If your Golden Retriever seems to bark at nothing a lot, you might be wondering why and what can be done about it.
This post will show you a number of reasons why it might bark at nothing and what you can do to stop it.
So, why does my Golden Retriever bark at nothing? Possible reasons are that it can actually hear something, it has an injury, it’s being territorial, it wants attention, it does it compulsively or that you have inadvertently reinforced the behavior.
Your Golden Retriever might bark at nothing for a number of different reasons. However, there are a number of things you can consider when trying to figure out the exact reason. There are also a number of things you can do about it.
Why your Golden Retriever barks at nothing
Below, I will show you a number of reasons why your Golden Retriever might bark at nothing and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.
It can hear something
The reason why it does it could be that it can actually 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 has been causing it to be in pain. This would be more likely if it has started barking 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.
Golden Retrievers are a breed that is meant to get daily exercise in order to be fully stimulated. When they do not get enough exercise it can cause them to behave abnormally and it might be the reason why yours has been barking a lot. This would be more likely if it starts acting weird on days where it has not gotten any exercise.
Generally, it is recommended for them to get at least an hour of exercise per day as healthy adults. If yours is not getting that much and it is healthy, it would help to make sure that it does start getting more exercise.
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 Golden Retriever tends to do it when there are other people or animals nearby.
It’s seeking attention
The reason why it does it could be that it knows that it will get more attention when it does it. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more when you have not been giving it much attention and if you tend to give it more attention when it does it.
Instead, it would help to give it attention throughout the day by training it, playing with it and exercising it. But to avoid rewarding it for barking at nothing unless there seems to be a specific reason why it is doing it.
It could 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
It might be the case that you have inadvertently encouraged the behavior by giving it things that it wants when it does it.
Instead of giving it rewards such as treats or toys when it does it, try to reward it when it is being well behaved, to give it positive reinforcement training and to redirect its focus when it seems like it is about to start barking.
Consider when it first started doing it
If it did not always bark at nothing, it would help to consider what else happened 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 include:
- If you moved home
- If someone moved away
- If another pet died
- If someone mistreated it
Consider when and where it barks at nothing
It would also help to consider the timing of when it barks at nothing since the timing could have 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 it to stop barking at nothing
Below are some options you have when getting your Golden Retriever to stop barking at nothing.
Get it to pay attention to you
One option would be to try and get it to focus on you instead when it is about to start 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.
Positive reinforcement training
Another option would be to train it to stop with the use of positive reinforcement training. This is where you train it not to bark at nothing by rewarding it for not doing it and not rewarding it when it does bark.
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 Golden Retriever to stop barking completely will be difficult and it would result in your Golden Retriever not being able to alert you to things when you want it to.
See a vet, dog behaviorist or trainer
If you cannot get it to stop doing it, you could try getting help from a dog trainer or behaviorist. By doing so you should be able to see why it is doing it and how to get it to stop. If it has been showing signs of being injured then the best option would be to take it to a vet.