my dog is staring at the wall and growling
Pet Health Questions and Answers

Why Do Dogs Stare at the Wall?

The chances are you will have described an unappealing activity as being, “as dull as watching paint dry” at some time in your life. Dogs presumably think that sounds like an amazing way to spend an afternoon. Why else would they sit and stare at a wall entranced by nothing?

Well, there is a multitude of reasons why a dog may be staring at the wall. These range from the very serious (health concerns are linked to this behavior, from seizures to dementia) to the helpful. Perhaps your dog can hear or smell something in the wall, suggesting that you have an infestation of termites or rodents, and it’s time to arrange a fumigation of your home.

Also, remember that dogs have amazing hearing. If you live in an apartment or a terraced house, it may be something that your neighbors are getting up to that has them enraptured.

This article will discuss some of the strange habits that dogs have surrounding their powers of observation, and what it might mean if your dog is staring into space. There may be more happening than you are aware of!

Table of Contents:

My Dog is Staring at Nothing

A dog that sits and stares at nothing can be a little unnerving for a pet owner. It elicits the same feeling as when a baby or toddler sits and stares unnervingly at you – just what are they seeing that you’re not?

Some of the possible reasons why a dog stares at a wall include:

  • They saw a spider. Dogs tend not to experience arachnophobia and they find it fun to chase spiders – especially when they move faster than the human eye can comprehend.
  • The neighbors are making noise. Maybe your neighbors are moving furniture, having a party, or arguing and raising their voices. Either way, they’re doing something that has your dog’s attention.
  • You need an exterminator. If your dog can sense rats, squirrels, termites or anything else living within the walls, they’ll be determined to keep an eye on things.
  • Something is up with your plumbing or electricity. Again, just like with unwelcome infestations, dogs can tell when something strange is happening with water or electricity flow.
  • They’re getting older. Sadly, dogs suffer from dementia and senility just like humans. As they grow older, they may start showing some strange behaviors – including staring into the middle distance.
  • They’re sick. There are health concerns related to your dog staring into space.
  • They get attention when they do so. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. If your dog is prone to staring into space and you go out of your way to distract them, potentially by taking them for a walk, they’ll do it again and again.

A dog that stares at nothing, or directly at a wall that doesn’t seem to be hosting anything interesting enough to hold their attention so, is a fairly common occurrence. If your pet is doing so every now and again, it’s nothing to worry about – though it may be worth putting in a call to that exterminator just in case.

If your dog constantly engages in this behavior, however, it may be worth speaking to a professional. A vet will be able to run some tests that will set your mind at rest.

One thing that may make their life easier is to keep records of the wall-staring in advance; when it started, how long it lasts, what times of day your dog does it, etc. If you spot any patterns from this information you may even be able to work out the root cause yourself.

My Older Dog Has Started Staring at the Wall for Hours

As we intimated above, a dog staring at the wall is sometimes linked to canine dementia, aka cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS).

This syndrome is similar to the human ailment of Alzheimer’s Syndrome and can impact any dog, regardless of breed or gender. If you are lucky enough to enjoy the company of your pet until they reach the age of 15, the chances of their developing the condition experience a sharp incline.

dog staring at wall and shaking

Aside from staring at nothing, PetMD explains some of the other symptoms of CDS in dogs as:

  • Disorientation – Your dog is struggling to remember where their water bowl or bed is, or struggle to negotiate particular corners or feats of dexterity such as jumping on or off the sofa.
  • Interactions – Your dog becomes antisocial, growling at other dogs where he or she would previously have wanted to play with them. Likewise, the excited greetings at the door when you come home will stop.
  • Sleep – Your dog will change their sleeping routine. A dog with CDS will reverse their usual patterns, pacing around the house and wanting to eat and walk after dark and sleeping all day.
  • House Training – Your dog will seemingly forget all of their house training, starting to have accidents in the home. Time to invest in some puppy pads or dog diapers!
  • Activity Level – Your dog will lose all interest in physical activity, whether that’s walking or playing (see also ‘Top 3 Dog Activity Trackers To Try Today‘). They also won’t respond to commands that usually excite them such as, “Walkies!” and even struggle to see or hear things that are right in front of them.

Take a look at those symptoms again and you’ll notice that they spell out an acronym – DISHA. This is a quick and easy way of remembering what behaviors you should be looking out for as your dog starts to grow older.

Be sure to consult a vet at the first sign of any such symptoms. It may be possible to slow down the progress of the condition with the appropriate medication and changes to your pet’s lifestyle. Alternatively, it could be that your dog has a different health problem altogether that is less intrusive and has a greater chance of successful treatment.

Can I Reduce the Risk of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome in My Dog?

Yes, there are a handful of steps and lifestyle choices that you can take to attempt to prevent Fido has this problem. As explained by Mercola Healthy Pets, adopting any of these practices should ensure that your dog remains sharp as a tack well into his or her senior years:

  • Keep your dog’s diet healthy and balanced, ensuring that their meals are appropriate for their age, and breed.
  • Encourage your dog to keep exercising – an active body is an active mind, and overweight canines are more likely to have the condition.
  • Look into some supplements that will boost your pet’s brain. A teaspoon of coconut oil each night may have a similar impact.
  • Help your dog to sleep at night by bringing melatonin into their daily routine.
  • Make regular trips to the vet for check-ups! Early intervention with illness is always helpful.

Do whatever you can to keep your dog’s mind as healthy as their body, as a dog that lives with CDS will experience a sharp decline in their quality of life.

My Dog Stares at the Wall and Presses Their Head Against It

This is a worrying behavior and one that requires an urgent appointment with the vet. If your dog is continually pushing their head against a wall, seemingly for no reason, it suggests that they are living with a brain condition called prosencephalon disease.

The Happy Puppy site explains that prosencephalon disease will often be fatal for any dog. The other symptoms of the condition include seizures, pacing in circles, ignoring well-established commands and losing their sight.

Treatment may be possible if you act fast enough and a vet captures the disease in time, but it will be drastic, lengthy and costly. Brace yourself for a very unpleasant conversation with your vet – if your dog is older, they will more than likely advise against treatment and recommend that you make a very difficult decision.

There are other potential reasons why your dog may be pressing their head against the wall though, and unfortunately, they still do not spell out good news. These include:

  • Your dog is having a stroke.
  • Your dog has a brain tumor.
  • Your dog has experienced a head injury leading to encephalitis (swelling on the brain.)
  • Your dog has been exposed to toxicity.
  • Your dog has a Central Nervous System (CNS) infection that is impacting upon their ability to function.

The only other potential solution, which may apply if your dog is only engaging in this behavior occasionally, is that your dog has an itch on their head and they’ve found a sweet spot that the wall will be able to scratch for them!

Overall, though, it is usually time for a trip to the vet for an MRI if your dog is acting in such a way. Remember, the sooner you act, the more likely your dog is to make a full recovery.

Health Concerns Linked to Dogs Staring at the Wall

There are many other health conditions that include staring at the wall – or into the distance, seemingly not focusing on anything in particular – among their symptoms. These include:

  • Blindness. If your dog is losing their sight, it stands to reason that they will stare at a wall – possibly as they are attempting to focus their other senses to accommodate their declining vision.
  • Compulsive Behavior. As the AKC explains, dogs can develop Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Staring at the wall may become something they simply must do, and you’ll need to coach them out of using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  • Depression. Dogs can suffer from depression, and the symptoms are similar to those of a human – namely, a complete disinterest in engaging with anything that previously brought them joy.
  • Vestibular Disease. This is a common ailment, particularly in senior dogs. It tends to send a dog’s entire nervous system out of place, making them act erratically. Thankfully it can be treated.
  • Diabetes. Staring at the wall, along with shuffling around in circles and struggling to walk through a door without bumping into the frame, is among the symptoms of canine diabetes.
my dog is staring at the wall and growling

As you will see, a great many of these conditions provide symptoms similar to your dog being drunk – though hopefully, that isn’t something that you have first-hand experience with! As always though, do consult a specialist any time you notice any of these symptoms manifesting in your dog. None of them are to be taken lightly and ignored.

My Dog is Staring at the Wall and Shaking

There is one major health problem that we are yet to cover – that of seizures. This can be hugely frightening for both pooch and parent, but they are fairly common.

There are multiple types of seizure that may impact upon a canine:

  • Generalized Seizures are the most common kind of dog seizure. They could last anything from a few seconds to a few minutes, and your dog will lose consciousness and shake.
  • Focal Seizures will impact upon one side of a dog’s body, causing tremors in the legs or eyes. These could expand into generalized seizures.
  • Psychomotor Seizures lead to strange behavior, such as chasing tails or attacking thin air. This may look like playing, but if your dog is suffering a psychomotor seizure, they’ll do the same things, in the same order, every time.
  • Absence Seizures do not necessarily involve shaking or convulsing, but they will see your dog staring at seemingly nothing and becoming non-responsive for anything from a few seconds to a few minutes.

All seizures are linked to epilepsy, whether mild or major. The first time you notice your dog struggling with a seizure make sure you get them to a vet as quickly as possible. A professional will then be able to offer advice on how to proceed following any future episodes.

My Dog is Staring at the Wall and Growling

This is potentially a greatest hits package of all the explanations that we have already covered.

Possible explanations include:

  • Your dog could be growling at the insects, rodents or birds that may be living within the walls of your home.
  • Maybe your dog can smell another canine or cat on the other side of the wall that belongs to, or is visiting, your neighbors.
  • Your dog can hear your neighbors arguing, and is preparing to defend you should this aggression leak into your home somehow.
  • Your dog senses a disturbance within the wall – perhaps with the plumbing or electricity, as we previously mentioned – and they are trying to bring it to your attention.
  • Your dog is starting to grow older, and this erratic behavior is another step along the path to a diagnosis of Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.

It will be difficult to tell why your dog is acting this way after just one incident. Keep an eye on the behavior, and if it appears to continue, you should make an appointment with a vet or a professional tradesperson to investigate further. It seems like we’re saying that an awful lot in this article, but it’s so very important to your dog’s health!

My Dog is Standing Still and Staring

This is a scenario that many pooch parents will be familiar with. You’re out on a walk, your dog is quite contentedly sniffing and strolling, when suddenly they appear to stop like a statue and stare into the distance. There’s nothing there, so what on earth are they looking at?

The chances are, your dog’s other senses have been piqued by something that hasn’t entered your field of vision yet. Maybe they can smell a furry friend in the distance, and they’re insisting on staying put so they can say hello when they finally arrive. It’s possible that they have heard a friend of a family member, and they want to hand around for a reunion. It could even be that they’ve picked up a whiff of another dog’s marking, and they’re trying to work out where the smell is coming from. Whatever it is, something has their attention.

The only time to be careful of this is if your dog is standing stock still and staring into the eyes of another canine. This could be seen as a sign of dominance and aggression to the pooch in question, and a fight may follow. If you see your dog engaging in this behavior, you should scoop them up and remove them from the situation. They’ll soon forget all about the near miss.

Why is My Dog is Staring at Me? I’m Not Even Doing Anything

You might not think that you’re doing anything out of the ordinary, but if it’s not a behavior that your dog is familiar with it could be fascinating.

Reading a book, checking a text message, surfing the internet to read entertaining yet informative articles about dog behavior and health. If your pup hasn’t seen you do this before, they may be engrossed in finding out what you’re up to.

dog sleep towards the wall every night

Of course, they may also just be gazing lovingly at you in an attempt at displaying their affection! Alternatively, they may be trying to get your attention because they are hungry or need the bathroom. Basically, there are many reasons why your dog stares at you.

Dogs can say a thousand things with one look, so learn what these glances mean.

Why Does My Dog Sleep Facing the Wall?

Most dogs like to sleep facing a door, as this means that they can leap into action if necessary. If they choose to face the wall instead, it suggests that they consider this to be the most important area of the room to guard.

If they haven’t displayed any worrying behavioral signs, take this seriously. Clearly, your dog has noticed something about this wall that they want to keep an eye on, and you more than likely have an infestation.

How Do I Stop My Dog from Staring at the Wall?

In theory, this is very simple – unless your dog is sick, senile or has developed a compulsion to stare at the wall. Just call their name, and pick them up for a cuddle if they are prone to enjoying such physical attention, and maybe offer a treat too. If your dog is not unwell, they’ll soon forget all about what had managed to capture their attention.

If your dog ignores you or returns to the same spot as soon as you put them down and resumes the behavior, you may have something more serious to contend with. Refer back to our many and varied possible explanations for this course of action, and make a phone call – whether that’s to the vet, an exterminator, your neighbors or a professional tradesperson. Maybe even all of the above if you want to cover every possible base.

Dogs staring at nothing, in particular, every once in a while could be just part of the wacky thought processes that make our canine companions to special, or it could be a huge warning sign of something very unpleasant. No matter what you do, don’t ignore the behavior and hope that it goes away.

When a dog stares at the wall for anything resembling a prolonged period of time, there will be a reason for it that merits further investigation – and that goes double if they start rubbing their head against the wall too.

When you first notice the behavior, make a note and keep a journal of what your pet is up to. It will help your vet understand why they find that lump of solid brick so fascinating, and prolong your relationship even longer.