February 18, 2020
Is your dog quiet or is he/she a ‘barker’?
Often it may appear your dog is barking when there is nothing to be seen. This isn’t typically a cause for concern, and may have a logical explanation. If you are lucky enough to live in a rural area, this may not be a cause for concern. Though if like me, you live in a suburban area, your dog barking at nothing is likely to annoy your neighbors.
Why do some dogs bark at nothing?
The simple answer is, that most of the time your dog is not barking at nothing! This article should help provide some clarity on this subject.
Firstly, dogs’ hearing has a much wider frequency range than that of humans, ie they can detect ultrasonic sounds that humans cannot perceive. This gives the impression that your dog is barking at nothing, when in fact he/she is barking at something you are unable to hear.
In the case of Kobe and Bella, as Kobe has aged, his audible range appears to have reduced considerably. Kobe would have been quite the barker in his younger days, though now he usually doesn’t appear to be aware of the same ultrasonic sounds that Bella is barking at. Either that, or he has become more placid in his old age, and simply cannot be bothered barking in the energetic way that Bella does. Most likely it is a combination of both of these factors.
In addition to dogs’ sensitive hearing, their sense of smell is vastly superior to humans. Scientists believe that dogs’ smelling ability is approximately 10,000 times greater than that of humans. This is most likely due to the fact they have almost fifty times as many receptors in their nose. Furthermore, dogs smell in ‘layers’, ie where a weaker smell could be masked by a stronger one for a human, a dog will smell both scents simultaneously. This is what makes dogs perfect “Sniffer dogs”, since the scent of drugs/explosives simply cannot be masked by stronger smells. Your dog may therefore be smelling something that you are unable to perceive eg a cat, another dog or a wild animal.
Other common reasons why dogs bark at nothing, are as follows:
- Animals. As detailed above, dogs are excellent at detecting noises and smells, unperceivable to humans. Evolutionary, this would have been essential for canine survival. If there are animals near your dog, he/she might bark instinctively. Even spiders, insects and other smell small animals eg rodents, may cause your dog to bark.
- Frustration. Often, your dog may be barking if he wants to get something but cant. Some dogs are more easily frustrated than others, though this could be particularly noticeable of your dog is a pen, or fenced within a garden, and he/she is trying to get to something/someone that is unreachable. This could be a nearby animal, or a person he wants to greet.
- Boredom. Dogs who spend a lot of time alone are more likely to bark than others. Similarly, dogs who are well exercised are less likely to bark than those who go for long, daily walks. Dogs who don’t get sufficient physical and mental stimulation throughout the day, become bored, and may bark in an attempt to relieve this.
- Attention. Closely related to the above point, a dog may bark to get your attention. Even if the attention is negative attention eg being told off for barking, your dog seeks human love and attention. Sometimes it may be useful eg if someone is in danger. Typically your dog will be looking directly at you rather than into the distance, if he is barking for your attention.
- Social Barking. Dogs are social animals, so if they hear or smell another canine nearby they might bark as a greeting.
- Health Problems. I have left the most serious and concerning reason until last. Although less likely than the other causes listed above, it is plausible that your dog could be barking due to health problems. This could be physical pain, or mental issues such as Canine Dementia, which can cause barking at nothing.
It should be noted that the above are just a few of the most common causes of why dogs bark at ‘nothing’. Every dog has a different personality and his reason for barking could be different again. Why not post in the comments below, reasons for your dog barking.
How can i reduce my dog’s unexplained barking?
As stated in the previous section, the reason for your dog barking could be due to a number of factors. In reality it could be difficult to determine the exact cause, since your dog’s ability to communicate with you is limited. I tpyically employ the following methods for reducing Kobe and Bella’s barking:
- Ignore – As stated previously, if your dog is looking directly at you while barking, this is normally due to them seeking your attention. It is important to completely ignore this, as even eye contact will provide feedback to your dog that this behavior works.
- White Noise – In order to reduce your dog’s ability to detect faint sounds, white noise can be utilized as a mask. This is particularly useful at night, when your dog is in a quiet environment. White noise can be provided via an un-tuned radio, an extractor/ceiling fan or a specialized white noise generator.
- Eliminate Triggers – If your dog barks at the postman, other dogs, or people walking by your house, it may be wise to keep your dog inside during the day.
- Reduce boredom – Frustrated dogs are more likely to bark than those who are walked or played with. Try increasing your dog’s daily exercise and mental stimulus.
In addition to the well documented fact that dogs can detect sounds and smells unperceivable to humans, some people believe dogs have a ‘sixth sense’. Even if you’re not the type of person to believe in the supernatural, sometimes a dog’s behavior can be difficult to explain. There has been evidence to show that some dogs can detect sickness eg cancer.
There are also plenty of stories of dogs behaving strangely or seeming to be in touch with someone who has died. Although this is one mystery that will probably never be solved, the chances are it is more likely to have a logical explanation. If your dog is standing barking at a blank wall for example, he’s probably hearing something behind it – or even within it (such as mice/rats).
To summarize the above, when your dogs appears to be barking at nothing, it is more likely have a logical explanation. Remember that your dog’s senses, particularly smell, are much more sensitive than ours. Your dog’s reason for barking is therefore usually triggered by something that you simply cannot perceive.
It is important to realize that your dog’s barking should not always be seen as bad behavior, nor should it be dismissed. While it’s tempting to see dog barking as an annoying, your dog may also be trying to communicate something important to you. Attempt to work out the cause, and try some of the suggestions listed above to resolve the issue.