Does your dog bark at nothing or seem to bark at nothing? It can be a mystery and can often seem a bit weird and, at times scary, when you witness your dog woofing away when there is nothing there.
Dogs bark for lots of reasons and often when you think there is nothing there, your dog has often heard something or smelt something that he doesn’t recognise. Remember that your dog can smell and hear things that you cannot, so, when you think there is nothing there, your dog might think otherwise.
Why do dogs bark?
Barking is often an alert mechanism that your dog uses to call for help or to get attention and support from others.
If your dog is startled or surprised by a noise or sees something that alarms him, then he may bark to raise the alarm and call for help. Sometimes the things that he hears or sees may not be obvious to you and it may appear that he is barking at nothing.
Of course dogs don’t just bark when there is nothing there, they often bark from excitement, for example when a family member returns home and they do this to alert everyone of the fact that mum or dad is home.
Dogs have a different sense of hearing
Your dog can hear things that you cannot. Although he can hear most of the same things as humans, he is also able to hear many things that we cannot.
Your dog’s hearing range means that many devices and other objects, that are silent to us, make noises that your dog can hear. The crystals in your mobile phone for example can be heard humming by your dog.
There are many sounds bombarding your dog’s ears that we just cannot hear. We may not be able to hear a sound but that doesn’t mean that our dogs don’t hear it. If your dog is barking then it is always worth investigating as he is trying to tell you that something is happening that he is unsure about.
Why do dogs bark at night when there is nothing there?
You’ve probably heard it at night, particularly when it is still and there is little noise, a dog barking in the distance.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can hear a chorus of dogs joining in from different locations.
Who truly knows why they are barking. Are they talking to each other? Or just alerting their owners/families to the fact that they are alarmed – which makes other alarmed dogs bark too? – a sort of knock on doggy barking effect.
Could it be the dog telephone similar to the one in a 101 Dalmations?
The chances are that a lone dog begins the chorus, either through distress or from being disturbed, but, if you are true dog person then the sound of a nighttime dog chorus can be a treat.
How should I act when my dog is barking when nothing is there?
You should always remember that barking is a natural reaction for a dog and he uses it as an alert and attention grabbing mechanism when he is alarmed or needs help.
If your dog is an infrequent barker then it is probably a good idea to investigate to see why he is barking – he could be alerting you to an intruder or other problem.
I always trust my dogs when they bark and try to understand what they are barking at and why.
You should avoid shouting at your dog – many people scream ‘shut up’ or similar words and try to ‘out shout’ the dog. This normally doesn’t work as the dog thinks that you are also shouting for help, so he barks more.
Take a quiet. calm approach. Investigate why your dog is barking, praise him for letting you know, even if you have no idea what he is barking at.
Remember that he has probably heard something that you haven’t or he has seen something that has alarmed him.
How do I get my dog to stop barking at nothing?
Firstly you need to ask yourself ‘is this something that I really want to do?’. Do you honestly know that your dog is barking at nothing?
It is difficult to be sure that your dog is just barking for the sake of it but, if you are certain then the best way to stop him from barking is to try and ignore him when he barks.
If you shout at him, then he sees this as rewarding, he has gained your attention which, in his mind is a positive result, and he’ll just do it again. Turn your back on him, leave him to it ( even though it may be driving you mad) and ignore him.
When he finally stops, reward him and hand feed him some nice treats and encourage him to settle down calmly. Gradually extend the time between him ceasing barking and getting the treats which will help to reinforce the behaviour ( not barking ) that we want from him.
Always remember that your dog is a dog. He experiences the world through the same senses that we have, but they work at different levels.
He also does not understand the world in the way that humans do and things that seem normal to you could be frightening to your dog – making him bark.
Remember that barking is a natural response for a dog and that some dogs will bark more than others and, in many cases your have to learn to be tolerant and understand that your dog woofing is often just his way.