If you have a dog, chances are you’ve seen your pet bark at a wall without any reason. The first time it happened, you might have been concerned, but by now, you’re probably just wondering why. Why would your perfectly healthy, reasonable canine companion choose to spend their time barking at a blank wall?
Believe it or not, there’s not one thing that can explain what motivates your dog to bark at walls. Instead, there are several reasons that could be behind your pup’s behavior. But rest assured, the most likely cause is that your buddy heard or saw something you can’t discern. Below we discuss the five most likely reasons your four-footed friend sometimes gets crazy and starts barking at walls.
1. Your Dog Actually Hears Something
Dogs have super sensitive hearing, which means they can hear sounds at volumes and pitches that humans simply can’t. Unlike humans, canines can hear sounds with frequencies between 3,000 and 12,000 Hz. Decibels measure a sound’s loudness, with 0 being the starting point for humans’ ability to hear. Dogs can hear sounds between 3,000 and 12,000Hz at volumes as low as -15dB, which is quite a feat.
Once sounds reach frequencies higher than 12,000Hz, it’s best just to give the prize to your canine companion and move on. Humans can’t hear at all once you get past frequencies around 20,000Hz. Yet your furry four-footer can hear sounds at frequencies as high as 65,000Hz. So, if your pet suddenly begins barking at the wall, there’s a good chance that they actually heard something you didn’t hear, probably because your ears aren’t sensitive enough.
2. Your Dog Sees Something
Dogs are also able to see much better than their human companions in some situations, particularly when the lighting is a bit low. Your four-legged friend’s low-light vision is at least five times better than yours! They have large pupils, making it possible for more light to hit your canine buddy’s optical nerves. Canine retinas are packed full of rods the more retinal rods an animal has, the better their ability to see in low light.
Even more important to your dog’s night vision is the tapetum, a structure that reflects light after it enters your pet’s eye that enhances their night vision by allowing even more light to hit their retina. It’s also the reason your buddy’s eyes look luminescent at night! If your dog is barking at a wall and the light in your room is dim, they could have seen an insect or shadow imperceptible to your eyes.
3. Your Dog Is Suffering from Cognitive Dysfunction
As your companion enters their senior years, they’ll likely experience a few changes. Many active pups become more sedentary, enjoying long snoozes more than playing fetch all afternoon due to conditions such as arthritis. Unfortunately, some also suffer from cognitive decline as they age, often causing symptoms such as excessive barking, becoming disoriented in familiar surroundings, and restlessness. The condition is technically called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD).
Although veterinarians aren’t exactly sure what causes CCD, they suspect that it’s most likely linked to the atrophy of your dog’s brain cells. If your pup is young and otherwise healthy, there’s probably nothing to be worried about here. However, if your older dog starts exhibiting these sorts of behavioral changes, it’s time to speak with your veterinarian. They will likely run a series of blood tests and give your buddy a physical examination.
4. Your Dog Is Engaging in Compulsive Behavior
Some dogs develop Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD), in which normal activities, like barking, become essentially unregulated to the point that your four-footed buddy cannot stop the activity. Some breeds are at heightened risk of developing CCD, including doberman pinschers and German shepherds. Veterinarians believe the condition is linked to a serotonin imbalance, much like depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans.
Compulsive behavior is also linked to anxiety and boredom. Dogs require a great deal of stimulation, and not enough toys, walks, and playtime can result in an anxious pet who engages in destructive behaviors to entertain and soothe themselves. Giving your companion extra time and attention often works wonders when it comes to minimizing compulsive behaviors. If your veterinarian thinks it appropriate, your dog can always take medication to help limit the impact of the disease on their daily functioning and happiness.
5. Your Dog Is Seeking Attention
Many dogs resort to destructive and annoying behaviors when they want your attention— think shoe stealing and destruction, tearing up furniture, and even barking at walls. In these cases, their behavior really is about eliciting a response from you. Owners often find their pets engage in these tactics when they’re bored or not getting enough exercise. Or, you might also need to pay more attention to your companion.
The most effective way to prevent attention-seeking behavior is to ignore it—don’t respond when your dog begins barking incessantly at the wall. Give extra pats and treats when your dog manages to reign in their behavior, and consider doggy daycare if your pup stays home for long periods alone to increase their stimulation by exposing them to other dogs and environments.
While barking at walls is not always a serious issue, it’s best to speak with your veterinarian if you’re concerned about the depth and intensity of your pet’s behavior or if you see other behavioral changes happening simultaneously, particularly if you have a senior pet.