Why is My Dog Barking at Nothing?
While there are many great things that come with being a dog owner, most dog owners would probably readily admit that there are a few things about their dogs that they don’t like.
One thing most pet owners (and non-pet owners) can agree on is that dog barking can be extremely annoying - especially when the dog is barking at seemingly nothing. However, just because it seems like your dog is barking at nothing doesn’t mean it’s the case.
Read on to find out why your dog is barking at nothing and what you can do about it.
Related: Why Do Dogs Like to Be Pet?
They Hear Something You Can’t
While humans can hear sounds up to approximately 20,000 Hertz, dogs can hear sounds all the way up to 47,000 to 65,000 Hertz.
This means that there’s a whole world of sounds invading our dogs’ ears that we can’t hear. When it seems as if your pet is barking at nothing, it may be that they’re barking at a high-pitched sound that our ears can’t detect.
Additionally, dogs can hear extremely soft sounds that are much quieter than human ears can detect. Your dog may be barking at the sound of a squeaking mouse or some other quiet noise.
Your Dog Smells Something Funky
In addition to having a keen sense of hearing, dogs also have a keen sense of smell. While we humans primarily rely on our vision to experience the world around us, dogs mostly rely on their sense of smell.
Think about it- when you take your dog for a walk, it’s not spending a lot of time looking at the sky or whipping its head back and forth to check out the people passing by. Instead, your dog has its nose to the ground, trying to figure out its surroundings through smell.
Dogs’ keen noses are thanks to their anatomy. Dogs have far more olfactory sensory neurons than their human counterparts. Additionally, their noses have a larger surface area devoted to picking up smells. And, a proportionately larger portion of their brain is devoted to interpreting smells.
How does this relate to a dog barking? Dogs experience a world of scents that is beyond our comprehension. In fact, dogs can even detect diseases like cancer that we humans need complicated machines to diagnose.
So, if your dog smells something overwhelming or out of the ordinary, you can best believe that they’re going to make some noise about it. Think about it- when you smell something potent like rotten eggs, you don’t just sit around ignoring the smell and hoping it’ll go away.
Instead, you’ll likely have a visceral reaction to the smell. You may even tell someone about it or try to figure out where it’s coming from. When a dog barks randomly, there’s a good chance they smelled something out of the ordinary.
Related: Why Does My Dog Lay On Me?
Your Dog Sees Something You Don’t
Another reason your dog may be barking is because it sees something you don’t. Dogs can see in low light much better than humans can.
What might look like a pitch-black backyard to you looks like a whole world of shapes and movements to a dog. The reason dogs can see better in low light is because they have a tapetum lucidum, which is a reflective layer that sits behind the retina.
The tapetum lucidum bounces light back through the dog’s retina for a second pass. This increases the amount of light their retinas receive, even in darker conditions. Additionally, dogs have more rods in their retinas than humans do.
Rods are light-detecting cells that operate in low light. These extra rods allow dogs to see better in the dark than humans can. In fact, dogs only need about a quarter of the light that humans need to see.
So, if you find your dog barking at something in the dark, it may be that they see something lurking that you can’t.
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What to Do When Your Dog Barks Excessively
While it’s helpful to know that your dog is barking at something, you still need to figure out what to do about the problem.
First of all, don’t yell at your dog in an attempt to stop its barking. This will just add more chaos and noise to the situation, and it may cause your dog to bark even louder. One of the most productive ways to calm your dog’s barking is to simply acknowledge it. You can say “I know” or “thank you” to your dog to let it know you’re aware of their warning and that things are under control.
For some dogs, your acknowledgment is all they need to settle down. If your dog continues to bark, you may want to teach it a quiet cue to let it know it’s time to stop making noise.
For example, you can use words like “stop,” “quiet,” or “hush” to let your dog know it’s time to stop making noise.
You may also want to use a luring technique to teach your dog to stop barking. For this technique, hold a treat to your dog’s nose or get your dog’s attention with its favorite toy. Once your dog is silent, reward it with a treat and some praise.
Clicker training may also be helpful. Use a clicker to mark the moment your dog becomes quiet. This way, your dog will begin to understand why you’re rewarding them.
Related: Why Does My Dog Snort Like a Pig?
Dogs experience the world completely differently than humans do. While it may seem like your dog is barking just to get under your skin, chances are, there’s something that’s alarming them.
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