Why Does My Dog Bark at Nothing


do dogs get tired of barking

If you are a dog owner, you understand how confusing it can be when your dog starts barking at nothing. You probably try your hardest to understand what your dog needs in an attempt to stop the barking. In all actuality, there is always some cause for this behavior. Your dog is not just barking at nothing.

When it appears that your dog is barking at nothing it could in fact be for a variety of different reasons. Your dog might be frustrated, anxious, ill, or in need of attention. The most likely reason is that your dog wants to interact with you or alert you in some way. 

If your dog is barking, they are giving you a sign that they need something from you. If you are better equipped with knowledge regarding why dogs bark, you are more likely to know how you can help your dog when they are barking. Read on to learn all about why dogs tend to bark for seemingly no reason and how you can ease this behavior. 

Why Is My Dog Barking?

The good news is your dog is not just barking at nothing. There is a reason your dog is barking, even if you cannot see it. Below are a few reasons your dog might be barking.

  • Out of frustration
  • Due to anxiety
  • Because of an injury or illness
  • To alert you
  • As a territorial response

Thankfully, once you determine the cause of your dog’s barking, you can find a solution. There are strategies and training techniques that can help you meet your dog’s needs and correct this behavior. 

Frustration

Dogs show frustration by barking. Dogs are able to sense noises and smells that are undetectable to humans. If your dog senses something outside your home that intrigues them, they might get frustrated since they cannot check it out. This can cause them to bark.

When you see your dog indicate that they are about to bark, focus their attention elsewhere. Grab a toy or treat and divert their attention to you. It will be more difficult to get your dog’s attention once the barking has begun, so the sooner you learn to read your dog’s behavior, the sooner you will be able to halt the barking.

Frustration can manifest for different reasons, keeping your dog well exercised can be one of the best ways to prevent frustration in your dog. It’s important to watch out for other indications of frustration, such as destructive behavior like digging or chewing. Check out this article on how much exercise your dog should be getting. If your dog is starting to dig your garden have a look at this article too, How to Puppy Proof Your Garden.   

Anxiety

Barking can be a sign of anxiety in dogs. When dogs become anxious, they might whimper or whine, become destructive, urinate, defecate, or bark. It all depends on how your dog’s anxiety manifests. It is common for dogs to bark when they are feeling anxious about a situation or when their humans leave them alone. 

When you are planning to leave, give your dog something to do that will focus their attention. A toy that will hold their attention for 20 to 30 minutes after you leave can help reduce their anxiety. If you crate your dog, put them in their crate 10 to 15 minutes before you leave to allow them time to get comfortable while you are still home.

Separation anxiety can be a difficult thing to manage for many owners, and a large number of owners won’t even know their dog is barking whilst they are gone. It’s important to make your dog’s home as comfortable and secure as possible. Letting your dog outside before you leave can also give them a chance to scan the area for threats, making them more secure when they go back inside. If you’re interested to know more about how time passes for a dog whilst you are away, then check out this article on How Long Is A Day For A Dog, as dogs have an interesting perception of time.

Injury or Illness

Since dogs use barking to communicate, a barking dog might be trying to tell you that something is wrong. Dogs are good at hiding their pain. If you are familiar with your dog’s typical behavior, you might notice signs of injury or illness that would explain seemingly random barking.

If your dog does not usually bark and is barking a lot, you might want to look for other signs that could indicate that they are injured or ill:

  • Ears back
  • Low posture
  • Loss of appetite

These are all signs that you should see your veterinarian. 

Alerting or Territorial Barking

As mentioned before, your dog has a much better sense of hearing and smell than you do. Their barking could be a sign that something is off in the area. Dogs want to protect their homes and territory, so if they sense something is wrong, they will want to alert you to potential danger. 

Learning your dog’s typical behaviors can help you decide if there is an actual threat to be concerned about. Speaking from experience our dog will sometimes bark randomly late in the evening. We discovered that not only our dog was hearing the sounds of cars pulling up on the road outside but the lights that started to reflect around our porch area caused him to react more territorial.

Now our dog is a Golden Retriever and so any tough persona he thinks he might have doesn’t exist. Car lights reflecting into our house tend to be a more rare occurrence and something that is not familiar to him. Interestingly I have seen him huff and puff at torch lights in the distance on nighttime walks, making me think these are related.

Knowing your dog is super important when trying to understand their actions and behaviors. Have a look at our article on “Walking Your Dog At Night” following on with “Are Dogs Afraid Of The Dark” for some interesting reasons for certain behaviors.

can dogs sense bad people

How to Stop My Dog Barking

Once you have pinpointed the reason behind your dog’s barking, you can take a proactive approach to break your dog of the habit. 

Keep in mind that you should not keep your dog from barking all the time. As mentioned above, a barking dog may be trying to communicate something very important. Ensure your barking dog is not injured, sick, or trying to alert you to an emergency.

That being said, dogs bark when they have an unmet need. You can work on meeting your dog’s needs and discouraging frivolous barking in a few key ways:

  • Create boundaries
  • Give your dog a job 
  • Utilize a crate

Create Boundaries

You should start creating boundaries for your dog as soon as you bring them home the first day. Puppies can be very destructive and any behavior problems should be dealt with in the early days of their life. I don’t believe in the saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but training a puppy will certainly help with the ability to control your dog in the future.

Dogs thrive when they are in a structured environment and when they know what behavior is expected from them. When your dog is unaware of what you want, its typical response might be to bark. It can be difficult to refrain from encouraging puppies to bark as the cuteness factor is still very visible. If your dog has been encouraged to bark at other dogs or for the sake of your attention then suddenly telling them not to bark is going to confuse them. Start as you mean to go on and establish the correct boundaries early on. 

Give Your Dog a Stimulating Job

Like humans, dogs love it when they have a purpose. Giving your dog a job can help take their focus off of outside stimuli because they will be focusing on a task instead. 

Choosing the right job for your dog might take some trial and error, but once you find what they are motivated by, you will see a decrease in barking behavior. A job provides a chance for your dog to release energy, thus, decreasing their frustration levels. 

Some examples of jobs your dog can do are

  • Sniffing to find items
  • Retrieving items
  • Catching items
  • Picking up toys
  • Hiding and seeking
  • Following commands
  • Exercising

These jobs keep your dog’s mind and body active, so they are less likely to get bored and start barking. Speaking from experience once again, giving your dog something to scavenge whilst you are out can help keep them occupied, as I have highlighted in this article “Why Do Dogs Smell Everything On A Walk”, there is an enormous amount of energy that goes into sniffing. 

Top Tip – Try hiding small treats around the house or room that your dog is kept in whilst you are out. They will soon sniff them out but during this time your dog’s mind will be stimulated. As a bonus, your dog will probably continue looking for treats even after they have all gone.

Utilize a Crate

If you choose to crate your pup, you will have to take some steps to help make your dog comfortable. A dog crate can be a great and useful tool to ease your dog’s anxiety. On the other hand, if not implemented with care, a crate can exacerbate their anxiety. Learn the proper way to crate train your dog, so it becomes a safe space. 

When your dog feels threatened or irritated, instead of communicating those feelings with barks, they will go into their safe space for comfort and solitude. There are allsorts of different crate types and ways to crate train, check out the video below for some great information on crate training.

Some Barkers Need Extra Help

If you have tried the options above and your dog still seems to bark at nothing, do not lose all hope! There are other options that could meet your needs and your dog’s needs. 

  • Obedience training
  • Anxiety medication

Training Classes

Training classes are a great option when looking to correct a dog’s behavior. In fact, all dogs would benefit from participating in obedience training classes. Dog trainers are experts in knowing what a dog is communicating. They can give you pointers on how to meet your dog’s needs.

You may want to consider a Board-and-Train option. These trainers will typically board your dog for weeks while they train. They focus on correcting behaviors and can provide tons of insight into your dog’s communication methods. They are usually more expensive than typical training classes but are often more holistic and provide well-rounded insight. 

Training classes are also a good chance for your dog to socialize with other dogs. Training would be structured but will also offer the chance to test obedience against distractions such as other dogs. As your dog gets older they will often become less interested in other dogs, but younger dogs can overreact when they see another dog. Classes like these get your dog used to other dogs so that when your out and about you won’t be pulling your dog back.

Medication

If you and your veterinarian determine that the root cause of your dog’s barking is likely anxiety, the two of you can discuss treatment in the form of medication. Just like humans, dogs can have anxiety disorders as well. Your veterinarian should fill you in on all potential side effects, so you are prepared before giving your dog medication.

There are natural options you can find at your local pet store. Be sure you do plenty of research and speak to your vet before giving your dog any kind of supplement, even if it is over-the-counter. You want to be sure what you give your dog is totally safe.  

Conclusion

Dogs bark for a multitude of reasons. To humans, many of these barks can seemingly come from nowhere. The truth is, dogs don’t just bark at nothing. There is always some stimulus or symptom that is causing your dog to bark, even if it is just extreme excitement or intense boredom.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can combat excessive barking. The most important thing, though, is to understand your dog’s needs so you can better meet them. This will keep your dog happy and healthy and less likely to bark in the first place.

Dean Lissaman

As a child I grew up around dogs and have loved them ever since. I now have a beloved Golden Retriever who enjoys exploring the outside world. Being an outdoor enthusiast has inspired me to create the ultimate resource on relating both dogs and the outdoors. For more information on me check out my about page.

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