If your dog has been growling at nothing you might be wondering why and what you should do about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why your dog might have been doing it and what you can do to stop it.
So, why does my dog growl at nothing? Possible reasons why your dog growls at nothing are that it hears something, it saw something, it smells something, it is ill or injured or you might have inadvertently rewarded the behavior.
There are actually a number of things that you can consider when trying to figure out why your dog does it. Depending on the cause, there are also a number of things that you can do about it.
Why your dog growls at nothing
Each of the different reasons that your dog growls at nothing will likely come with a number of clues in the way that it does it.
Below, I will mention a number of reasons why your dog might be doing it and what would make them more likely.
It hears something
Dogs have much more sensitive hearing than humans do and they can hear things from up to 4 times further away than us. Dogs are able to hear much higher frequency noises than we can as well. Humans can hear frequencies up to 20kHz but dogs can hear up to 45kHz.
This means that even if you can not hear anything, it could be the case that your dog can. This would be much more likely to be the case if there are things such as construction works going on in your area or if you live in a busy area. However, even if you live in a quiet area it could be that it hears an animal outside.
It saw something
Dogs have better night vision than humans do and they have better motion visibility than humans do (source). The reason that your dog growls at nothing could be that it saw something that you did not. This would be more likely if it does it in situations such as when growling at a window at night.
It smells something
Along with better hearing, dogs also have a much better sense of smell. The reason that it growls at nothing might actually be that it smells something that you do not. This would be more likely to be the reason if you have a dog whose breed is known for its strong sense of smell such as the Beagle.
It is fearful
It could be the case that it is growling at nothing because something is causing it to be fearful. This would be more likely if it seems to do it when something might be causing it to be fearful such as thunder, lightning or sirens.
It is ill or injured
The reason that it growls at nothing could be that it is ill or injured. This would be more likely to be the reason if it has been showing other signs of being ill or injured. It would also be more likely if it never used to randomly start growling. If it does seem like it might be ill or injured then the best option for you would be to take it to a vet.
It might actually be growling at something
Just because it doesn’t seem like it is growling at anything to you, it could still be the case that it is actually growling at something.
It could be that someone walked past the door or it saw or heard a pet in the yard.
It wants something from you
The reason that it growls at nothing might actually be that it is trying to get you to give it something. This would be more likely to be the reason if it tends to start growling when you would normally do things such as to feed it, give it attention or take it for a walk.
You have inadvertently rewarded the behavior
A common cause of dogs doing things that seem unusual is that their owners have inadvertently rewarded the behavior and this could be why yours growls at nothing. This would be more likely to be the reason if you tend to give it things that it wants such as toys, attention or treats when it growls.
Instead, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it growls and to follow the tips mentioned below.
It is actually being aggressive
It could be the case that your dog is actually growling because it is warning you or someone/something else not to approach it. This would be more likely if it shows signs of aggression such as baring its teeth, stiffening its legs and moving its ears back.
If it does seem to be doing it aggressively then it would help to avoid approaching it and to get the help of a dog behaviorist who will be able to help get it to stop in a safer way.
An issue with its diet
It might be the case that an issue with its diet is causing it to act unusually. This would be more likely if it suddenly started growling at nothing at around the same time that its diet changed. You can look here to see what you should and should not be feeding your dog.
Things to consider
Below, I will mention some particularly helpful things to consider when trying to figure out why your dog growls at nothing. Once you have a better idea of the cause it will be easier to take the appropriate action.
When your dog first started growling at nothing
It would help to consider the timing of when your dog first started growling at nothing.
If it did not always do it then it could be that there was an event that caused it to start doing it. Possible triggers could have been that you rewarded it for doing it one-time or people started doing construction work nearby. It could also be that it was when a health issue started which would be more likely if it also started behaving unusually in other ways as well.
If it has always done it then it could be that it does it when it hears, sees or smells something that you do not or it could be that you did inadvertently train it to do it when it was much younger.
When your dog growls at nothing
The timing of when it does it would also be something to consider.
If your dog barks at nothing at certain times then it could be that it does it to get you to give it something such as food, exercise or attention. It might also be that it is also when people start doing construction work nearby.
Whether or not it does it aggressively
It would also be important to consider how aggressively it growls at nothing. If your dog seems to growl at nothing aggressively then it would be advised that you avoid approaching it and it would likely be worthwhile to get the help of a dog behaviorist.
How to get it to stop growling at nothing
There are a number of things that you can do about your dog barking at nothing. The best option for your dog will largely depend on the cause of it doing it.
Below, I will mention a number of things that you can do about it.
Try to remove the things that might be causing it
The first thing that you can do is to try to remove things that might be causing it to growl.
So, if it only seems to growl when it is in a certain room then it would help to make sure that you remove possible triggers such as a noisy window or the reflection of a light on the window or wall.
Let it stay in a different room
If your dog seems to growl at nothing in a certain room then another thing that you can do is to allow it to stay in another room.
If it does seem to growl in a certain room and you tend to leave it there then it could be that it is doing it due to separation anxiety which is where it does not like being left alone.
Get help from a dog behaviorist
If your dog seems to be growling aggressively, it would help to get the advice of a dog behaviorist in your area. This would be especially important if the growling seems to be directed at you rather than at nothing.
Take it to a vet
If you cannot figure out what is causing your dog to growl at nothing, it would help to take it to a vet so that you can rule out possible medical causes.
Train it to associate sounds with positive things
If it seems to be growling at certain sounds then it would help to train it to have positive associations with those sounds.
You can oo this by playing the sounds in the background and giving it rewards or by letting it interact with the thing so that it learns that it is not a threat.