Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson
    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.

    Protection

    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.

    Fear

    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.

    Boredom

    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.

    Communication

    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.

    Separation Anxiety

    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.

    Barking at Nothing

    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

    With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

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