Why Is My Dog Barking at Nothing?

You're in the other room, trying to watch TV when suddenly, your dog starts going crazy. He's barking so loudly, there must be something wrong. But when you rush to his side, you find... nothing. There's nothing in the room, nothing outside... Not a single thing out of the ordinary.

A few minutes later, it happens again, and again the next night, as well. What's happening? Is he trying to use the Twilight Bark, like in 101 Dalmatians? Here are a few reasons why your dog might be barking at nothing, and what you can do about it.

  • He Hears Something. Dogs can hear things at pitches and distances we can't. Whatever's got him so excited might be happening several houses down. Try taking him out for a walk. He might lead you to the source of his barking, or at the very least, you might distract him for a while until it's gone.

  • He Sees Something. Maybe your dog has spotted movement outside the window. It could be a rabbit, a squirrel, or another dog. Whatever it is, he wants to go investigate, but the wall is in the way. This can cause frustration, which leads to barking. If it's not something dangerous, you can let him out for a bit. If it's too late at night, or the thing is outside the confines of your yard, consider distracting him with something else until it's gone.

  • You Have Rodents. If you have mice, rats, or even squirrels or some other animals, living, say, under your porch or in your garage, your dog will sense them keenly, through their scent. And barking at these intruders into his territory is in his nature. Have the house checked for rodents or other unwanted creatures, and have them taken care of, so your furry friend and you can both have some peace.

  • He Wants Attention. What happens when your dog starts barking? First, you go to him, to see what's the matter. Then, you probably give him pets, and maybe even play with him a bit, now that you're there. So he's learned that whenever he barks a lot, he'll get attention - and thus starts barking at nothing sometimes, to get you to drop what you're doing and come play. If you want him to bark less, it's important to set boundaries. Love and attention are great, but too much can make him co-dependent.

  • He Has Separation Anxiety. If your neighbors tell you that your dog barks while you're at work, he probably misses you. Especially if you were furloughed from your job or working from home during the pandemic and are now going back, he probably got used to the extra attention and wants it back. Get some toys and other stimuli for him to play with while you're gone. If that doesn't work, call a dog trainer to help him readjust to spending time alone.

  • He Has Dementia. The barking might literally be all in his head. Certain problems in his brain chemistry can lead to excess barking. If other methods have failed, take him to the vet to be checked out. Your vet can tell you if there's something wrong health-wise, and what to do about it.

Whatever the reason, your dog's barking can become a frustrating problem if it goes on too long. But armed with a little knowledge and a few tricks to help calm him down, you can get through it together and let him know that whatever the problem is, you're there for him.