It is 3 in the morning. You are tucked soundly in your bed with visions of sugar plums dancing sweetly in your head. When out of the silence Fido starts to quietly growl, slowly growing louder until it becomes a full-on bark. You leap out of bed ready to fight off the intruder when you realize that there. Is. no. one. There.
So what in the world is that dog going on about? Why does my dog bark and growl at nothing?
A dog will bark and growl at nothing when he senses something, perhaps another animal, like a squirrel. Dogs can get angry too, so he may also bark out of frustration.
While you might not be able to see or hear whatever it is that they are reacting to, chances are that there is, in fact, something there to react to. What that something might be could vary wildly but the bottom line is that they have the best of intentions. Fortunately, in a world of possible problems, this is a relatively minor one and one that is easily amended. Finding the reason for his display is the best place to start.
Why Does My Dog Bark And Growl At Nothing?
Even the slightest, most minute vibrations are incredibly distinguishable to a dog’s very sensitive hearing. While you may not be able to feel, or hear, them, your dog likely can. This could very well be the reason for the growling and/or barking. Being that it is unlikely that you will be able to find the culprit without being able to see or hear it, soothing your dog, and trying to calm him during these episodes would be the best course of action.
08. Another Animal
Dogs have almost supernatural hearing and it would not be uncommon for them to react to a perceived threat, such as another animal, outside somewhere, that you can’t see. If the behavior persists you should contact a pest control service to check for rodents or other animals that might be hanging around ticking off the dog.
07. They Heard A Noise Not Loud Enough For Human Ears
A dog’s hearing is absolutely incredible. They can hear things up to four times farther away than a human can. There is a very real possibility that your dog might be hearing something not detectable by the human ear.
06. Canine Dementia
Unfortunately, if your dog is older, this could be the initial signs of an illness such as canine dementia. This might be the cause of your dog seeming to react to things that are not there. Your dog’s doctor should be able to diagnose and offer treatment or medication to help alleviate some of the symptoms. Sadly, there is no cure for canine dementia.
05. Reaction To Internal Stimuli
When your precious pup is in pain, uncomfortable, or just not feeling well, he can’t exactly tell you what is going on. Not unlike the human body, dogs tend to feel their pain and discomfort worse once their bodies start to relax (like at bedtime). In response to whatever the internal stimuli, your pooch may whimper, bark, or growl. If you believe that there is something to be concerned about, ask your veterinarian about available treatments.
04. It Was All A Dream
Like something straight out of “Dallas”, your pup may just be an active sleeper with overly vivid dreams. Many dogs chase, bark, growl, and twitch in their sleep. If this is a new thing then it could be a good idea to discuss any recommended medications and/or treatments with your veterinarian. Rarely is it ever anything to worry about and there are no magic cures for dogs with extra special dreams.
Sometimes dogs get frustrated (just like we sometimes get exasperated with their non-stop growling at walls). They just might vent their frustration by seemingly growling and/or barking. The only way to attempt to break this habit is to pinpoint the cause of the frustration. Have you recently moved? Brought home a new pet? A baby? Any variation in their routine could cause upset. Whatever the case may be, sometimes a little love and a lot of patience will help to ease their impediment.
No matter the reason (if in fact there is one), it is in a dog’s nature to voice their opinions and their feelings with a bark, growl, or howl. This is one of their sole means of communication and sometimes you just feel the need to complain (to you, to the wall, whatever). He may have no rhyme or reason to it, he just felt like barking.
01. It All Boils Down To Protectiveness
Whether it be a possible threat, an unfamiliar sound, or an instinctual urge to bark, it really all boils down to the obvious protectiveness they feel towards members of their pack or family. It is done out of pure, unconditional love. For the most part, a gentle “Calm” or “Lay Down” will likely do the trick, and if it doesn’t, there just might be something to investigate.
How To Correct The Issue – The Do’s And The Don’ts
In certain situations, a dog barking or growling can grow to more than just a personal annoyance, especially if or when it starts to become incessant. Depending on where you live, it can also become a legal issue by breaking the city’s noise ordinances. Luckily, most dogs can be reasonably trained when it comes to unnecessary mouthiness (and there is help for those who can’t be trained too!).
- Do try to determine the source of the barking. Do you have a rogue raccoon scoping out the backyard? Mice? A strange neighbor peering in the windows? Finding out why he is doing it is the first step to getting him not to do it.
- Do attempt positive reinforcement training techniques. Your dogs’ main goal in life is to make you (their beloved hooman) happy. If him not barking seems to please you he will be more likely to curb the unwanted barking behavior. Teach him a command: “No Bark”, “Quiet!”, and when obeys it, by refraining from barking or growling, offer him a treat, a hug, and some praise.
- Do be reasonable. Dogs will be dogs. They bark. They growl. They slobber. Also, you should be mindful of the breed (see below). Some dog breeds are known for being more vocal than others but no dog is completely mute.
- Do look into your options. There are plenty of reputable obedience schools that are affordable or you can look into dog trainers/whisperers. One-on-one might work better for this particular issue
- Do use a muzzle. Muzzles are a safe, painless way to limit excessive dog noise. This is the perfect solution for stubborn, outspoken pups. Just remember to not leave it on for extended periods of time as they are unable to eat while wearing it.
- Don’t go to the extreme. While a shock collar or something of the sort might seem like a perfect fix, it is unnecessarily cruel. There are better ways of teaching him than by causing fear or pain.
- Don’t yell or hit. This is never going to solve anything. It will make your dog associate you with negativity and become frightened or fearful of you. What happens when we get scared? We shut down and go into fight or flight mode. Same thing here. He is not going to learn anything. He will either shut completely down or become defensive, even possibly aggressive. Here’s an article on how to not get angry at your pooch.
- Don’t have unreasonable expectations. No dog is going to be completely quiet, all of the time. You can find certain breeds that are less likely to bark or find a dog with a calm, laid-back personality, but, at the end of the day, he is still a dog, with dog-like instincts.
If You Are Considering Adopting A Dog
First and foremost, congratulations, it is the best decision you will ever make. However, it is a big decision and not one that should be taken lightly. It is a very long commitment. That being said, you should do your research and find a breed that will work with your specific situation.
For example, many condominiums and apartments have breeds or noise restrictions. In this instance, you likely do not want to adopt a 120-pound pit bull. The same concept with regards to barking, certain breeds are less noisy than others.
To Bark Or Not To Bark – Best Dog Breeds For Minimal Barking
- Sharpei: A medium-sized breed with a good temperament. They are intelligent and easy to train. They are prone to skin issues due to their wrinkly coat. However, they are not big barkers.
- Bulldog: Bulldogs make awesome pets and they are absolutely adorable. They are not known for being super vocal but they are brachycephalic. This means that they commonly suffer from respiratory issues thanks to their smooshed-in snout.
- Bullmastiff: These massive dogs have the heart to match their size but not the bark. They are perfectly capable of barking but are not likely to do a whole lot of it. That is how they got their nickname ‘The silent watchdog’.
- Greyhound: Not only one of the fastest known dog breeds but also one of the sweetest. Greyhounds have the most loving temperament and are highly trainable. They will rarely leave your side, and they will seldom utter a single woof. Many rescues adopt retired track dogs and they make wonderful (quiet) companions.
- Basenji: Quite literally referred to as a ‘barkless’ dog breed, the Basenji is one of the best to get if you are looking for a dog that doesn’t like to bark. Despite the rumor, they are not ‘barkless’ but they hardly ever do so.
Dogs don’t bark or growl at nothing, bar having some underlying neurological or medical condition. If it is becoming a nuisance, there are ways of dealing with it. Seeing your veterinarian to rule out a medical cause should be step one. Be prepared to possibly find out that he just likes to bark. And to start accepting his yappy butt for the lovable mug that he is.
Whatever the trigger, your canine companion is doing exactly what he is supposed to do. Protecting their family, and protecting the territory (from both real and imagined danger) is their job.
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