One moment your precious pup does something so adorable it’s social media-worthy, and the next, he’s going crazy barking at what seems like the air (you might even feel a little embarrassed for him!). It seems so strange. So, what could be the possible reasons that have lead you to ask: why does my dog bark at nothing?
Your dog barks at what seems like nothing because dogs can hear and smell things that we can’t. Also, barking at “nothing” might be due to separation anxiety, boredom, frustration, or he’s feeling scared. Sometimes our dogs bark excessively just because they simply want our attention.
To find out what triggers your dog to start barking non-stop, read on! We will also cover some tips that you can use to stop overly excessive barking.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
Dogs bark as a way of communicating, which can mean different things depending on the situation. However, some dogs do bark excessively at nothing, which can be frustrating for pet owners.
In truth, dogs don’t just bark at nothing, as there’s always an explanation. The fact is that they can hear sounds and smell things that we can’t, so whatever they’re barking at may not be obvious to us right away. Some dog breeds are naturally more vocal than others, such as a beagle or a Yorkie.
That’s why you must try first to understand the potential reasons why it’s happening instead of reacting and reprimanding your pet right away. Once you’ve figured out the cause, only then can you start working on a solution.
Why Dogs Bark at Nothing
Before getting into how to deal with your pet’s unexplained barking, let’s talk about the common causes and situations that trigger or contribute to your dog’s behavior.
Barking When Alone
If you’re under the impression that your dog sleeps all day and is content in his own company while you’re at work, think again. Some dogs bark non-stop while left alone at home or get destructive or disruptive. They might dig up your floor, chew on your stuff, urinate and defecate anywhere, and try to escape. Other pups start barking excessively when they’re set off by a sudden or unexpected noise, such as a car horn.
Separation anxiety in dogs is a common issue and can be triggered when you’re ready to leave. It’s a habit that can be hard to break, especially when pets are used to people always in the house.
Barking When Bored
Your dog may not have separation anxiety, but after being alone all day, you can expect that your pup’s going to be craving your attention. It’s necessary to make time for your pet even if you’re exhausted from work because being cooped up inside and lacking playtime or exercise can stress your dog, which can lead to non-stop barking.
Dogs that are barking too much may just be trying to get you to pay attention to them and give them some mental and physical stimulation.
When your dog seems to be barking at nothing, it doesn’t always mean that he’s reacting to a smell or distant sound that you can’t smell or hear yourself. It might mean that he’s trying to get your attention, perhaps reminding you that it’s feeding or potty time. If your pup’s looking at you instead of something in the distance, then chances are it’s really attention barking.
Your dog might be trying to warn you that someone’s coming. If he hears something unusual or foreign to him even from several blocks away, he may also start barking, which can be frustrating. You have to understand, though, that anything unfamiliar to your pet may be a threat in his point of view.
Barking Due to Fear
If your dog is scared, he’s going to bark. The sound of the doorbell or the phone ringing, your neighbor honking his car, or even people passing by can scare him enough to trigger barking. While separation anxiety is more understandable, figuring out what causes your dog to be afraid and start barking excessively is a lot more challenging.
Canines are more perceptive than humans and are in tune with their surroundings. Sometimes, they simply don’t like some things or places.
Another reason your dog seems to be barking at nothing is frustration. If your pet’s toy is stuck under the couch and he’s trying to get to it, but he can’t, he’s going to start barking incessantly until he can get it.
If he hears or smells another canine nearby and he’s feeling territorial or if he hears something in the distance and wants to run to it but he can’t, he can get frustrated and start barking.
The trigger source might not be something that you can hear or smell, but it can seem near for your dog because of his enhanced senses.
Suppose your pet is typically mild-mannered, and he suddenly starts barking much more excessively than usual. In that case, you shouldn’t discount the possibility that he might be in pain or have an undiagnosed illness. One possible health condition is canine dementia, which can cause your dog to exhibit strange behavior, including pacing and barking at nothing.
How To Get Your Dog To Stop Barking
Barking is normal, but barking excessively at nothing can be difficult to solve. However, as the pack leader, it’s your responsibility to control your dog’s barking tendencies.
The first step in solving the problem is to figure out why your dog is barking. Then ask yourself when this behavior started, as a sudden change could mean a more serious health problem that only a vet can diagnose and treat.
Once you’ve determined the type of barking, you can proceed to the possible solutions below.
Use White Noise / Ambient Noise / Music
If your dog’s a nighttime barker, he’s probably only hearing faint sounds that are detectable in a quiet setting. One of the best things you can do to prevent this from being a problem is white noise or ambient noise (music or other sounds).
- Fan: The gentle hum of a regular oscillating fan is great for suppressing those environmental noises. This simple trick just might seem like magic when your dog is finally able to relax and sleep.
- Music: There is music produced with the sole purpose of helping pets to relax. One of our favorite collections is Music Dogs Love. This arrangement is among the best you’ll find to help ease your dog’s anxiety.
Use A Pheromone Diffuser
- Pheromone diffuser: Sometimes, unexplained barking can be due to stress. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to figure out what our dogs are stressed out about. But there is a secret weapon to help calm your beloved best friend…Mommy Dog pheramones. You can find such products online, and using a pheromone diffuser, such as this ADAPTIL® Diffuser, can help.
Keep Calm and Ignore Him
If you think your dog’s barking because he only wants your attention, make sure you don’t look at him. When he makes eye contact with you, he might think that he’s finally getting attention. Don’t scold him because that can make it worse, as he’ll assume you’re engaging him.
In cases like this, it’s best to stay calm and ignore him, which might temporarily cause your pet to be disruptive. Don’t acknowledge him until he calms down and returns to a passive posture. If your dog remains silent for at least 15 seconds, reward him with a treat.
However, your pet might start barking again shortly, so you need to keep doing the same process until he gets the message. He will either understand that being quiet will give him rewards or you will ignore him until he is quiet.
Keep Your Dog Active and Mentally Stimulated
Excessive barking is usually a result of pent-up energy. If your dog gets easily triggered, you might not be keeping him active and mentally stimulated enough.
To correct this, increase the time spent on daily walks or play sessions. Make the walk more challenging or add variety to your routes. Add some simple obedience training or work on his agility, which can turn your dog’s excess energy into something productive.
If your dog is typically left on his own all day, provide him activities that can keep him occupied, such as food-dispensing toys like this Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball. You can also ask someone to walk or play with your pet while you’re at work, or if you have the budget, drop him off at a doggie daycare center a few times a week.
Remove Potential Triggers
Control your dog’s excessive barking by limiting or eliminating possible triggers. If your pet usually stays in your backyard and he keeps barking at nothing, he’s likely hearing other people or animals from afar. If this is the case, keep him indoors.
If he’s feeling threatened or territorial, limit what he can see. Instead of chain fencing, use solid wood instead. When indoors, keep him away from windows.
Seek Professional Help
If you’ve done everything you can to address your dog’s excessive barking, but nothing has worked, it might be time to consult an expert.
Take your dog to a vet to eliminate potential health-related causes. You can also seek help from a dog behaviorist or trainer because they’re better equipped to find the root cause of your pup’s problems and know what to do.
Why Does My Dog Bark At Nothing? Final Thoughts
Dogs bark because that’s how they naturally communicate. They don’t just bark at anything; there are many reasons and factors that can trigger them to behave the way they do. When you brought your pet into your home, you committed to caring for him and providing for his needs, so it’s up to you as the dog owner and pack leader to determine the cause of his excessive barking and remedy the situation.
- Psychology Today: How Dogs Hear and Speak With the World Around Them
- Psychology Today: How Dogs “See” the World Through Different Odors
- Petfeed: A Full List of Dog Breeds That Bark The Most and Don’t Bark at All
- Cummings School News Center: How to Stop Attention-Seeking Behavior
- PetMD: Dog Dementia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Life Expectancy
- PubMed Central: Physical signs of canine cognitive dysfunction
- ResearchGate: A survey of public attitudes towards barking dogs in New Zealand
- Dog Coaching Academy: Why Is My Dog Barking At Nothing? – How To Stop Obsessive Barking
- Fetch by WebMD: Why Dogs Bark and Curbing Excessive Barking
- Texas Coalition for Animal Protection: Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing?
- ASPCA: Barking
- The Dog Clinic: Dog Barks at Nothing? Here’s Why He’s Really Barking
- SheKnows: Why Your Dog Won’t Stop Barking at Night (and How to Stop Them)