Behavioral problems

Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing?

Jungla Luque
By Jungla Luque, Ethologist and dog trainer. July 29, 2020
Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing?

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Dogs are very social and alert animals that try to communicate with their caregivers through many ways. One of the many is barking. Dogs may howl or bark when they want our attention, when meeting someone new, etc. However, some dogs may bark at absolutely nothing, leaving us wondering what exactly is going on.

In this AnimalWised article we're going to explain why your dog barks at nothing. We'll also go through different causes and solutions. Continue reading to learn more!

You may also be interested in: Why Does My Dog Bark At Me?
  1. Why do the dogs bark?
  2. Why does your dog bark at nothing?
  3. What to do if your dog barks at nothing

Why do the dogs bark?

Barking is one of the most common vocalizations in dogs, since to a greater or lesser extent all dogs bark. Each dog also has their own peculiar way of barking. For example, Siberian huskies emit barks similar to howls, while Chihuahuas have a very different short and high-pitched bark.

This peculiar sound is only characteristic of dogs, this is because their ancestors, such as wolves or coyotes, can't bark as adults. However, they do bark when they are young as it's a call for help when they're hungry, upset or hungry.

This means that during the domestication process of the dog's ancestor (which is also the predecessor of today's wolves), dogs that retained their own attributes were selected and bred, a process known as neotenization.

However, not all barking that dogs vocalize mean the same thing. For instance, the meaning of short barks and longer or barks or grunts have different meanings. Nevertheless, all barking is meant as communication. These are the main reasons for a dog's bark:

  • For attention, from their caregiver, another dog, etc.
  • To express they have detected something unknown on their territory.
  • Advise that they are about to defend themselves or their caregiver
  • Advise their caregiver of a possible danger
  • To express they are stressed or upset.
  • They're feeling happy or excited, perhaps when their caregiver comes home or they are about to go for a walk.
  • They're feeling lonely and need you company.

To learn more about why dogs bark, we encourage you to watch our Youtube video below:

Why does your dog bark at nothing?

There are many reasons as to why a dog may bark at nothing, here are the most common causes:

  • Spotted an insect: dogs are very alert animals that may spot certain things we don't because we're busy with something else. However, many dogs are curious and territorial so they will be alert about anything that's happening in their home. So, if your dog is barking “at nothing”, they may actually be barking because they have spotted something new in their home.
  • Distant noises: dogs have a great sense of hearing. In fact, dogs can hear 4 times better than the average human hearing. Therefore, many times when our dogs are barking for no apparent reason, they might actually be hearing something we can't hear ourselves.
  • Attention: dogs can also randomly bark in order to communicate with us that they want our attention. This can be because they are lonely, found something interesting or want to warn you of a possible danger.
  • Frustration: if dogs are feeling frustrated they may grunt or bark to complain. If we're not aware of their frustration we may see it as random barking at nothing.
  • Bored: sometimes dogs will bark because they are bored. They'll want your attention so you can play with them or take them out on a walk.
  • Defending territory: dogs may also begin to bark in order to defend their territory. Some dogs do this when they see a new dog or person pass by the house, others may even do it out of boredom. This can also be the cause if you have other pets.
  • Compulsive barking: compulsive barking could also be the cause as to why your dog is barking at nothing. This is due to separation anxiety. Perhaps a member of the family isn't home anymore or even another pet, this will cause them to compulsively bark as a form of tolerating their anxiety.
  • Bad training: another reason why your dog may be barking at nothing, is that they've been trained from a young age that it's okay to bark whenever they want.
  • Health issue: lastly, your dog may be barking because they are in pain. This will relate back to a health issue they are experiencing. If this is the case, it's very important that you seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing? - Why does your dog bark at nothing?

What to do if your dog barks at nothing

If your dog is barking excessively, it's normal for you to worry as a caregiver. Thankfully, there are a number of things you can do to avoid your dog barking at nothing. Here are our tips:

  • Take them to the vet: it's best to rule out health issues first. If you truly think that your dog is barking at nothing, it's best to take them to the veterinarian for a check-up. This way, we can detect any health issue they may have early on before it becomes serious.
  • Help them feel relaxed: if your dog is feeling separation anxiety, it's best to try to keep them calm and stay with them when they are feeling this way so they know they are not alone. To learn more, read our article on how to calm your dog down.
  • Reeducate attention barking: if your dog is barking just to get attention, try not to pay attention to them when they bark (if you wish to reduce the barking). Instead, pay attention to them at all times, or at least when possible, in order to predict what needs aren't being met. They may be hungry, bored or lonely.
  • Eliminate potential triggers: once you have identified what triggers your dog to start barking, try to eliminate potential triggers. For example, if your dog barks because they hear noises from the neighbours, you can try closing the windows to reduce the noise.
  • Increase physical and mental stimulation: a common reason for dogs barking for no reason and at nothing is because they are feeling frustrated. By providing them with enough physical stimulation (through walks, playing catch, etc.) and mental stimulation (through training or interactive toys). Read more on our article about dog intelligence games at home.

If you have tried these tips but your dog is still barking at nothing, we suggest taking them to a canine behaviour specialist. They will be able to best guide you towards solving these behavioural issues.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing?, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

  • Camps i Rabadá, J. (2000). Neotenization: Dogs come from wolves because of the human choice of their youthful attributes. Animalia: professional companion animal magazine, 124 pp. 44-48. ISSN 0214-3151.
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Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing?