Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?

If you have a dog, you know that your furry friend might do some things that are just plain strange. Sometimes, your dog might bark at nothing out of the blue. It could happen on a walk, in the backyard, or even in your home as you’re simply relaxing on the couch.

In some cases, your dog may bark due to sheer boredom or even some kind of unseen medical issue. However, it’s more likely that your pup is barking because they’re perceiving something that you cannot notice.   

A Keen Sense of Perception

Dogs’ eyes are much better equipped to see in the dark than human eyes are. If your dog barks while you’re outside at night or they’re standing at the window looking into the yard, they may see something moving out there that your eyes cannot register.

Your pup could also be picking up on sounds that are inaudible to you. Ever heard of a dog whistle? These handy tools don’t make any perceptible sound to humans, but to dogs, they come through loud and clear. 

Not only can dogs hear much higher frequencies than humans, but they can also hear much quieter sounds. If your dog is barking out of nowhere, they might hear very quiet movements that they don’t recognize or a sound so high you don’t. If they sense you don’t notice it, they may try to clue you in!

While some dogs are known to have keener noses than others, every breed of dog is bound to have a sharper sense of smell than its human companions. They can pick up on the distinct scents of a huge number of things. They can even smell pheromones that express fear, happiness, and other emotions. 

A dog that seems to be barking at nothing might be picking up an unfamiliar scent that confuses or scares them. 

How to Fix the Problem 

A dog barking for what seems like no reason can be a nuisance. But the last thing you want to do is yell at your dog to stop. Your pup will likely perceive this as you barking along with them, and it could encourage them to keep going instead of calming down.

Though a sharp command likely won’t solve the problem of excessive barking, there are a few effective ways to work on the behavior with your dog and reduce it over time. 

Calmly Acknowledge the Behavior 

If your dog is barking because they perceive an unfamiliar or threatening sound, smell, or movement, they’re most likely trying to alert you of potential danger. Being harshly told to stop can confuse them and could lead to escalated nervous behaviors like shaking or aggression.

Take the opposite approach and try to calm your dog down by acknowledging their communication. Saying phrases like “I know” or “thank you” in a soft, calming tone might just be all your dog needs in order to relax. 

In their mind, you’re not concerned with the threat they’re perceiving, which means they can feel safe, too. 

Teach Your Dog to “Quiet” 

If your dog’s random barking is more motivated by boredom than it is by fear or protectiveness, you might see success by teaching them a “quiet” cue. Using a no-shock bark collar can be helpful in this type of training. Pet Pawsabilities offers its very own human collar designed to keep your pup happy and quiet. You’ll also want plenty of training treats on hand to reward good behavior.

Take advantage of your pup’s next random barking spell and get your training treats ready to reward them as soon as they’re quiet. The more you practice this, the faster your dog should quiet down, as they expect a treat is soon to follow if they stop barking.

If you’re currently teaching your dog a “speak” cue, you can also teach them to be quiet on command at the same time, as these two tricks go hand in hand. 

When your dog barks on command, reward them; when they’re quiet between barks, associate it with the “quiet” cue and reward that as well. Your pup will have a great training session full of lots of treats, and you’ll get twice as much bang for your buck!