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Crating MIGHT work, as you say he's better when you have him sleep in the bathroom. BUT, I am afraid that you can't, nor should you, stop the "first bark". I understand what you mean about it being very shrill, and startling, and irritating to your boyfriend. BUT, look at it from your dog's perspective....something either startled your dog or just alerted your dog. He is waking up out of a deep sleep, just as you are, to hear something that he wants to let you know about. It's part of a dog's "job" to let their human know when something or someone is on or near the property. He hears it, and he lets you know. Be lucky that he responds to you asking him to shhhh; not all dogs respond.

The desensitizing to noises might work, but as I say, if something wakes him up in the night, it would be hard to stop him from letting you know by barking....
 
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