Night Barking: anxiety/fear barking —> demand barking?

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Hoping for some advice and encouragement!

TL;DR – young-ish corgi has new night barking issues in crate. Problem is morphing and escalating, and we’re trying to understand the root of the problem. Seeking advice on how to move forward.

We have a 15 month old corgi who we’ve had since 11 weeks. He is crate trained: he sleeps in his crate at night in our living room with a towel over top and a fan on for noise. We also put him in his crate when we are out (never more than 4-5 hours at a time). This was all working very well. Beginning maybe around the 1 year mark he started howling occasionally in the night— presumably due to sounds outside. It’s been tricky because it seems that he won’t stop barking on his own when he has these fear barking episodes unless we come and check it out and say something like “you’re okay.” My husband is a light sleeper and waking up at 4:30 to work from home at the moment, so it has felt extra urgent to calm him down quickly so my husband can get some shut eye. This was working okay, but probably 2-3 times a week we would have a barking episode. Most times I could get him settled by reassuring him within 10-20 mins and get back to sleep. We never took him out of the crate.

We have been working with a trainer and for other reasons in combination with the night barking she suggested we talk to our vet about trying him on anti anxiety medication.

A couple weeks ago we started him on Fluoxetine (Prozac). 2 days in we had the absolute worst barking fit we have ever experienced. It sounded manic. It lasted for 1.5 hours and I think we made a fatal flaw that night by letting him out of the crate and taking him for a quick midnight walk, hoping for a “reset”. I played some lullaby music for him and sat near his crate until he appeared to be sleeping and snuck off to bed. That morning he had a second shorter barking episode at 5am.

We stopped the Prozac and have since started him on Clomicalm instead, as we were convinced that barking fit was a sign of increased anxiety with the Prozac (a side effect).

We haven’t encountered any middle of the night barking fits on Clomicalm so far (full effect isn’t until 4-6 weeks).

HOWEVER — he is now barking when I go to bed around 9:30-10. I can tell this isn’t fear barking.. he starts as soon as I shut off the lights and walk away. I think it’s a demand bark – he’s testing to see if I’ll stay and sit with him/reassure him, because obviously I have done this before, and I think our actions surrounding the extreme barking fit solidified our willingness to react to his barking. Because my husband goes to bed a lot earlier I have also felt urgency to keep him calm and not barking too much. Night before last it took me an hour of sitting/reassuring him before he settled while I slept on the couch.

That was the last straw and the realization that he’s just testing to see how far he can push it. At least that’s how it seems, anyways.

Last night we experimented with no reassuring/sitting with at bed time and just letting him bark. He went on for 2 hours. I eventually went out during a brief pause between barks and turned on the lullaby music. I didn’t acknowledge him. He fell asleep straight away after that.

So… what now? Do we have to sit through an extinction burst? Is that the right thing to do? Am I right in differentiating between the fear/demand barking? Do they need to be treated differently?

Any advice welcome.

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