How many times has your pooch made you wonder: Why do dogs bark at nothing?
Nearly every dog owner has experienced it. You’re sitting in the comfort and quiet of your home when your dog startles you with sudden loud barks.
You hurry to your pooch in an attempt to find out the reason behind the barks.
However, you discover that your pup seems to be barking at nothing and for no apparent reason.
Some dog owners are even tempted to think that their dog is going crazy or sensing something supernatural.
If this is you, don’t get worried. Your dog is perfectly sane. Here’s all you should know about this behavior and how to limit unexplained dog barking.
Why Do Dogs Bark At Nothing?
Dogs bark from their inherent need to communicate. They may be vocalizing that they are excited, bored, hungry, anxious, hurting, protective, or marking their territory.
Oftentimes, you can figure out what your dog is trying to say by the pitch, speed, or how loud his/her bark is.
Dogs have the ability to see, smell and hear things that you do not because they are, well, dogs.
As such, the next time you wonder: Why do dogs bark at nothing?, remember that it is their major auditory medium of communication and it is totally normal.
Certain dogs can develop problems with their barking if the reason behind it is a particular need or their excessive barking is more tolerated than it should actually be.
Giving your pup proper training on how to limit his/her barking is highly achievable with consistency and the help of a skilled dog trainer.
The Root Of The Behavior: Reasons Why Your Dog Is Barking At Nothing
1. Dogs Hear High-Pitched Sounds
Dogs are known to have an incredible ability to hear high-pitched sounds, thanks to their predatory ancestry.
They can hear sounds like squeaking mice. They can also hear sounds that are so quiet, that the human ear cannot detect them even at higher frequencies.
This simply implies that your pooch can hear nearly all the sounds in the environment that you cannot hear.
Depending on what kind of sound it is, your dog will have a reaction that may often result in barking.
If it’s a threatening, unusual, or scary sound, your dog will not hesitate to call your attention with a bark.
Dogs have extremely sensitive eardrums that can detect the quietest sounds and will bark at the slightest of them.
This explains why it may often seem like your dog is barking at nothing, whereas, he/she may be responding to noises in your surroundings that you are unable to hear.
It is important to know though, that your pooch will bark out of fear or as a way of calling your attention.
2. Dogs Have An Incredible Sense Of Smell
For humans, the eyes are the primary sense through which the world is experienced. Dogs on the other hand rely on scents for the same purpose.
Certain breeds such as Bloodhound are walking noses. Thanks to their anatomy, dogs have impressive sniffers.
They have more olfactory sensory neurons compared to humans and the surface of their noses is larger in order to accurately detect odors.
Dogs also have a relatively larger part of their brain assigned specifically to the interpretation of scent.
They have a specialized olfactory organ known as the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ that pheromones, which are chemical signals animals use for communication.
All of these and more combine to create a world of scent that is beyond human comprehension.
Some dog breeds like the Labrador Retriever also have the ability to sniff out diseases such as cancer that we need intricate machinery to diagnose.
So, in your search for what your pup might be barking at, keep in mind that he/she might have been casually sniffing around.
And who knows what strange scents lurking in your home or yard have alerted your dog to danger.
3. Dogs See Clearly In The Dark
This is by far one of the most fascinating abilities of canines.
Their impressive ability to see in low light or total darkness is one of the major reasons for their sudden barks.
Where a human sees only pitch black, a dog sees various movements as well as shapes.
This is because they have a reflective layer directly behind their retina known as tapetum lucidum.
This tissue causes light to bounce back through the retina, thereby increasing the amount of light received by the retina even in darker environments.
Dogs also have a large number of rods in their retina compared to humans. Those are the cells that detect the presence of light and work in low light.
These rods help the dog to see clearly even with little or no light.
Thankfully the tapetum lucidum along with an abundance of rods makes it possible for dogs to see with only one-quarter of the light that humans require.
So when your canine seems to be barking at something in the dark, there’s a high probability that he’s seeing a lurking object or figure that you can’t.
4. They Need Your Attention
Dogs absolutely love attention, especially when their pet parents are in close proximity. They may bark in order to get as much attention as possible.
Your pooch may also bark if he wants something from you. It can be really difficult for them to communicate their feelings; the reason they often resort to barking.
Typically, your pup will stare at you while he barks in order to get the desired effect. To discourage this behavior, avoid eye contact and do not respond to your dog’s bark.
Additionally, do not yell at him to be quiet as he might see your response as an approval.
5. They’re Marking Their Territory
Dogs are known to be territorial and you may hear them bark aggressively when someone gets too close to the front porch or to them.
Your pup might also bark at another animal that shows up in his yard to prove a point about ownership or authority over the environment.
These barks are usually high-pitched and authoritative.
In the event that your dog displays this behavior, it is advisable to seek the expertise of a dog behaviorist to teach your pup how to limit the barking.
How to Limit Unexplained Dog Barking
Every dog barks. However, their reasons for excessive barking are not often known to humans.
Most times, we have to use the process of trial-and-error to understand a dog’s behavior.
If you realize that the frequent unexplained barking is merely for attention, the best way to address it is to ignore them without rewarding the behavior.
A few other options you can try to reduce your dog’s vocalizations are:
- Increase your pup’s daily exercise and offer more physical and mental stimulation in the process.
- Drown out the surrounding noises by putting on some calming and relaxing music to make your dog feel more comfortable.
- Block off the view if you think your pup is triggered by distractions outside your home.
- Training them with commands to avoid possible distractions when they occur can also help to redirect their barking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is my dog barking at the wall?
If your pooch is barking suddenly at the wall, he hears rodents or other animals scurrying about. It is also possible that your pooch has developed a medical disorder and should be taken to the vet.
Why is my dog barking at something I can’t see?
Your dog might be sensing something that you can’t because their senses are stronger than that of humans.
It has most likely spotted something in the distance and isn’t sure what it is. It may not be something dangerous, but your pooch is only barking to alert and protect you.
Dogs are always alert and might always seem to be barking at nothing. But if you take a moment to look a little closer, you may discover that there’s a meaningful reason behind their bark.
They’re trying to protect you and keep their territory out of harm’s way. They are also trying to communicate with you hoping that you’ll understand.
It is in your place as a pet parent, to pay attention and understand why your pooch seems to be barking at nothing.
Ultimately, you will appreciate how alert your dog is and how much he cares about the safety of your home.
You May Also Enjoy:
Do Dogs Get Tired Of Barking? What You Should Know
Reference & Notes
- “Dog communication,” Wikipedia.
- “Dogs Don’t Have a Sixth Sense, They Just Have Incredible Hearing,” American Kennel Club.
- “How Powerful Is a Dog’s Nose?” Phoenix Veterinary Center.
- “Tapetum lucidum,” Wikipedia.
- “What Are Dogs Saying When They Bark? [Excerpt],” Scientific American