If your dog has been barking at nothing you might want to know why and what you can do about it.
In this post, I will show you a number of reasons why your dog might do it and what you can do to stop it.
So, why does my dog bark at nothing? Possible reasons why your dog barks at nothing are that it can hear something, it is in pain, it’s bored, it’s attention seeking, you might have reinforced the behavior with rewards or it could be doing it compulsively.
There are actually multiple reasons why your dog might bark at nothing and it could be due to a combination of reasons. However, there are some things you can consider that will help in figuring out the exact reason.
Why your dog barks at nothing
The different reasons why your dog barks at nothing will likely come with some clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will show you a number of possible reasons why it does it and what would make them more likely.
It can hear something
The reason why your dog barks at nothing might actually be that it does hear something. Dogs tend to have much better hearing than we do so it could be the case that you are not able to hear something that it can hear.
This would be more likely to be the reason if it does it when there are noisy things going on such as when there are people are outside or when there is thunder.
It might be the case that something is causing it to be in pain. This would be more likely if it has started doing it more suddenly and if it has been showing signs of being in pain such as limping. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.
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If your dog is a breed that is meant to get a lot of exercise daily then the cause could be that it is understimulated. If it is a breed that is meant to get a lot of daily exercise and it is healthy then it would help to make sure that it is able to get the right amount.
Related: Why does my dog bite my hands?
It could be the case that it barks at nothing due to territorial barking. This is where it barks in order to protect its territory and to warn other animals not to come near. This would be more likely to be the reason if your dog tends to do it when there are other people or animals nearby.
It’s seeking attention
The reason why it does it might be that it is looking for attention. This would be more likely if you tend to give it more attention when it does it and if it tends to do it more when you have not been giving it much attention.
In this case, it would help to give it attention throughout the day in the form of training, exercise and by playing with it. But, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it barks at nothing and to try to recognize when it is likely to start doing it and to redirect its focus.
It might be the case that it has been doing it compulsively. This is where it feels an urge to bark and it can’t stop itself from barking. This would be more likely to be the reason if it has been doing it excessively for weeks or longer. In this case, the best option would be to take it to a vet.
You have been reinforcing it
The cause could be that you have trained it to do it by giving it things that it wants when it barks at nothing. If you tend to give it things such as extra attention, rewards or treats when it does it then it might have learned to do it more in order to get more of those things.
It would help to try to avoid rewarding it when it does it and to try to recognize when it is likely to start barking and to redirect its focus. It would also likely help to reward it when it does not bark but it normally would.
Consider when your dog first started barking at nothing
When trying to figure out why your dog has been barking at nothing it would help to consider when it first started doing it since it could be the case that there was an event that caused it to start doing it.
Things to that might have happened could be:
- If you moved home
- If someone moved away
- If another pet died
- If someone mistreated it
Consider when and where your dog barks at nothing
It would also help to consider what is different when it barks at nothing since it could be the case that the timing has something to do with it.
For instance, if it tends to do it more when you would normally leave home then it might be a sign that it has some separation anxiety.
How to get your dog to stop barking at nothing
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop barking at nothing.
Get it to pay attention to you
One option would be to try and get it to pay attention to you when it starts barking. By doing so you will be able to get it to focus on you and to take its attention away from barking.
It would also help to learn to recognize when it is about to start barking so that you can redirect its behavior when it is about to start barking.
I have written more about how you can train your dog to come to you on command here.
Positive reinforcement training
It would also help to give it positive reinforcement training which is where you reward the behaviors that you want to see and avoid rewarding those that you don’t want to see.
To use positive reinforcement training to get your dog to not bark at nothing you would give it a treat whenever it stops barking or it shows signs of not barking.
You can watch how it is done in the video below:
Avoid negative reinforcement
As mentioned above, it could be the case that you have encouraged the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it barks at nothing. Instead, it would help to try to redirect its attention when it seems likely to start barking and to reward it when it doesn’t bark but it normally would.
Barking is natural
Something to consider is that it is natural for dogs to bark as it is one way that they will communicate with each other. To get a dog to stop barking completely will be difficult and it would result in your dog not being able to alert you to things when you want it to.
However, you can get it to bark less using the tips above.
See a vet, dog behaviorist or trainer
If your dog has been barking at nothing a lot and you can’t get it to stop then consider getting help from a vet, dog behaviorist or trainer. By doing so you will be able to get expert advice tailored towards your particular dog and to rule out medical causes.
Why does my dog bark at nothing outside?
If your dog barks at nothing outside, the cause could be that your dog smells the scent of other animals or that your dog can hear other animals in the area. Other possible causes are that your dog has learned that the behavior is rewarded or that it is being territorial.
Why does my dog bark at nothing in the dark?
If your dog barks at nothing in the dark, the cause could be that it wants to be able to see, it has separation anxiety, or that it can hear something.
Why does my dog bark at nothing in the morning?
A likely reason why your dog barks at nothing in the morning is that your dog wants you to get up and feed it. The cause could also be that your dog has learned that the behavior gets rewarded.
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