Why do dogs bark?
Dogs are pack animals that live with other dogs, and they have evolved to work well together as a group.
This means that they need to communicate with each other, so they bark.
There are many reasons why a dog might bark.
Some of them are obvious, like if you leave the back door open while you are away for a few hours, or if a stranger comes into the neighborhood without warning.
Other reasons are more subtle, such as if one of your neighbors has trained their dog to bark whenever they see you coming home from work.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the most common reasons why dogs bark, then explain what causes shadow chasing.
Reasons your dog might be barking at nothing
There are several reasons why dogs bark at nothing.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. They’re bored or frustrated
A bored dog will bark at anything that moves.
This includes a window blind fluttering in the wind or the neighbor’s cat.
A frustrated dog will also bark at things that move, such as a car driving by, doorbells ringing, or even a person walking past their house.
If you have a dog who frequently barks at nothing, then he likely isn’t getting enough exercise, socialization, or mental stimulation.
2. They’re stressed
Stress affects all animals, including dogs.
When a dog experiences stress, they become hyper-vigilant and more sensitive to stimuli.
In other words, they start barking at everything.
Stress causes your dog to be overly alert and reactive, which makes them bark at things that don’t bother other dogs.
For example, if another dog walks by your house, your dog might start barking because she thinks it’s the same dog and she doesn’t like this new person around.
3. Their attention span has been depleted
This one seems obvious, right?
Dogs are naturally curious creatures.
But if you’ve ever had an energetic puppy, you’ll understand how quickly that curiosity can wear out.
Once your dog gets tired of what’s going on in front of him (or her), he’ll start looking for something else to focus his attention on.
4. They’re afraid
Dogs bark at things that scare them.
They hear strange noises that make them nervous, see shadows moving across their yard, smell strange odors, or encounter unfamiliar people or animals.
These situations cause your dog to become anxious and agitated, and that results in barking.
5. They’re protecting themselves from something
When a dog feels threatened, he starts barking.
He does this for two main reasons.
First, he wants to warn other dogs (and sometimes humans) about the threat so they can avoid it.
Second, he needs to let off some steam before he attacks the threat.
6. They’re playing
Sometimes dogs just want to play with each other.
It could be a game where they chase each other with toys or it could be a game where they chase each other with their mouths.
Either way, dogs bark during these games because they’re having fun and want to get the other dog involved.
If your dog is barking at nothing
Why does my dog bark at nothing?
If you’ve ever wondered why your dog barks at nothing or barks at everything, then this article is for you.
As with most things concerning dogs, there are many different reasons why dogs bark at nothing.
Some dogs bark at shadows, while others bark at the wind.
Dogs that are prey animals will often bark at anything that moves, whether it’s a shadow or a cat.
Dogs that live in high-risk areas such as the mountains or near busy roads may also bark at nothing to protect themselves from dangerous predators.
The biggest reason for dogs barking at nothing has got to be boredom.
The human world is so full of noise and distractions that dogs need to keep their minds active and occupied with something else to stop them from becoming bored and resorting to barking at anything they see.
This could be an annoying neighbor who leaves his porch light on all night, or it could be a person who walks by your house every day.
Dogs that live in large homes where they have lots of room to roam around will usually only bark at a few people, maybe one or two neighbors.
But if you live in a small apartment complex, or even a condo, then you’ll probably find that your dog is barking at just about everyone walking past your home.
Here are some more reasons why your dog might be barking at nothing.
What should you do?
Dogs bark for many reasons.
They bark in response to other animals or people they perceive as threatening.
They also bark at the mailman and the UPS man, because they know that these people are delivering packages.
And if they get out of their yard, they bark at cars driving by, because they want the driver to slow down so they can run out into the street and chase after them.
In general, most dogs bark to communicate with one another, alerting others to potential danger or simply letting them know someone else is around.
But sometimes, the barking gets out of control.
A dog will start barking at everything and anything, including shadows, the wind, and passing cars.
This is often referred to as shadow chasing.
There’s no way to tell whether your dog is doing this unless he starts barking at absolutely nothing.
You’ll have to see if it happens regularly during certain times of day.
Shadow chasing is usually caused by boredom.
If your dog spends all his time alone, he won’t have anyone to play with, which means he doesn’t have enough stimulation to keep him interested, active, and happy.
To help prevent this problem, you need to make sure that your dog has plenty of exercise and mental stimulation every day.
Make sure he gets outside to enjoy the sunshine, play fetch with toys, or chase balls and other dogs.
When he does those things, he’ll probably forget about barking at shadows and other inanimate objects, because he’ll be having fun instead!
But sometimes, even though your dog is having fun, he still might continue to bark at shadows.
He could be suffering from separation anxiety.
If your dog is used to being cradled in your arms while sleeping, waking up alone in a strange place can cause him to become extremely anxious.
Separation anxiety can lead to hyperactivity, which is why your dog might start barking at shadows.
If this sounds like your dog, you should talk to your veterinarian about some solutions.
In addition to separation anxiety, there are other conditions that can cause barking.
Sometimes, a dog who’s been abused, neglected, or mistreated will act aggressively toward strangers.
That’s why it’s important to always leave your dog in an enclosed area whenever you’re not home.
If he sees someone approaching, he might start barking, thinking that person is going to hurt him.
Other dogs can also bark at shadows if they don’t understand why they’re barking.
Or maybe they’re just really bored and looking for a distraction.
So how do you stop your dog from barking at nothing?
The first thing you should do is try to identify the underlying reason behind the barking.
Is it his boredom?
Is it his fear of strangers?
Do you think he’s suffering from separation anxiety?
Whatever the case, you’ll want to find a solution.
Once you’ve figured out what’s causing the problem, you can take steps to correct it.
Here are some suggestions that you can use to help your dog stop barking at nothing.
- Start off slowly. Don’t expect your dog to suddenly stop barking. Instead, set aside a few minutes each day to introduce new activities. Maybe you can give him a couple of treats once he stops barking. Then gradually increase the length of time he’s allowed to bark before he gets a treat. Over time, you can increase the amount of time until you get to 30 seconds. As long as he keeps quiet for longer than that, he gets a treat.
- Offer rewards. Once your dog learns to stay quiet for more than 30 seconds, you can start rewarding him with treats for remaining silent. You can also reward him with praise when he stops barking. This helps reinforce the fact that staying quiet is a good thing, and it encourages him to do it again later.
- Play games. Some dogs love playing tug-of-war with their owners. Give your dog lots of opportunities to practice tugging with you. If he doesn’t want to pull, you can put a toy between your hands and let him sniff it. Eventually, he’ll realize that tugging isn’t necessary to get the toy back — just sniffing will do. After a few days, you can replace the toy with another one. Keep playing this game over and over again until your dog learns that tugging isn’t necessary to get the toy back.
- Teach your dog to stop barking. Many dogs learn to stop barking when they hear a clicker. A clicker is a device that makes a noise that sounds like a click. When you click the sound, your dog thinks you’re giving him a reward (like food), and he stops barking. Clickers aren’t expensive, and you can buy one online for less than $20. But you don’t have to spend money to teach your dog to stop barking! Just hold the clicker near your dog’s nose and say “no” firmly and clearly. Repeat this command every time your dog starts barking. Soon, he’ll associate your voice with “no.”
- Use positive reinforcement. If your dog frequently barks at shadows, you can use a training collar to help reinforce the idea that barking is bad. Training collars are made of nylon webbing, and they come in different sizes. Some training collars are designed for small dogs, and others are meant for large breeds. The best type of collar depends on your dog’s size, but you should aim to purchase one that fits snugly around your dog’s neck. All you have to do is attach the other end of the collar to your dog’s leash, and then tighten the collar around his neck. Whenever he barks, the collar tightens and shocks him.
- Try hypnosis. Hypnotherapy involves using relaxation techniques to help alleviate stress, anxiety, pain, or any other negative emotions. Your vet can perform hypnosis sessions with your dog. During the session, you’ll listen to relaxing music and talk in a soothing tone of voice. Your dog will lie down on a table, and the hypnotherapist will use a special tool called a laryngeal mask to keep his airway open. As soon as your dog falls asleep, the laryngeal mask will fall off and be replaced with a breathing tube. You can ask your veterinarian to perform a hypnosis session with your dog whenever you feel he needs it. It’s completely safe, effective, and noninvasive.
- Get professional help. If none of the above methods work for you, you might consider getting professional help. Your vet can prescribe medication to help your dog relax and calm himself. If your dog suffers from separation anxiety, your vet could refer you to a specialist. These professionals will be able to help your dog deal with whatever issue is making him bark incessantly, including separation anxiety, boredom, and other problems.
How to stop your dog from barking at nothing
Your dog has probably barked at something that isn’t there before.
Shadow chasing is one of the most common reasons for barking at nothing.
Here are some steps you can take to help your dog get over this barking habit.
Step 1: Create a calm environment
Before you try to stop your dog from barking at nothing, make sure you create an environment where she feels safe and secure.
When she feels threatened, she will start barking.
If you want to keep her calm, then give her a place to feel safe and secure.
Step 2: Change the situation
When your dog starts barking at nothing, change the situation.
Try doing something different with her or put her in another room while you work around the house.
This way, she will not have the same thing to focus on as she does now.
Step 3: Give your dog attention
If you haven’t been paying attention to your dog lately, then you need to start now.
Paying attention to your dog gives him a sense of security.
He needs to know that he is important to you so that he doesn’t feel like he has to bark at everything.
Step 4: Teach your dog to heel
Sometimes, your dog will bark at nothing because she wants to go somewhere with you.
The best thing to do is to teach her to heel.
You can use a leash and lead her to a specific location, such as the bathroom.
Once she gets used to going to the bathroom with you, she will learn to stay out of other areas of the house (unless she sees something interesting).
Step 5: Redirect her attention elsewhere
The next time you see your dog barking at nothing, redirect her attention elsewhere.
Say “no” firmly and put her in another room.
She may still bark, but at least she will no longer be focused on barking at nothing.
Step 6: Get rid of distractions
If you don’t have another dog or cat to distract your dog, then get rid of all household objects that might cause her to bark.
These include toys, books, shoes, etc.
Make sure they are stored away from your dog’s reach.
Step 7: Use positive reinforcement
You can also use positive reinforcement to help your dog stop barking at nothing.
Get down on your knees and speak calmly to your dog.
Ask her to sit quietly and praise her when she does.
Then, wait for a few seconds and praise again.
Repeat this process until she stops barking.
Step 8: Try desensitizing your dog to loud noises
If your dog only barks when there is noise, then you can try desensitizing her to loud noises by playing with her in a quiet area and gradually increasing the volume of the sound.
Start off slowly and increase the volume every day for a few minutes until she no longer reacts to the sound.
What if my dog won’t stop barking at nothing?
Shadow chasers are a common problem for pet owners.
Dogs will often chase imaginary or moving objects.
It sounds like the perfect solution to a barking problem, right?
Well, not quite.
Here’s what you need to know about shadow chasers.
What is a shadow chaser?
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where a shadow chaser came from.
There have been several different theories, but the most popular one is that of an overzealous herding dog.
Herding dogs were bred to chase down animals, so they would follow a moving target and then attack it.
This was necessary to keep them safe while working with livestock.
Over time, this hunting instinct became ingrained into their personalities, causing a few problems.
In fact, some herding breeds still chase shadows today.
But that doesn’t mean all dogs chase shadows!
What causes shadow chasers?
There are several factors that could cause a dog to become a shadow chaser.
It usually starts when a dog is young and develops a strong prey drive.
When prey drives are strong, it makes sense that your dog would want to chase after anything that moves – even if it’s just a reflection.
A lack of socialization with other dogs and people is also a major factor.
If your dog sees another dog being chased by someone, he might think it’s okay to chase him too.
And if he isn’t properly trained, he might think it’s okay to chase his owner!
Another reason why a dog might chase shadows is because he has separation anxiety.
If your dog is afraid of leaving you, he might try to comfort himself by chasing things around the room.
Dogs who bark at nothing: a case study
I have been a professional dog trainer for over 20 years.
My clients come to me with their problems and I try to help them solve them.
There are many reasons why dogs bark or howl.
They range from simple things like being bored or lonely to more serious issues such as separation anxiety, fear aggression or even boredom.
One of the most common issues that I see is what we call “barking at nothing”.
This is where your dog barks incessantly at a moving object in his environment (such as another animal, person or car) or an imagined moving object.
The dog will not stop barking, even though there is no real threat.
In some cases, this behavior has led to injury, especially if the owner has been playing with the dog and then leaves him unattended for a few minutes while he goes to get food or water.
Some owners report they have lost their jobs due to this behavior.
Some dogs are more prone to this than others and it’s important to understand why.
We all know that different breeds of dogs have different behaviors, so it stands to reason that some dogs might be more likely to bark at nothing than others.
What follows is a case study of one of those dogs.
The owner of this dog was very upset by her dog’s behavior.
She had tried everything she could think of to stop him from barking at nothing, including using a spray bottle filled with water and spraying him when he did it.
She also tried putting him outside for short periods of time during the day and even took him out after dark, hoping this would deter him from doing it.
She came to me because she couldn’t stand seeing her dog bark for hours every day.
I asked her to bring him into our training room so I could observe him.
He was lying down next to her watching television.
As soon as I sat down, he started barking at nothing.
No matter how much I tried to distract him, he continued to bark at nothing.
After about 10 minutes of this, I decided to take a break and went to the kitchen to get some coffee.
When I returned, he was still barking at nothing.
So I went back to the kitchen and got some popcorn.
Again, he continued to bark at nothing.
Now he was getting really annoying and I was starting to feel bad for him.
About 15 minutes later, I realized that I needed to teach him a new trick.
I put some treats on the floor and told him to go fetch them.
While he was fetching the treats, I stood up and walked away.
He immediately stopped barking at nothing and looked up at me expectantly.
I said, “OK, now you need to keep your eyes on the treat until I tell you otherwise.”
I then turned around and left again.
He didn’t look up at me, but he kept looking at the treat.
After a few seconds, I called him over and gave him his reward.
He quickly lapped it up and lay down beside me.
A few minutes later, I repeated the process again and he followed along without hesitation.
I repeated it three times before I let him off the leash.
By now, he was sitting right next to me and I was able to pat and play with him.
He seemed happy and relaxed.
I asked him if he wanted to go for a walk, and he jumped up and ran to the door.
I opened the front door and he ran outside.
He went straight to the mailbox and sniffed it.
When he saw me coming, he ran back inside.
We played together for a little bit longer and then I sent him home.
On the way home, he just sat in the passenger seat looking out the window.
Once we got home, he ran straight to the bathroom and laid down on the floor.
He didn’t want to leave the house.
I went home and told my wife about what happened.
I explained that I thought he was having a hard time adjusting to life outside, so I offered him a chance to work through it by taking him for a walk.
I said I would give him lots of attention and make sure he knew he wasn’t going anywhere.
She agreed and we set off for a walk.
Within 5 minutes, he started barking at nothing again.
I felt terrible for him and told him he was going to bed early.
I got him a bowl of fresh water and left the room.
About 2 minutes later, he started barking.
I came back in and patted him on the head.
He immediately stopped and looked up at me.
I said, “Good boy! You’re going to bed now!”
He laid down and went to sleep.
I went back to the bedroom and told my wife that he was fine.
We spent the rest of the night together.
He was happy and I was happy.
I never heard him bark at anything again!
How can I tell if my dog is a shadow chaser?
The first step in fixing a shadow chaser is identifying if there is a problem.
To find out whether or not your dog is a shadow chaser, ask yourself these questions:
Does your dog chase shadows outside of home?
Does your dog chase shadows inside of home?
Is your dog afraid to leave your side?
Are you worried that your dog will hurt himself chasing shadows?
Has your dog ever tried to bite you while chasing shadows?
If your answers are yes to any of these questions, you should consider getting help from a professional.
A good behaviorist can teach you how to better handle your dog’s behavior issues.
They can also teach you how to redirect your dog away from chasing shadows and towards more appropriate behaviors.
The first thing to keep in mind is that all dogs are different.
Some dogs bark at everything, some only bark at things they know well, and others will only bark at things that move (like shadows).
When I was writing this article, the most popular question in our forums was why does my dog bark at nothing?
The answer for most cases is because your dog has developed a fixation on a particular object.
If you think about it, it makes sense.
A shadow is a moving object, so it would make sense if your dog were barking at shadows.
But what happens when your dog develops a fixation on an item that isn’t moving?
That’s where we get into trouble.
When I asked people to share their stories with me, one of the most common responses was from a person who had a cat.
He said his cat started barking at shadows, but then he went away for a few months and came back home to find that his cat was barking at nothing.
When he asked the cat, she just looked at him blankly and continued to bark at nothing.
This person felt as though the cat had forgotten how to bark at shadows, and that it had become fixated on nothing.
Another example involved a person whose dog had been diagnosed with epilepsy.
Their dog used to bark at passing cars, but after being put on medication, the problem stopped completely.
However, when the owner left the house for a couple days, the dog started barking at nothing again.
The owner tried giving the dog treats in front of the car, but the dog still didn’t stop barking.
Thinking that the dog might have a fear of cars, the owner brought the dog to the vet, but the vet couldn’t find anything wrong with the dog.
There are many other examples like this, but the bottom line is that there really aren’t rules for these kinds of situations.
Each dog is different, and each situation is unique.
What works for one dog may not work for another.