If you have ever caught your dog staring at nothing, then you know how unsettling this moment is. Is my dog staring at a ghost? What are they looking at? When dogs stare at nothing, does it mean they are sick? We’ll answer all of these questions and more, so keep reading!
Dogs display a long list of wide behaviors such as covering their poop, sensing thunderstorms, stealing socks and kneading like cats.
But I think we can all agree that the weirdest of those behaviors is staring at nothing or at a wall. Why do dogs do this?
As strange as this behavior seems, it has many reasonable explanations. Let’s go through them so you can understand why your dog stares at nothing.
Reasons why dogs stare at nothing
As mentioned before, there isn’t a single reason why dogs stare at nothing or at the wall. Although there are some of them you should worry about, most represent no harm. So, without further ado, let’s go over the reasons why dogs stare at nothing.
1. They are hearing something
It’s widely known that dogs have an enhanced hearing sense that allows them to hear thunderstorms before they happen, and that makes them feel anxious when they listen to fireworks.
When a dog is staring at nothing, or more specifically at a wall, they might be hearing something that we can’t, such as mites infestations, insects and rodents inside the wall.
What is more, they can also be listening to the neighbors or to noises from the streets, such as cars or people passing by.
Tilting their head from one side to the other is a great indicator that dogs are listening to something, since they are following the sound.
You can try to sit by your dog and check if your neighbors are being too loud, or if you hear some squeaky rodents in your wall.
2. They are smelling something
Dogs’ sense of smell is also incredibly stronger than ours. So when they are staring at nothing, they might be smelling something that’s coming from that direction, such as a delicious meal being cooked in the kitchen or a nasty smell coming from another corner of the house.
To determine if they are staring at nothing because their snout is sensing a particular smell, try to look for a little nose twitch.
3. They are seeing something
Dogs can also stare at what we perceive as “nothing” because they are seeing something we are not. This could be insects crawling, lights and shadows, or just a floater in their eye. What we believe is nothing but an empty wall, caught our dog’s attention, making them stare at it.
If you sit next to your dog, you’ll surely see the lights and shadows they are staring at.
4. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction
From here on, we’ll examine some of the more serious reasons why dogs stare at nothing. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction is a disease found in dogs that’s similar to Alzheimer in humans. It can make them do things without a reason such as barking at nothing or, what brings us here today, staring at nothing.
Some other symptoms of CCD are desorientation, changes in their interaction with the environment, alterations in their sleeping habits and not following the house training rules they previously followed without a problem, such as their potty training.
This condition is commonly found in elderly dogs and, just as Alzheimer, its causes have not yet been identified. This is why its diagnosis can be quite hard to make.
The common belief about seizures is that there are extreme episodes in which the dog can’t stop shaking and has convulsions. But the truth is there are some types of seizures, such as the partial ones, that can be extremely subtle. Partial seizures’ symptoms can include freezing up and just staring into the void, or a wall.
6. Compulsive behavior
Compulsive behaviors in dogs are those that are exaggerated. They are those behaviors that dogs constantly repeat and do in situations they shouldn’t. They include barking, licking, pacing and can even include staring at nothing.
Can dogs see ghosts?
It’s time to address the elephant in the room: can dogs see ghosts? It’s become a popular belief that dogs have the ability to see ghosts and spirits. That they have a sixth sense that allows them to feel a presence we can’t feel or see.
And their way of showing that they are sensing a ghost is by barking or staring at “nothing”.
The truth is that if you ask a veterinarian or someone from the scientific field, they will probably say that dogs cannot sense ghosts. But if you talk to someone whose focus is the spiritual side, they will assure you some dogs can in fact sense spirits.
What is more, many pet parents can assure that their pooches can see ghosts.
So, the answer to this question is not clear, and it definitely has both sides. You can either believe your dog is staring at nothing because they are seeing a ghost or not.
What to do if your dog is staring at nothing?
Okay, so what should you do if your dog stares at nothing? Well, there are two paths to follow
If your dog randomly stares at nothing, it is possibly due to one of the first three reasons mentioned before. They might be hearing, smelling or seeing something you can’t. If this is the case, there’s nothing to worry about. But if you have to get your dog’s attention and stop them from staring fixedly at nothing, the best thing you can do is use a delicious treat and they will surely run right up to you.
If your dog displays this behavior constantly and on repeated occasions, it might be due to one of the last three reasons. If you suspect this is the case for your pup, you should definitely take them to the vet so they can make a diagnosis.