Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?

by Amy Hunter
    A dog may bark for many reasons.

    A dog may bark for many reasons.

    Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    Dogs that bark at every little thing, or nothing, can try the patience of even the most devoted owner, not to mention the neighbors. While you work to stop your dog's barking, it may be helpful to understand exactly why he feels the needs to make so much noise.

    Dogs bark to keep others off of their territory and to warn you if someone or something is getting too close. While you may not see or hear anything, it doesn't mean your dog doesn't. Dog's senses are much stronger than humans, so your pup may be responding to something you're missing. Observe him while he is barking -- does he seem to focus on one area, cock his head or prick his ears? If so, he is probably responding to some outside stimulus.

    Your dog may be barking because he is scared. Does he come to you or retreat to his crate frequently while barking? If so, he, like the dog that barks for protection, may be hearing or seeing something you cannot. His reaction, however, is not aggression, but fear.

    Some dogs bark because they are bored. If your dog spends long hours alone, either inside or outside the home, he may start barking just to express his boredom and frustration, or to try to get attention, no matter how negative it is. Fortunately, if your dog is barking out of boredom, you can probably make some lifestyle adjustments to help quiet him down.
    Daily walks are a great way to work off excess energy as well as stimulate his mind. Short, energetic play sessions interspersed throughout the day, such as throwing a ball or playing tug-of-war, can also alleviate boredom and make him more content.

    Dogs bark as a greeting and to get attention. This is how they communicate with you and others. If your neighborhood has other dogs that are vocal, your dog may join in the conversation, and you will have trouble putting a stop to that. Spending time with your dog so that he doesn't feel the need to vocalize can reduce barking, but some dogs are naturally more vocal than others.

    Some dogs bark because they experience separation anxiety. This is different from boredom or an attempt to communicate. Aside from barking, whining or howling when left alone, dogs suffering from separation anxiety often engage in destructive chewing and scratch at doors and windows. Even if your dog is reliably housetrained, he may have accidents when left alone if he suffers from separation anxiety. Leaving an article of your clothing for your dog to use as bedding, being nonchalant about leaving the house and coming home and providing puzzle-type toys to keep him busy while you are gone can minimize separation anxiety.

    If after observing your dog, you still feel that he is truly barking at nothing, he may be exhibiting compulsive behavior. These dogs often pace the fence line or walk in circles while barking. A dog that is exhibiting compulsive behavior may show improvement with an increase in mental and physical activity, but typically require treatment from a veterinarian or animal behaviorist to put a stop to the problem.

    Photo Credits

    • Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images

    About the Author

    Amy Hunter has been a writer since 1998. She writes about health and lifestyle issues and enjoys writing about hiking, camping, trail running and other outdoor activities. Her work has appeared in "Sacramento Parent," ASPCA's "Animal Watch" and other print and online publications. She is the author of "The History of Mexico" and "Tony Gonzalez: Superstar of Pro Football," aimed at young-adult readers.

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