Just because you can’t see what your dog is barking at, it doesn’t mean there isn’t a trigger. Dog’s have a much keener sense of hearing and smell compared to us, and they perceive the world differently. It can even be said that they sense things before we do, as they say about a lot of other animals such as birds.
If it seems like your dog barks at nothing or everything, there is a way to get your pooch to stop barking, which is knowing the cause. Once you can determine the reason behind the barking, it’s easier to treat the problem.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Barking Behavior
The key is to understand what causes your dog’s barking. There are several reasons why dogs bark and an example of this is separation anxiety. Your dog could be barking because he’s away from his beloved owner. You may see this when your dog is overly attached. The minute you disappear from your dog’s sight, the compulsive barking starts to happen.
Not all dog barking needs to be corrected because it’s how a dog communicates. In the case of separation anxiety, it is better to treat the problem because the issue isn’t the barking, but the over-attachment to the owner. Correcting the unwanted barking can be done through professional training.
Pay attention to when and how your dog barks to understand the why. Once you know the cause, how to treat the problem will become clearer.
What is My Dog Barking At?
Here are a few of the most common reasons why dogs bark.
Dogs are very sensitive animals and they have a heightened sense of hearing, smell, and even vision (in the dark). They may hear, see and smell things before you do, so it may seem like your dog’s barking nothing, but it’s just something we don’t perceive.
Dogs can hear inaudible sounds and ones from further distances. When you notice your dog’s ears are twitching or his head is turning and he’s staring off into space, then he is picking up something you can’t hear. If it’s not a sound, it may be a smell or maybe a shadow he sees in the dark. Don’t be alarmed, because even though it’s something you can’t sense, it’s most likely nothing to worry about.
They Want Attention
If the dog bark is short and commanding while your dog is fixated on you, then it’s most likely attention barking. This could be classified as nuisance barking and should never be rewarded with your attention. Some dogs bark when they’re bored, want your attention or want a treat. Some dog owners may think it’s cute, but if you reward your dog with what he wants, it will only reinforce the behavior and make it more difficult to correct.
Don’t scold him, because scolding him is giving a barking dog your attention. Our canine friends cannot always differentiate between excitement, and yelling when he does something bad. Dogs tend to perceive loud vocalization as excitement in general and scolding him loudly could set your dog off even more.
What you should do is to wait until your dog is quiet and calm before you make eye contact and give him attention.
Barking Due to Medical Conditions
If your dog just won’t stop barking and it happens at odd times of the day when there shouldn’t be any distractions around, then it could be due to medical reasons. if this is the case, you definitely do not want to discourage this type of dog bark because it’s our dog’s way of letting us know something is wrong. If your dog is usually relatively quiet and he suddenly starts to bark excessively, then it’s time to examine the issue.
Dog owners should pay attention to other behaviors that accompany the incessant barking such as pacing, panting, a lot of lip-licking, wincing, and whining could point to a medical condition. It’s even more likely that something is bothering your dog physically if the behavior change is a sudden one. If you suspect that your dog could be suffering from a health issue, then contact your trusted vet right away.
Animals in Your Neighborhood
Sometimes the trigger is just other dogs or animals that are around your home. Some dogs view this as a slight because your home is, in definition, his territory, which will prompt your dog to bark at seemingly nothing. The innocent passerby won’t even have to do something to set your dog off. All they need to do is come into view for your dog to go off.
This type of barking can be aggressive accompanied by low growls, whines, and even hair standing on end depending on how upset your dog gets.
Alerting to Potential Danger
Another type of dog bark you don’t want to correct is because it could be a lifesaver. Alert barking is different from territorial barking in the sense that territorial barking is aimed at anyone who passes by, even if they are minding their own business. Alert barking usually happens when there is an intruder or some suspicious person entering the premises.
There is a fine line between alert barking and a dog that can be aggressive towards strangers. If your dog could potentially harm someone new coming into your home, be sure to make the proper introductions first.
Why is There Unexplained Barking?
There is rarely unexplained barking; it’s just that we do not see, hear, or smell what dogs can. it may seem like your dog is barking at absolutely nothing, but in reality, something is there. Boredom and attention barking could be considered “barking at nothing”, but your dog still wants something when he does it, and it’s usually some TLC from you.
How Can I Reduce My Dog’s Unexplained Barking?
It’s difficult to reduce your dog’s unexplained barking when you don’t know what’s causing it. If you can see the stimuli, then it’s easier to treat them. If not, you can try to identify how your dog feels about the trigger. For example, if he is hearing something you cannot hear and your dog is exhibiting fearful barking, you can try to calm him down by reassuring him.
How Do I Treat Excessive Barking?
There are suitable methods for different types of excessive barking. Again, your best bet is to know why your dog is barking before you can correct the unwanted behavior.
Train Certain Commands
The first and most recommended way that stop barking is professional training. If you have no idea how where to begin, we would suggest enrolling your pup in classes. For example, Petsmart has doggy classes that help strengthen the bond between dog and owner while teaching basic commands. It’s also easier for an expert to understand the type of barking your dog is doing and what triggers it.
At home, you can try to teach your dog certain quiet commands. One way to turn your fur baby into a quiet dog is to distract him with a code word. For example, when your dog starts to bark at nothing, you can say “sit” or “shake” or any command that asks your dog to do something other than bark at the trigger. Your dog will not be able to bark and think about the command at the same time.
Once he carries out the action correctly, reward him with a well-deserved treat. Positive reinforcement is always the key to training success.
Some owners may be lucky and a simple “no” will get their dog to quiet down. If this is the case for you, then you may notice your dog reduces the bark to a growl or grunt. If this happens, don’t scold your dog and give him a treat instead because this is your dog’s way of showing restraint and heeding your command.
This solution to excessive barking at nothing works wonders for territorial and trigger barking. It should not be used for attention barking, alert barking, or discomfort barking.
A tired dog is a good and quiet dog, all dog owners with high-energy breeds can attest to this. Sometimes all it takes to make your dog quiet down is to tire him out with mental and physical stimulation. This method is best for boredom and attention barking along with separation anxiety.
Remember that a dog needs more than just physical play. Your dog also needs something to stimulate his mind and this is where puzzle toys, treat-stuffed toys, and daily training sessions come in. However, you should know when to stop because overdoing it can be harmful to your dog. If you have a puppy, taking him out for hours a day could impact his growth.
Overtraining your dog can frustrate you and him. When you notice your pooch is starting to yawn, whine, or just clearly not listening anymore, then take a break.
Change the View
For dogs who are triggered by stimuli, whether it’s other dogs, other animals, or people, a good way to get your dog to not bark incessantly is to remove the trigger or your dog from the situation. For example, if your dog is easily bothered by people walking by the house, try to draw the curtains or close the blinds during the day, or move your dog to another part of the house. Removing whatever causes the barking could nip it in the bud.
However, if it’s fearful barking, we would suggest trying to get your dog to understand that the item or person won’t hurt him. For example, if your dog is afraid of a toppled-over trash can, try bringing your dog over slowly and using a soothing and encouraging tone of voice, tell him it’s okay. Let him check it out, sniff, maybe even touch it with his paw so he understands that this item will not cause him any harm.
If your dog is very resistant, you can try to hold him and bring him over while you introduce him. We strongly suggest not picking your dog up the second he gets scared of something because it will reinforce his fear and show him that he does have something to be afraid of, which is why mommy and daddy are picking him up.
Bark deterrents are the last resort to treat excessive barking. We want to use positive reinforcement at first, and bark deterrents are more negative even if they don’t harm your dog. You have the citronella collars that spray an unpleasant scent when your dog barks, or ultrasonic collars that emit an annoying high-pitched sound that is inaudible to humans. There are also vibrating collars that will activate when your dog lets out a bark and these ones usually have customizable levels so you can adjust the severity of the vibration. There are more gentle alternatives that could aid with the excessive barking. One of those devices is the PetGentle – an innovative dog whistle with a flashlight.
Sometimes these bark deterrents won’t work on a dog. Dogs have unique personalities and some may not mind or even like the smell of citronella and there are even some stubborn dogs that power through the ultrasonic sound and vibrations from their collars.
A gentler way to get your dog to remain quiet is to use soothing methods such as weighted blankets for comfort, calming scents emitted from diffusers or collars, and maybe even some CBD oil, although it should be recommended by a vet or certified applied animal behaviorist.
We Think You’ll Like: 10 Best Ultrasonic Dog Bark Control Devices in 2022
When Should I Be Concerned?
You should be concerned when the dog barking foreshadows aggression. if your dog’s barking is often followed by bared teeth and bites, then you have to consult a specialist and go through rigorous training.
If you notice your dog is showing signs of discomfort or pain alongside a sudden shift in barking behavior, then a trip to the vet needs to be scheduled immediately.
Dogs rarely bark at nothing for no reason. Oftentimes it seems like it’s nothing because we are physically unable to detect the trigger. Sometimes it’s not necessary to correct barking, especially if it’s useful such as alert barking or discomfort barking. Nuisance barking can be corrected but only if you understand the reason behind it. When you’re starting to treat the barking, remember to always use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog!
You Might Be Interested: Why Does My Dog Yawn When I Pet His Head?