Cats are usually recognized as more mysterious than their canine counterparts, and yet, dogs have plenty of confounding behaviors. Take, for example, their proclivity for barking at nothing (that you know of). Some dogs may feel the urge to constantly bark, others may only bark in certain areas of the home, such as the middle of the living room, or the corner in the kitchen. The types of dog barks known to dog owners are definitely varied, but one thing is certain: it’s time to figure out the logic behind them.
When a dog barks at something you can’t see, hear, or sense, it can be incredibly alarming. This is especially true if your dog has proven useful at alerting you to possible dangers. However, once all possible threats are eliminated, continued barking can suddenly veer into the irritation category.
As seemingly random and illogical as they may be, dog barks are a useful communication tool that can key you into what’s happening with them. It’s not just the bark, but a combination of tone, frequency, pitch, and urgency.
Bred to Bark
Some dogs are simply born ready to make themselves heard, and will rely on their vocal cords to say hello and goodbye, defend their territory, request a treat, or signal that it’s bathroom time. Others will only bark at cyclists, squirrels, or other stimuli.
We know that dogs can smell and hear far better than we can. They might bark at something in the air that is downright invisible to us. This translates into they’re “barking at nothing,” but that’s not likely. It could be nothing, but why discount the possibility? Once you investigate, reward your dog with a healthy treat, exercise, or snuggles.
If the threat ever becomes real, you’ll likely hear whining or other high-pitched vocalizations. They may pace, walk in circles, or scratch the exit door. Owners should coax their dogs away from the negative stimulus and comfort them.
Pay Attention to Me (Now)
It’s probably just a matter of fact that your dog wants you to pay attention to them right this minute. They are, after all, giving you their undivided attention. You’ll notice that when they bark, they’ll look directly into your eyes. To thwart repeated attempts at this, avoid eye contact or giving them the response they want. It may take time, but they’ll eventually get the hint that constant barking won’t get them anywhere.
A bored or frustrated dog will sound that way. Different from the “love me” bark or the “what’s that smell?” bark, these barks may be a bit snippy, high-pitched, or punchy-sounding. Again, you don’t want to give into this behavior (a process that will inadvertently reinforce it), but you do want to provide an outlet for your dog. Chew toys, food puzzles, and just basic exercise will help them burn off steam. Remember, a tired dog is a happy one.
Other Dog Barks
Excited or happy dog barks sound exactly like a happy, excited dog should. They are often short little yips and yaps, accompanied with tail wagging, smiling, and sustained eye contact.
A territorial dog will bark or growl in their lowest possible vocal register. They may also get louder as the perceived threat grows, and more authoritative in nature. They are the boss, after all!