What do you do when your dog wakes up suddenly and starts barking in the middle of the night? I’ll tell you what I do…
I was house sitting for some friends. In the middle of the night, one of their dogs lit up, ran out of the bedroom and started barking.
This was a big home, isolated on a quiet big lot in a quiet affluent neighborhood. It was unusual for this dog to bark unless someone had arrived. He was barking, and I was up. I kept the lights in the home off and went into Beast mode. There were occasional robberies in this neighborhood, so I wasn’t going to take this passively. Something set him off, and I wanted to find out if we were in danger.
Interesting. He went from room to room on the first floor, going from window to window to bark. Then he ran upstairs to check out the bedrooms upstairs, doing the same, then came back downstairs. I had my phone with me in case I needed to call 911.
After a while, with me stealthily going around the home, I could tell no one was out there, so I told him “Good boy”, petted him on the back, and then went back to bed.
I know some people ignore their dogs, or tell them to shut up, when they bark. I don’t. If they are telling me they think something is wrong, I trust their senses and go check it out with them, day or night.
On the other hand, I had a student in central Phoenix who heard a robber trying to break into his home in the middle of the night. He got up, alerted his dog (a large Australian Shepherd that didn’t like strangers), opened the front door, and went out with the dog. The dog cornered and knocked down the bad guy, he told the guy to get lost, and the guy ran off. I asked him if he looked to see if there was a second robber. He said he didn’t look. Bad idea. He was lucky, he could have been ambushed. It wasn’t a safe neighborhood (there had been 5 murders within a 1 mile radius of his home over the past year), and criminals often come in pairs or threes. My opinion? If he knew someone was trying to break in, he should have awakened, gotten his wife and new baby to a safe place in the home, had her call 911, he should have alerted and waited for the police. Let the dog do its job by making noise in the home, and let the dog be your first line of defense if the person gets inside, and if the police haven’t arrived, then the fight is on. But I think it was a serious error to go out and confront the robber the way he did, in the middle of the night, without calling 911, without securing his wife and child, and without thinking there might be another criminal. He wasn’t the police. Yes, he was a formerly in the military, but I think his tactics were not well thought out.
I have a general idea about being safe in a home at night… from pre-planning your landscaping to locking doors to outside lighting to having a way of alerting the police. However, you should not use your dog as your only line of defense. Robbers can defeat a dog. A dog is primarily your first alert, sometimes even before your alarm system goes off. Take advantage of their acute hearing and their ability to warn you. All of the dogs I’ve owned have been protection breeds, but I never expected them to be my only defense.
I also teach my dogs how to greet strangers and work on getting them to obey and settle with guests, so they know when I need them to back off and to control themselves. I also don’t shut them down when they are alerting me to potential danger, and in fact, encourage them to do their job of protecting home and family. The better the training, and with additional thinking, you can be a lot safer when you might have an emergency. I think you can get some advice from the local police on how to make your property more secure, and what to do in case of an emergency.
Be safe. Learn how to work with your dog as an element in your home defense plan.