It is easy to wrap your head around your dog ignoring you when there are other dogs around or if you are outside. Between all the excitement, noises, smells, and other distractions (for example SQUIRREL!), it is much harder for them to pay attention.
However, at nighttime when it is only you and your dog, there are fewer distractions. It might almost be boring at home. Family members are watching TV, doing homework, cooking dinner, and getting ready for bed. Lounging on the couch probably seems like the perfect time to invite your dog up to snuggle, but they ignore you, despite nothing going on.
So why does your dog ignore you at night?
Dogs ignore their owners at night because they have been reinforced to, they might be tired, sore, enjoy their own space, lack motivation, feel more comfortable alone at night, or are nervous. Some dogs, especially aging dogs, might lack the physical or mental capabilities to listen to you at night.
In this article, we will discuss several reasons why your dog ignores you at night. While we certainly always want our dogs to listen, not listening to you at night is not always about being naughty (although some dogs might need more training), but sometimes more about comfort or a dog’s personality.
I’ll give you some tips to help identify why your dog ignores you at night and how to get your dog to be a better listener.
Why Won’t My Dog Come To Me At Night?
Some dogs ignore you at night. They might need more training, have had too much training, cannot hear you, or simply are aloof by nature.
However, it is easy to mistake a tired, sore, or scared dog’s behavior of avoiding you for ignoring you. Just because your dog is not coming to you at night does not mean they are bad dogs. An aging dog or sick dog might not have the physical capability to come to you at night.
Let’s look at when your dog not coming to you at night is a training or behavior issue, or when it might be a health concern.
Reason 1. You Have Reinforced Your Dog To Ignore You
I know when I rescued my border collie, it was very important to me to train an “off switch” when we were in the house. I did not want a dog who was constantly bouncing off the walls which tends to be the stereotype of the breed. So we worked on rewarding calming signals like yawning and laying down.
Not only does this encourage her to calm herself down, but makes unexpected events like having guests over easier for her. Kikopup’s video “Capturing Calmness” is a great place to start.
I honestly think I trained her a little too well. Using positive reinforcement and verbally praising my dog for staying on her bed, I unintentionally conditioned her to stay on her bed or she goes into her crate and will not come out, ignoring me at night.
Reason 2. Your Dog Is Not Motivated
Remember my Border Collie who ignores me at night? While she likes being pet sometimes, she is not particularly a cuddly dog. Which means evening snuggles are not motivating for her. At night it is easy for her to ignore me because she has had dinner, playtime is over, and she is probably a little tired from whatever activity we did that day. So what motivation is there for her to not suddenly ignore me at night, especially when she is conditioned to lay down and relax?
Some dogs are more touch (as in petting) motivated than others and if they are not big into cuddles and they have already had dinner they might be less inclined to snuggle on the couch and instead ignore you at night.
There might be many reasons that a dog is not motivated to be touched or to become to you at night. They could have experienced a traumatic experience, be sore, be hot, or it is just in their nature not to like to snuggle. They also might need more training to help give them motivation to listen at night.
Reason 3. Your Dog Is Comfortable
If your dog is comfortable where they are laying or napping, they might ignore you at night.
In the winter when it is cold, my dogs are much more likely to come running when I call them to snuggle on the couch and watch a movie. However, during the hot summer, they are more likely to ignore me and instead cool off on the bathroom floor at night.
When your dog is nestled into their dog bed or cozy in their crate with the door open, they are probably very comfortable. If listening to you is not as rewarding as leaving their comfy spot, your dog might ignore you at night.
Reason 4. Your Dog Is Tired
According to veterinarian Sandra C. Mitchell, on average dogs sleep 50% of the day, or 12-14 hours. Puppies and senior dogs usually need more sleep than that. Dogs that have had a lot of exercise or extra training will probably pass out hard after their long day. So just because they are sleeping with their back to you does not mean they are intentionally ignoring you, they might be tired.
I have dogs that are normally quite cuddly at night, but when we have a full day of hiking or a nonstop day at an agility trial, they have not gotten their full 12-14 hours of sleep.
At night, they are so tired that it seems like they are ignoring me. Instead, they are probably just catching up on sleep. Some dogs sleep hard that they not only ignore you at night, but they start twitching in their sleep like this husky.
Besides being tired, a dog that spends the day going on an extra-long walk might also be sore. If they start to walk slowly on your walk and do not want to get up at night, they are not ignoring you but recuperating their sore muscles.
Reason 5. Your Dog Needs Space
Although dogs are social creatures by nature, sometimes even the most jovial dogs need space. Needing space could be the reason they ignore you at night. Perhaps it is because they want to stretch out more or are more comfortable in a different room (because of the bed or a temperature difference).
Meanwhile, some dogs are instinctively aloof. The Great Pyrenees and other livestock guardian dogs were bred to work independently from their handlers to protect livestock from predators. They had to be able to make decisions without human handlers, which has led to their stubborn yet protective personality. Breeds like these are likely to ignore you at night and probably prefer to sleep outside!
Finally, a dog who has had a stressful day might ignore you at night because they need space. Maybe they were in the car all day or heard scary noises like fireworks or a truck backfiring. Hiding is a symptom of fearfulness and stress.
Let your dog come to you at their own pace, but give them lots of encouragement and treats like in this video.
Reason 6. Your Dog Is Nervous
A nervous dog is more likely to ignore you than a relaxed happy dog. Anxiety makes them unsure about whether or not it is okay to come to you. They are not ignoring you at night to be naughty, they simply might not have the confidence to come to you when you call them over.
Check your dog’s body language. When they are too tired and ignore you at night, they probably do not even open their eyes. But stressed dogs will show appeasement signals. Rolling on their back, lip licking, lowering and curving their body, and lowering their head are signs of passive submissiveness. They want to come to you but something is making them nervous.
Whale eyes, shaking, drooling, or heavy panting are signs that nervousness is turning to anxiety or fearfulness.
Whether your dog is ignoring you at night because they think you want to clip their nails or bathe them or something about nighttime noises is scaring them, you must listen to their body language and give them space and time.
Never yell at your dog, especially when they are already nervous or stressed. Give them praise and treats to help reinforce the behavior that they do not need to ignore you when they are nervous at night, but instead learn to lean on you for support.
Reason 7. Your Dog Is Aging
One of the hardest parts of dog ownership is watching our dogs get old. Aging dogs slow down physically, they start to experience health problems like vision issues, weak back legs, arthritis, and incontinence. Their random lumps and bumps probably stress you out every time you notice them.
Furthermore, some dogs experience cognitive issues as they get into their senior years, causing new behavior problems like ignoring you at night. Dog dementia also causes increased anxiety, confusion, and spatial disorientation.
Sleeping more during the day can cause them to wake up and bark at night. Plus joint issues like arthritis make old dogs sore and confused, increasing irritability and the possibility of ignoring you at night.
Besides cognitive issues, your aging dog might be ignoring you at night because they cannot get around as well. Weak back legs mean that it is harder to get up when you call them, deafness makes it harder to hear you, and failing eyesight makes maneuvering around furniture and going upstairs more difficult.
So when your old dog suddenly starts sleeping downstairs, they probably are not intentionally ignoring you at night. They are aging and cannot hear, see, or move toward you as well as they could when they were in their prime.
Should I Be Worried?
Your dog might not be ignoring you at night, they could be sick. Sudden behavioral changes like low energy or not listening are a big sign a dog is sick. Ignoring you at night could be lethargy. Please take your dog to see your veterinarian if they have a dramatic behavior change like this. Other signs your dog is sick include:
- Not eating
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Trouble breathing
Finally, senior dogs deserve dignity in their older age. If you think your aging dog is in pain or experiencing age-related anxiety, talk to your veterinarian. They can prescribe pain and anti-anxiety medication as well as do routine exams and blood work to make sure your senior dog is living their best possible life.
How Can I Get My Dog To Pay Attention At Night?
Certain dogs are not particularly interested in paying attention to you at night. This could be because they are tired, comfortable, nervous, cannot hear you, or simply are aloof by nature and choose to ignore you at night.
However, it is important to be able to train your dog to not ignore you at night. When you call them, if they are physically and cognitively capable, they should come when you call. Not only is it a training issue, but if there is an emergency they cannot ignore you at night.
First, never punish your dog when they ignore you. This can scare them and they will not only ignore you, but hide at night, maybe under the bed.
Instead, use positive reinforcement training to condition them to come to you when you call them at night. Recall is very important both in and out of the house. Call their name, add “come” and reward them with a treat and praise when they look at you.
At nighttime, you can practice this while your water is boiling for your pasta or during commercials on the TV. This will encourage your dog to listen to you rather than ignore you at night.
Here is a great step-by-step video for recall.
Dog ownership is not always snuggles and cozy nights together on the couch. Individual dogs are unique in their personalities and some a more aloof, either by breed or because of previous experiences, and these dogs are likely to ignore you at night.
Furthermore, dogs that are tired or sore from a busy day, are nervous, or lack training and motivation to listen to you might frustrate their owners by ignoring them at night. Or their dog might be getting older, losing their hearing, becoming confused, or physically impaired.
While we can accept that certain dogs are less likely to cuddle than others, we do need to train our dogs to listen to us, even at night. If there is an emergency they need to have a great recall.
Using positive reinforcement like treats and praise will not only give your dog the foundations for a perfect recall but will build a relationship based on trust so that your dog will come to you when they are scared instead of ignoring you at night.