Why Does My Dog Keep Barking At Nothing?
[And How To Stop It]

By kropek2021. • Updated July 2, 2021

After a long week of work, you decide you want to recover all your lost sleep hours and slumber through Sunday morning uninterruptedly. You worked extremely hard and did what you had to do; you know you deserve it. But without warning, something jolts you awake at 6:10 am; a “Woof” followed by another boisterous “Woof.” “Oh, not again,” you think.

You come out of your bedroom while your mind is rebooting—that moment when you don’t even know who you are—But the fogginess in your mind is only made worse by the head-drilling barking.

After entering the living room, you see the main and only suspect; your lovely, furry canine companion is on top of the couch, looking out of the window barking its lungs out at anything that exists.

If your dog is anything like “Miles,” one of my clients’ dog, you need to know dog barking is natural; it’s in their genes; that’s the way they communicate, alert others, show excitement, express fear, and scare off any threat.

However, there are times when dogs display uncontrolled, nerve-wracking barking, which calls for special treatment.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. Here are the most common ones:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Separation anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Lack of attention
  • Pain
  • Boredom
  • Territorial behavior

If you’ve asked yourself, “Why is my dog barking at nothing?” it’s imperative that you find out the root cause before doing something about it. Most of the time, it’s not that dogs bark at nothing, but there’s an underlying reason for it. And it’s your job to figure it out to give your dog what it needs.

Before telling you how to deal with excessive barking, we need to break down the reasons for your dog’s barking at nothing. Let’s get started.

7 Reasons Why My Dog Keep Barking At Nothing

Lack Of Physical Activity

One of the first things you could do to treat compulsive barking is going out for a good play session or simply going for a long hike with your dog. One of the main reasons that cause dogs to bark is excess energy.
Depending on the breed you own, they will be more active than others—German Shepards, Golden Retrievers, and Labradors, for instance—But in general, all dogs can suffer from hyperactivity that triggers their barking.

Separation Anxiety

Separation is unnatural to dogs. It’s embedded in their genes to stick together with their pack and follow their family and friends around. When leaving your pooch all by themselves at home—or even when you leave them alone in a room—they could display various symptoms such as pacing, chewing, growling, howling, urinating, defecating, and of course, barking.

When you see that your dog barks at nothing, it’s advisable to rule out separation anxiety because, at times, it’s a psychological issue that could escalate and become a condition only treatable by a professional.

Frustration

When you hear a dog bark, they are probably trying to tell you something. Maybe, they need to go outside, or they need to pee or poop; perhaps they want to play or are crying for attention. Maybe they simply saw a cat from the window rushing across the garden, and they just want to chase it. Whenever your canine companion has a repressed urge, they will usually express it somehow.

This is not to say they can’t be trained to control themselves and behave. It’s just important that you are aware of their urges and desires so you can tackle their barking properly.

Lack of Attention

Dogs are affectionate and playful animals, and depending on how they are raised. They can be more or less needy. Keep in mind you are your dog’s family; they only have you. And just like us, they have social needs.

Dogs enjoy being petted, cuddled, and pampered; it’s only natural that they ask for attention sometimes. Barking is a common outlet to their longings for quality time with you.

It’s essential that—even in those exhausting days at work—you take some time to give your furry friend the love and affection they need.

Pain

Beware of this one; it’s pretty tricky to tell when your dogs’ barking at nothing is actually a sign they’re in pain. It usually happens in the form of sharp, low pitch, short barks, and occasionally, some howling.

Look out for any limping, injury, unusual lethargic behavior, or excessive lying around (sometimes on a particular side or position). Although, there, it might be the case that your dog is simply ill. Stay alert for any of these signs, as your dog’s barking might just be a cry for help.

Boredom

Just like humans, dogs tend to get restless after long periods of inactivity or boredom. If your dog spends a long time isolated in the back yard or at home alone, they are likely to engage in some frantic barking. This is not only unwanted behavior, but it can also disturb the neighbors and passersby.

Usually, when a dog is barking out of boredom, excitement, or frustration, the best solution is proper physical exercise.

I know it’s hard sometimes, but squeeze out as much time as possible to have a nice and tiring fetch session or a long walk with your dog periodically; this alone can do wonders to treat your canine pal’s barking. If time is the issue, consider hiring a dog walker who can give you a hand with it.

Territorial Behavior

If you have a dog, they’ve probably shown territorial or jealous behavior at some point. Maybe, when you gave attention to other animals in their presence, while meeting strange dogs during a walk at the park, or perhaps at a dinner party at home while receiving guests. 

Territorial behavior results from your dog experiencing fear of losing something they cherish, like their food, toys, home, or sleeping area, even their owner.

Next time your dog barks at nothing, ask yourself, “Is he being territorial about something?” The answer might provide some insight to approach your furry friend’s barking issues.

How Do You Stop a Dog From Barking?

I’ve been working with dogs for a long time now, and one of the main reasons people relinquish, abandon, or give up their dogs for adoption is excessive barking. I know all cases are different, but I’d dare say that most of the time, it’s due to a lack of patience on the part of the owners or unwillingness to do what it takes to ‘civilize’ their dogs.

When taking a dog into your home, you need to understand it’s a living being that will basically become part of your family. And just like children, it’s important to teach them manners, what’s allowed, and what’s not allowed to do.

If you love your canine companion, you will need to put in the work and do the training yourself to correct any unwanted behavior. For other people, hiring a professional works, but I always advise owners to take part in the training actively—even though they sometimes have sessions with a trainer—as this will strengthen their relationship with their dogs.

You will find the following tips extremely valuable If excessive dog barking is a pressing matter for you. However, only when applied patiently and consistently will you get the results you want. Here they are:

Stick to Positive Reinforcement Techniques

Aversive training techniques might produce positive results; I won’t deny that. The problem is when resorting to techniques or methods like shock collars and prong collars; you are treating the symptom, not the root cause.

Of course, positive reinforcement has its tools and aids as well, but in this case, it’s in the form of any yummy currency such as turkey jerky or any kind of deli meat.

The mechanics are simple; each time your dog shows a sign of compliance, you must reward them on the spot. It’s essential to up the threshold of difficulty every time you make some progress; you will develop the sense for it as you move forward.

Exercise: The Best Remedy For a Hyperactive Dog

When the diagnosis or your dog’s barking is either boredom, anxiety, overflowing energy, attention, or frustration, an energy-draining fetch session, or a long walk in the park, or your neighborhood might just do it when it comes to stopping dog barking.

When you have ruled out all the other reasons, try giving your dog proper exercise; it could save you some bucks in dog training, trust me.

Kick Off Your Dog’s Training In Barking-Triggering Scenarios

If you were to strip down barking control training and put it in a sentence, it would be to “drive away your dog’s attention from whatever they’re focused on and onto you.” To do this, first, you need to determine what’s causing your dog’s barking.

Do they bark when you come home? When meeting strangers? When being left alone? When bored or in need of attention? You will need to figure it out.

When you do, expose your dog to the situation that causes them to bark and pick up training from there.

Drive Their Attention Away From The Distraction and Onto You

More often than not, it will be the exposure to a particular stimulus that will make your dog overly ‘yappy.’ As mentioned before, expose your dog to whatever is making them bark, and right before the barking begins; get their attention onto you by calling their name, clapping, moving your hands, or using a voice marker like “look at me.”

In the beginning, it will be almost impossible to retain their attention for long—especially if they are being exposed to something extremely stimulating, like a cat—but what you are looking for here is short lapses of attention, no matter how short.

If your dog looks at you for a moment, and refrains from barking for even a split second, reward them with a yummy treat; If they start barking but suddenly stop, reward; it’s that simple.

Keep The Right Attitude

Being overly passive can undoubtedly ruin your training. On the other hand, having a bad mood and scolding and shouting at your dog whenever things don’t go your way won’t work either.

You want to stay energetic and slightly authoritative at all times; make your dog know you are in charge, not them. What dog owners usually do is they don’t speak to their dogs loud enough or with the right tone of voice; when this happens, their dogs will instinctively believe they are allowed to do whatever they want. That’s a huge no-no in dog training.

Stay zippy, stay in charge, and your dog will listen.

When Do I Know to Look For Help?

A clear sign that you should look for help is when your dog displays extremely compulsive and aggressive barking. Sometimes dogs can pose a danger to other people and even their owners; it’s advisable to get help in this situation.

You should also get help when separation anxiety becomes a severe issue. Perhaps, you’ve received complaints from neighbors about your dog’s barking, or they simply can’t stand the sight of you going into another room. 

In general, if your furry companion exhibits any extreme or uncontrollable behavioral issue—and you feel like you can’t handle it—consult your trusted veterinarian. Or even better, you could consult an ethology specialist (someone who studies animal behavior).

A Final Word

Dealing with compulsive barking can be a challenging task. It’s not only hard to think clearly when your dog completely zones out and compulsive barks at everything—or nothing, for that matter—but it’s extremely confusing at times to figure out what’s causing it.
Luckily, we’ve broken down the most common barking triggers so you can keep an eye out for them. In case you missed them, here they are:

  • Lack of physical activity
  • Separation anxiety
  • Frustration
  • Lack of attention
  • Pain
  • Boredom
  • Territorial behavior

When it comes to putting bored, hyperactive, overly excited, and frustrated dogs at ease; exercise can be a cure-all remedy. Making sure your dog is getting proper physical activity will certainly help in these cases.

Other times, anxiety could be causing your dog’s barking. Trying to spend more time with your canine friend is a first step, but ultimately, you’ll have to train it to be alone while keeping it together. If its symptoms become too severe, consult a professional.

Dogs are territorial animals, and that’s the way it is. Unfortunately, this sometimes translates into uncontrolled barking. Stay on the lookout for whatever stimulus is causing your dog to become overprotective and pick up their training from there. Territorial behavior could escalate into aggressiveness as your dog becomes older. Keeping it in check in take could avoid future unpleasant situations.

All in all, when your dog barks, it’s trying to say something. They could be scared, bored, anxious, frustrated, or even in pain. After you determine what’s causing them to bark, start training, just like outlined earlier in this guide—again, just in case you missed it. 

In case things get out of control, or become just a little too much for you, consult an animal trainer or veterinarian and you will certainly receive some valuable guidance. Stay loving and patient all the time and you will be rewarded with a well-behaved dog in time.