or nips to tell you what it is feeling, is a normal part of your puppy’s behavior.
Some puppies are less aggressive and pushy but may seem more aggressive as bedtime approaches.
You want to address the underlying causes because it is better to discourage puppy aggression and promote calmness and harmony.
Can You Stop Nighttime Aggression?
Before you can stop your puppy’s aggressive nighttime behavior, you need to understand the trigger and how to modify your puppy’s reactions.
Generally, your nighttime issues with biting and aggressive behavior result from your daytime routine not meeting your puppy’s needs.
If your puppy has excess energy at night, it is best to look at how you allow it to release its energy during the day.
Perhaps you can schedule an indoor exercise and play session in the early evening, about an hour before you want the puppy to settle at night.
If your puppy is tired and grumpy, look at daytime naps’ frequency and quality. Your puppy will only sleep soundly when it feels safe and secure.
If your puppy sleeps in a busy hall or kitchen, it may not enter deep, restful sleep.
Your puppy may seem to be napping but remains on alert for possible danger.
Giving your puppy ready access to a crate in a quiet corner with a blanket over the top may be sufficient to provide regular restorative sleep.
Assess your puppy’s daytime routine for the correct balance of physical activity, rest, bathroom breaks, and mental stimulation.
Redirect Attention to Toys
When your puppy starts nipping, barking, or growling, redirect its attention to an appropriate pull or chew toy.
Engage with your pup in play but ensure that it is gently and firmly directed to biting the toy or chewing on a puppy chew rather than your hands, arm, or feet.
Puppies like routine, so intercept your puppy and get it to focus on your preferred toy before it starts its pattern of nighttime aggression.
Change the Pattern
You can change how the evening routine proceeds.
You can opt to take your puppy out for a bathroom break and final walk half an hour before it typically displays nighttime aggression.
When you come back indoors, you can impose a preparing for bed routine that sees your puppy settle in its crate, bed, or another room for the night.
Provided you meet your puppy’s physical needs, you can impose a more relaxed regime without nighttime aggression.
Create a Calm Space
Your puppy will respond to a calm atmosphere, and if your puppy’s nighttime aggression is rooted in fear, you need to desensitize and restore confidence.
You can create a calm nighttime routine with music, scent, and perhaps a nightlight.
If your puppy is afraid of the dark, a night light may help your puppy gradually relax at night.
You can use dog hormones in the air to promote calmness and reduce anxiety.
You may opt to put your puppy’s sleeping area in a more secure space or closer to you to deal with separation anxiety or provide the reassurance of your presence.
Consult a Puppy Trainer
A puppy trainer can work with you to modify your puppy’s behavior and address any concerns over dominance and aggression.
A puppy trainer has experience with many puppy personalities and can help you assess potential triggers and actions to deal with nighttime aggression.
Talk to Your Vet
If your puppy seems anxious and fearful, your vet can suggest appropriate medication to promote calm behavior.
Plus, your vet can rule out any underlying medical issues that may contribute to nighttime aggression.
Will Your Puppy Outgrow Nighttime Aggression?
Although your puppy is likely to outgrow nighttime aggression by two years when most puppies settle down to become less excitable, you still want to resolve the issue.
Allowing your puppy to behave aggressively sets the wrong tone for your puppy’s future relations with you, people on the street, and children.
A puppy that feels empowered to bite when bored, unhappy, or full of beans is likely to grow into a problem dog.
Dogs that bite have a short life and are dangerous to others.
Regardless of the reasons for your puppy’s aggressive behavior, you want to train it to behave differently.
Remain calm while encouraging your puppy to redirect its attention elsewhere and reinforce the message (calmly and without aggression) that it is not allowed to bite.
Can You Mistake Something Else for Nighttime Aggression?
Some behaviors may look like an episode of nighttime aggression:
- Zoomies – a puppy frenetically running around is burning off energy. You can tell the difference by the happy expression on the puppy’s face and the short duration of the activity.
- Teething and mouthing – a young puppy goes through several weeks exploring the world with its mouth and changing from milk teeth to adult. Provide something to cool those hot and aching gums, and your puppy will soon stop biting you.
- Communication – your puppy may be trying to tell you it needs a bathroom break or is not tired. The effort to communicate its needs may look like aggression as it becomes increasingly frustrated.
The essential part of dealing with your puppy’s nighttime aggression or one of these behaviors is to ensure that your puppy’s needs are met and establish a suitable routine.
Are Some Dog Breeds Prone to Aggression?
Periodically some dog breeds get the label of being aggressive, either to other dogs or humans.
All breeds of dogs can display aggression and bite to defend themselves and their territory.
Some studies show that Chihuahuas are exceptionally aggressive, but there is little public awareness or alarm because their bites do little harm.
Some puppy breeds’ history and development give them a more damaging bite than others.
However, statistics on dog bites show that it is rare for family pets to be involved regardless of breed.
If you socialize your puppy with your family and help it to understand your rules on not biting, breed doesn’t matter.
Should You Worry About Nighttime Aggression?
Your puppy’s nighttime aggression isn’t a huge concern.
You can train your puppy to refrain from biting and impose a healthier routine for the evening.
In most cases, your puppy will soon outgrow this phase.
You still need to reinforce the no-biting rule and assess your puppy’s daytime routine, but most puppies will settle down.