Why is my dog barking at nothing? We do have the same curiosity about it. Learning more about our dogs makes us a better dog parent. It also helps us communicate with our fur babies more effectively.
There are certain things that our dogs sense that we humans are unable to detect. People and dogs have the same five senses: sight, smell, touch, hear, and taste. It’s just that they do have heightened senses compared to humans. Do you sometimes notice that your dog barks at nothing? Or maybe sees or hears something that we don’t? There’s a great chance that there is really something. Let’s try to understand more by trying to see things from their perspective.
The dog’s sense of hearing is their second-best next to their sense of smell. They can hear sounds or frequencies that are either too low or high for humans to hear. Similarly, with people, their sense of hearing deteriorates as they age.
There are certain frequencies that only dogs can hear. The hearing range has different levels or variations for humans and animals. For our dogs, it is dependent on their age and breed but in general, it is on a scale of 67 Hz to 45 kHz. You can find it very amusing that dogs move their ears towards the sound they hear to maximize reception. The shape of their ears is also a great factor in amplifying and accurately hear sounds.
This is also the same reason why the dogs get scared whenever they hear sounds that are too loud for us humans. If you are familiar with dog whistles or Nelson dog whistles, this type of whistles is built specifically for the dogs which are mainly used in training since it produces sound frequencies that are specific to the dogs’ hearing.
Can dogs smell better than humans at least 10,00 to 100,000 times better? Oh yes, they do! Did you know that dogs can even catch a whiff of one rotten apple in two million barrels? Their brain has an allotted percentage to interpret smells 40 times more than humans can.
The acuteness of their sense of smell has been reportedly verified and witnessed by some experts. We do have drug-sniffing dogs and there’s also an instance where a dog was able to identify a melanoma on the skin of a declared cancer-free patient. How do they do that? They roughly have 300 million olfactory nose receptors compared to 6 million in humans. Now this explains why dogs are barking at nothing.
It is amazing how our dogs can smell even from afar, some even say that dogs can smell other animals or people that you can’t detect or see, which somehow contributes to excessive barking. This can be greatly noticed when someone is passing by your house which makes our dogs good at guarding our property.
Given that dogs have an incredible sense of smell and hearing, even the toughest dogs have poorer vision than humans. To be more specific, they have a visual acuity of 20/75. You don’t have to worry though, even if your dog’s vision is soft they can still outline the details it’s just a bit blurry.
It is quite an eye-opener that the dogs are more sensitive to light than people since “The center of the retina has more of the light-sensitive cells (rods)”. This allows our pups to see clearer at night or low-light environment.
Even though they have poor eyesight, it’s still compensated with their incredible sense of smell and hearing which somehow balances it out. So when they bark more than usual, they may be seeing something unfamiliar or simply blurred out. It is nothing supernatural especially when you see your dog staring directly at nothing and barking. It’s probably just their heightened senses.
It is definitely normal for a dog to bark however when he barks excessively, you need to find out the reason behind it. It’s quite frustrating when your dog seems to be barking at nothing there can be many reasons behind it. They can be afraid or alarmed, protective or territorial, playing, or maybe they’re bored or lonely.
When dogs want attention though it’s like a kid throwing off a tantrum but in bark form instead of crying for it. You can tell that he is barking for attention whenever you are interacting with something or someone else he continuously barks until you give in. Never fall into the trap of giving him attention when he’s doing this, no patting, no glances, no treats, no toys, nor scolding because this will just give your dog an impression that this is okay and any attention you give him is better than nothing at all. Just ignore the barks and give him a treat whenever he’s quiet to encourage the behavior.
When your dog barks often even when nothing is there you may first want to check if he is given the physical attention that he needs. He may be thirsty, hungry, or has excessive energy at the moment that needs to be taken cared of. Look out for the basic needs first but if it does not go away, see the signs and symptoms that your dog shows aside from barking.
He may be in pain or has a health problem. Have him checked by your vet if your dog still barks unexplainably. Some older dogs may pace aimlessly and may bark without any reason. This is a possible sign for canine dementia or CCD (Canine Cognitive Dysfunction). This is something senior dogs may experience and can be treated with medication.
Stress or depression:
Another possible reason why your dog barks at nothing is stress. Barking is one of the ways they can effectively communicate with you. So if your dog is experiencing stress or duress they may start barking at random. Look into other changes aside from barking like shedding, changes in their eyes, ears, or body posture, and other unusual behavior. Dogs may bark more when they try to get your attention or when they try to calm themselves.
Depression can also play a factor in barking. You may notice increased barking or the complete opposite like no response at all. There are different depressed dog signs aside from barking that you may want to look into that will help you determine the reason behind that increased barking from your pet. Knowing the potential symptoms that your dog is under depression is a huge step since knowing that your pup is experiencing one will allow you to help him better and reduce the unexplainable barking.
How to stop the barking:
Depending on how long this has been ongoing, given that the dog is not under physical pain or does not have any health-related issues, you can reduce the situations where your dog barks at nothing or barks compulsively. Remember that it will take time and patience to change this type of behavior but here are some training tips that you can use.
Ignore his barks:
Do this as long as it takes for your dog to stop. As I’ve mentioned earlier, completely ignore your dog, since any type of attention only encourages him to bark more. Only give the attention he needs when he stops.
Find the reason:
Knowing the reason behind the barking will help you control it. Take away the things that cause this behavior or remove your dog from the place that triggers him to express such noise.
Adapt to the cause:
Slowly have your dog get used to the things that cause him to bark. If it is someone you know or some things, introduce the cause of barking at a distance and do not rush things. Prepare your treats as a reward for not barking whenever the stimulus is present.
Keep him tired:
Whenever your dog is tired it will prevent him from barking often due to frustration and boredom. Give him the time to exercise his body and mind daily. Take him out for walks and playtime.
Bark on command:
Train your dog to respond to commands like ‘speak’ and ‘quiet’. Command him to ‘speak’ then allow him to bark a few times then let him smell a yummy treat and when he stops barking reward your dog by giving the treat. Repeat this process until he only barks when you say ‘speak’. Do a similar process with the ‘quiet’ command but make sure that you are in a peaceful environment. Continue to give him praise and treats whenever he responds correctly.