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Why Is My Small Dog Barking at Nothing and How Can I Stop It?

Why Is My Small Dog Barking at Nothing and How Can I Stop It?

13 minute read

Dogs bark for a wide variety of reasons.

For example, your dog may bark to alert you that a stranger is nearby. Whether it’s the mailman, DoorDash delivery, or the garbage truck, your dog will bark to let you know that someone is approaching. Yet in other cases, your small dog may bark to let you know that it wants to go outside to use the bathroom, play, or rest in the sun.

All of these situations have one thing in common: there’s a clear reason why your dog is barking.

So that raises the question: Why do dogs sometimes bark for no apparent reason? If there’s no obvious stimuli like the mailman or someone knocking on the door, then why is your dog barking at nothing?

Let’s explore all the reasons why dogs may bark for no reason at all – and what you can do to stop it.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

In order to answer “why is my dog barking at nothing,” we need to understand why dogs bark in the first place.

This will help us understand exactly how dogs interpret the world differently from humans. According to veterinarians and animal experts, dogs bark for the following reasons.

  • Territorial/Protective. Don’t forget that before they were domesticated to live alongside humans, dogs were wild animals. Barking is an instinct to keep the rest of the pack safe. If they notice anyone or anything encroaching on their territory, they’ll bark to alert the rest of the pack.
  • Greeting/Playing. It’s not uncommon for dogs to get excited when you come home from a long day at work. They often express this excitement through jumping, barking, and running around. Think of this as a happy bark!
  • Separation Anxiety. Some small dogs, such as chihuahuas, are more prone to separation anxiety than others. Dogs may howl and bark to help you “find” them and return back to them so that they don’t feel so lonely anymore.
  • Attention Seeking. Is your dog barking at you when you’re eating? Then he/she may be trying to tell you that he also wants food. Is your dog barking when you’re working on your laptop? Maybe it’s a sign your dog wants to play. When your dog wants to communicate something, he will bark for your attention.
  • Boredom/Loneliness. Have you ever randomly started singing when no one is around? Well, dogs sometimes do the same thing. If they get bored, they may bark as a form of entertainment. Some dogs will even sit by the window and entertain themselves by barking at the people walking by.
  • Alarm/Fear. Dogs have extremely sensitive senses, especially hearing and smell. If something startles your dog, they may bark out of fear. If this is the reason, look out for other signs that your dog is afraid, such as flat ears and a tucked tail. 

These are all legitimate reasons for why dogs bark. Believe it or not, in some cases, barking can even be a good thing!

This is why so many people look for dogs that can be good guard dogs; they want a dog to help keep them and their family safe. And yes, even small dogs and toy breeds can be guard dogs!

But… there can be too much of a good thing.

While it’s natural and important to allow dogs to bark, it can be frustrating when a dog is barking too much. Excessive barking is annoying and can get you in trouble if you live in an apartment complex, townhome, or condo with a strict HOA. 

If your dog is barking excessively, then you may want to consider a small dog shock collar to stop it. Used correctly, training collars are an excellent tool to communicate with your dog that their excessive barking is inappropriate!

Now that we’ve answered why dogs bark in general, let’s explore why dogs bark at nothing. 

small dog barking

Why Is My Dog Barking at Nothing?

Is my dog barking at a ghost?

Believe it or not, this is a common question that people ask when a dog appears to be barking at nothing.

In some cases, dogs may bark at a corner of the room when there’s no one and nothing there. This can be alarming for dog owners, prompting some to ask whether their dog is sensing anything paranormal. 

Here’s the good news: there’s no scientific evidence that dogs are able to see ghosts or sense paranormal activity.

Rather, what we do know is that dogs have extremely sensitive senses.

Here’s the reality:

  • Dogs hear twice as many frequencies as humans.
  • Dogs can hear sounds up to 4x the further away than humans
  • Dogs’ smell is 10,000 to 100,000 times better than humans.
  • Dogs have 50x more scent receptors than humans.

With that being said, when a dog appears to be barking at nothing, there’s usually an explanation for it.

For example, if a dog is barking at the corner of the room and there’s nothing there, they may be hearing insects outside the house that are digging in the ground. Perhaps they hear rodents or birds. Even though we can’t see or hear them, it doesn’t mean that your dog can’t sense their presence. 

They may hear something, smell something, or even see something that you can’t sense. This doesn’t always mean danger. It just means that the dog is unsure what they’re sensing, and they want to call it to your attention.

So, if your dog seems to be barking at nothing but there’s really nothing there, don’t let it alarm you too much. Just try to figure out what’s causing the noise and address it accordingly.

If you can identify why your dog is barking, then you can eliminate the trigger to restore peace and quiet to your home. 

Let’s say your dog is barking at the corner of the room. Well, your dog may sense that bees are building a hive outside or that birds are building a nest. If you clear these items from the outside of your home, then your dog’s barking should cease as the stimuli is taken away.

So the next time you find yourself asking, “Why is my dog barking at nothing?” try to determine if there’s a source that is agitating your dog. Many dog parents report that this is often the case!

What Are Other Reasons Why My Dog Barks So Much?

If you have searched and searched and can’t find anything that might be triggering your dog’s barking, then ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where is my dog looking when he’s barking? If your dog is looking at you while he’s barking, then he clearly wants to communicate with you. Maybe he wants to go outside. Maybe you’ve been ignoring him for too long and he simply wants some pets and belly rubs. It’s important to determine whether or not your dog is trying to communicate something important with you, because dogs also get conditioned to form habits. In other words, if your dog learns that barking will lead to pets, then he may bark whenever he wants to be pet. To avoid this, ignore “selfish” barking and only acknowledge barking that is meaningful (i.e. strangers approaching your home).
  • Has my dog gone outside recently? Dogs are extremely smart and intuitive. If your dog wants to go outside, he will likely give other cues in addition to barking. For example, he may bark by the door or trot back and forth by his leash. Even if your dog has recently gone outside, if it’s exhibiting these behaviors, then it may indicate that your dog has an upset stomach and truly needs to use the bathroom more than usual. Don’t forget that dogs can catch viruses and stomach bugs just like humans!
  • Did I do anything to cause stress? Remember, dogs are much smaller than we are, especially toy breeds. Things that we take for granted, such as a vacuum cleaner, can seem scary and overwhelming to dogs. Try to pay attention to patterns. Does your dog bark every time you vacuum? What about whenever you turn on the TV? Does your dog bark during thunderstorms? The closer attention you pay to your dog, the easier it will be to identify any potential triggers.
  • Have we gone to the vet recently? If none of the other questions have answered why your dog is barking, then a final answer might be a health problem. Since dogs can’t communicate with words, they may bark when they feel unwell. Older dogs may even bark if they have dementia or are disoriented in their own home. Bring your dog to the vet and see if there are any health issues that could explain the barking. 

By asking yourself these questions, you’ll be able to understand why your dog is barking. Chances are that it’s not truly barking at “nothing.” 

There’s usually a reason – and it’s up to us to decipher what that reason is. 

small dog barking

How to Stop a Dog Barking at Nothing

When people think about training dogs, they usually think of three things: potty training and the commands “sit” and “stay.”

However, it’s equally important to train your dog to stop barking. A simple command is “quiet.”

Professional dog trainers encourage using “quiet” as part of basic training. This will help you stop unwanted barking, especially if you’re taking your dog on a walk or are otherwise in public.

But even with training, dogs can be stubborn. 

They have their own minds and can sometimes bark excessively. Not only can this drive you crazy, but it might even annoy your neighbors as well!

In fact, there are even some dog breeds that are more prone to barking than others.

Fortunately, a rechargeable shock collar for small dogs can help you stop unwanted barking almost immediately.

You see, a training collar is a communication device. It’s meant to help you get your dog’s attention so that it obeys your commands and stops unwanted behavior. 

Think about it: if your dog is barking, is it actually going to hear you saying “quiet”? If your dog is barking because it’s focused on a high frequency sound, is it actually paying attention to you? Probably not.

The shock collar will get your dog’s attention, ensuring that it will listen. It will stop the unwanted behavior (such as barking) to avoid being shocked again. And don’t worry, the shock itself is not painful. At its highest setting, most people describe the shock as a “rubber band hitting your palm.”

Our training collar is designed specifically for small dogs, so you can rest assured that the settings are safe, yet effective, for even small toy breeds. 

The collar comes with three settings: sound, vibration and shock. 

We recommend beginning with the sound setting. If that doesn’t get your dog’s attention, then you can upgrade to vibration. Both vibration and shock have 9 levels, with 1 being the lowest and 9 being the highest.

Begin with the lowest level and continue testing until you find the perfect mode and level for your dog. Most dogs will respond with either sound or vibration. Even if you have to use shock, this custom collar ensures that the setting is just right – never too strong, yet never too weak. 

By following this process, you will have a training collar that is just right for your dog!

Other Commonly Asked Questions

Why do dogs bark in their sleep?

Dogs dream just like humans! During intense dreams, your dog may begin shaking its paws. This means that it’s probably running or digging in its dream. This can sometimes escalate to whimpering, then finally barking. If your dog is barking in its sleep, then gently wake it up. Your dog will appreciate this, especially if it’s having a nightmare. 

Why do dogs bark at people?

Dogs bark at humans for a wide variety of reasons, so it’s important to pay attention to your dog's body language. Let’s say your dog is barking at a stranger and the hair on its neck is suddenly prickly. This suggests that your dog is being aggressive towards strangers. Use the training collar to bring your dog’s attention back to you to deescalate the situation. However, if your dog is barking and wagging its tail, it likely is just excitedly greeting people. 

Why do chihuahuas bark so much?

Some of this is genetic. But some of it is also because of small dog syndrome. In short, small dog syndrome is when a dog realizes that it’s small compared to the rest of the world. This realization makes the dog fearful and afraid. To compensate for being small, some dogs bark and become aggressive. Unfortunately, they can overcompensate as well. This overcompensation is known as “small dog syndrome.”

How to get my dog to stop barking at nothing?

We encourage you to follow all the steps we outlined above. We also recommend reading our previous article: How to Get a Dog to Listen to You. This should help you stop unwanted and annoying behaviors. 

Why do dogs bark at other dogs?

When dogs bark at other dogs, they’re usually trying to communicate 1 of 2 possible things. First, they may be trying to communicate that “this is my territory.” If your dog appears aggressive, then odds are that it’s trying to protect what it considers its turf. On the other hand, if your dog is barking at another dog and is wagging its tail, then it may simply want to play and say hi!

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