When your dog suddenly starts staring, growling, and barking at a wall, it can startle you or it can downright scare you senseless. After all, you have to wonder what he is seeing that you can't. Simply because he's growling at nothing isn't a cause for alarm. More often than not, there is a rational explanation for your dog's behavior. Here are some reasons why your dog might be obsessed with the walls:
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Critters in the Wall
If you have small animals in your walls, like mice, squirrels or even raccoons, your dog's sensitive ears will pick up their scratching even if you cannot hear a thing. Since dogs are territorial and hunters by nature, your dog will look at the unusual sound as threatening and resulting in what looks like a starting contest with the plaster. He may even bark or growl in an attempt to show his dominance over the burrowing animals. In most cases, the spot that he focuses on is where the critters are crawling around in between the walls.
Attention Seeking Behavior
Sometimes a dog will bark or growl just to get some attention because he knows that his owner will give it to him. Dogs don't always separate good attention from bad attention, so if you scold your dog for growling at the wall, he may just do it again in the near future in order to get you to pay more attention to him.
Sensing an Outside Threat
Dogs can see and hear things beyond the scope of human perception, so it is not uncommon for a dog in the back room of a house to growl or bark when he "senses" someone, like the mailman, outside at the other end of the house. Although it may appear that your dog is growling at the wall, he may just in fact be growling in the direction he is sensing something out of the norm.
Breed Peculiarities and Compulsive Behaviors
Certain breeds of dogs, like Jack Russell terriers and other small dog breeds, sometimes exhibit odd behaviors that can borderline on the compulsive. One such behavior is incessant growling at nothing in particular. Sometimes this behavior can include an obsession in which the dog licks one spot on the wall. If your dog is barking at the wall and it seems to be compulsive, it is possible that your dog's environment is to blame. Perhaps he is feeling anxious, or there was a change in his normal routine that has him off balance. Repetitive behaviors tend to crop up more frequently when dogs are under a large amount of stress. Take a look at your home and your dog's routine to see if there are changes that you can make to create a more peaceful and less stressful environment for him. Additionally, paying attention to compulsive behaviors is important because they can also be a symptom of an underlying medical issue.
Symptom of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
As dogs age, they tend to be susceptible to some of the same medical issues as their humans. One such medical issue is Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), or Dog Dementia. Most dogs will experience some form of CCD as they get older, and while their loss of awareness doesn't manifest in putting the milk in the oven or misplacing their wallets, they may forget where they are going, bark for seemingly no reason, or find themselves disoriented and staring at the wall. If you see these symptoms in your dog, be sure to let your vet know.
Ghosts and the Supernatural
While there is no scientific evidence to support the idea that dogs can sense the supernatural, it is interesting to think about. What if it wasn't just a noise or strange smell or drop in barometric pressure rationally explained by a thunderstorm that has your dog barking at the wall? Having a four legged ghost detector doesn't sound that bad, really. If your dog can sense that you are coming home before your car has even hit the driveway, it is possible that they have a sensitivity to things beyond human perception — even the spirits!