In most circumstances, being awakened at night by a barking dog is a major nuisance.
But when I hear a dog barking in the middle of the night, it’s rather reassuring. It’s good to know the dogs are out there, keeping watch.
We live in the northwest corner of Box Elder County, a very remote part of Utah, 35 miles west of Snowville, six miles off the closest paved highway. Our neighbors are scattered ranches, and the nearest is a mile away. So, being so isolated, dogs are really indispensable. Having good dogs around is comforting. We have three dogs: a border collie (Daisy), a blue heeler (Pody), and an Anatolian shepherd (Dutch). Dutch is a giant livestock guardian dog. He looks a lot like a yellow lab, but is twice the size.
These are real ranch dogs, tough, independent and streetwise (in a rural sense). They are outdoor dogs, sleeping in the yard, shed or barn, even in the dead of winter. No napping in front of the fireplace. They’ve never been penned up, confined to a yard, or pampered.
And, yes, they sometimes bark at night. But they don’t bark because they’re bored, lonely, or scared, or because they’re penned up and frustrated. They bark when they sense a threat or something out of the ordinary.
It might be a skunk, a racoon, or a coyote in the distance, some cows trying to intrude, or a vehicle out on the dirt road that leads to the Clear Creek Campground. Daisy, the little border collie, is our most impulsive barker and most impetuous dog. She’ll run out far out on the pasture if she hears a coyote howl. She’d be in big trouble if she caught up with a coyote by herself. But coyotes have no interest in tangling with Dutch.
Usually, when I wake up to dogs barking, it’s routine. They bark a bit and then stop. I turn over and go back to sleep. But there’s a big difference between standard barking and something more serious. Once you get used to the dogs barking, it’s obvious when something threatening is happening out there in the dark. The barking is much more frantic, and when Dutch lets loose, he sounds like a roaring lion.
We’ve never had anything dangerous happen at the ranch. But the dogs don’t take kindly to a racoon invading the chicken coop. And they definitely keep coyotes and foxes at bay. I have no doubt that if there was a serious threat, either animal or human, the dogs would make an intense ruckus.
That’s why, when the dogs bark, it’s comforting, rather than annoying.