Why is My Dog Looking Around Frantically Like He Sees Something?

Last Updated: August 5, 2023

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Dog Looking Around Frantically Like He Sees Something

Typically, you can expect your dog to react to things they hear and see. For example, most dog owners know their canine companions will bark a storm when someone walks to the front door. They'll also jump at loud bangs or fireworks and hop up when they hear that signature crinkle of their favorite treat bag.

But what if your dog keeps looking around frantically at something you can't see? It sounds like the stuff of urban legends and horror stories, but dogs reacting unexpectedly to seemingly nothing is more common than you think.

As a dog parent, you must take these moments seriously. While some instances are innocent enough, this oddball behavior can be a symptom of something troubling.

Here are a few reasons why dogs might look around frantically as if it sees something you don't.

7 Reasons For Spooked Acting Dogs Looking Like They've Seen Something

Heightened Senses

Let's start with a couple of reasons that aren't a major cause for concern.

First, your dog is acting strangely because it might sense something you don't. You must remember that dogs have heightened senses. Their hearing is substantially better than your own.

These animals can hear things up to 80 feet away. Not only that, but their sense of smell can be up to 10,000 times stronger than a human's.

There's a real possibility that your dog detects something you haven't noticed yet. For example, your pup might smell or hear a wandering animal outside, causing them to stare at the wall and follow the animal as it navigates your property. There could also be a human intruder scoping out your house!

It sounds farfetched, but there are countless stories of dogs alerting humans to trouble before it occurs.

Wanting Attention

Dog looking frantically cause he wants attention

Another potential reason for this behavior is that your dog wants attention.

Canines are surprisingly astute and will learn how to get reactions out of you. If there were moments in the past when you leaped up from your chair because your dog reacted oddly to something outside, you inadvertently reinforced a behavior.

Your dog knows what it takes to get your attention. So, they'll use it to their advantage. Sometimes, there truly is nothing there! The behavior is nothing more than an attempt to get you to play and shower your dog with affection.


Unfortunately, dogs can suffer hallucinations. When people hear "hallucinations," they picture drugs or mental disorders. But for canines, it's usually a byproduct of disease or sudden brain damage.

Dogs can experience hallucinations after seizures. Electrical signals in the brain change, resulting in visions that don't exist in the real world.

There's no way to tell what dogs see when they hallucinate. But veterinarians and animal experts believe it's similar to what humans see. They may experience a range of visual distortions that capture their attention and force them to look around frantically. For some dogs, the experience is startling and will cause them to react unpredictably.

The worse part is that hallucinations can occur out of nowhere. Extreme behavioral changes like suddenly looking around frantically are telltale signs. Take your dog to a vet immediately for a proper diagnosis.

Canine Dementia

dog looking frantic due to Canine Dementia

Canine cognitive disorder (CCD) is another term for canine dementia. As your furry friend ages, their cognition will suffer. About 68 percent of all dogs experience dementia by the time they're 15 years old. The condition affects memory, learning, comprehension, and overall behavior.

Your dog may start to act very differently as they see the world with a brand-new perspective. They may forget where they are, causing them to look around in fear. Many dogs will also forget the people they love most, such as their owners.

It's a tragic condition that affects dogs similarly to human dementia. Confusion and anxiety are common. Unfortunately, there's no cure. But you can work with your vet to find ways to help your dog live its final years in peace.

Fly-Snapping Syndrome

The name of this condition is colorful and playful, but the reality is anything but.

It's aptly named for the behavior it causes. Dogs with the fly-snapping syndrome will look around the air frantically before using their mouths to bite at imaginary objects. Many will also jump, bark, and growl at things you can't see. After snapping at the air, they might swallow what they think they caught.

The exact cause of fly-snapping syndrome is unknown. It may be a product of damage caused by seizures. Or, it could be a result of gastrointestinal diseases, vision problems, or a unique form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Either way, something you don't know about is going on with your dog's health. The best thing you can do is note the unusual symptoms and visit a vet for extensive testing. Treatments can vary, but the first step is understanding what's happening.


Earlier, we mentioned that seizures could cause brain damage, resulting in hallucinations. But seizures are more complex than most realize.

Seizures aren't always these dramatic events. Canines can suffer from "silent seizures." When this happens, there's a noticeable lack of convulsions. Instead, dogs will stare blankly into space. Despite your best efforts to recapture your dog's attention, the seizure will prevent them from snapping back to reality.

Many seizures are a result of epilepsy. But dogs can also experience idiopathic seizures with no known cause. In addition to blankly staring at nothing, dogs can bark incessantly, chase their tail like mad, become frantic, and more. You may also notice the eyes roll back in the head as the muscles lose tone over time.

There are many potential causes of seizures. They can also be recurring or a one-off events. Either way, it's wise to seek veterinary attention to understand the issue and find possible treatment options.


When the eyes dart around the room, you might wonder, "Why is it that my dog acts like he sees something?" Believe it or not, your pooch might not be looking at anything in particular.

Nystagmus is a condition where the eyes move around involuntarily. It's more common in elderly dogs, but canines that consume toxic lead, experience head trauma, or suffer from certain health issues can have nystagmus.

The interesting thing about nystagmus is what it causes the eyes to do. You might notice your dog's eyes slowly moving to one side of their field of vision before quickly darting to the other. Alternatively, the involuntary movements could be rapid, making it look like your dog is following something flying around the room.

It's a worrying condition that requires medical attention. Nystagmus can cause balance issues between the head and body, creating unorthodox behaviors.

What Should I Do If My Dog Acts Like He Sees Something I Can't?

Dog Acts Like He Sees Something

The most important thing to do is not panic. Freaking out while you're dog is experiencing something strange will only cause more anxiety.

Think about any recent changes you've made to your home. Adding new furniture or changing your dog's lifestyle can sometimes trigger paranoid behavior.

If you can't think of any major changes, the problem may be a neurological condition. Go to your vet for proper testing and diagnosis. Not all conditions are treatable, but there may be solutions to help you manage issues and give your dog the best life possible.


Seeing your dog look around frantically can lead to uneasiness, and there are good reasons for that. Sudden behavioral changes are not something you should ignore. While no dog owner wants to imagine their furry friend suffering from brain problems, it's a real possibility.

The sooner you take action, the better off you and your dog will be. These conditions are complex and require expert care to manage.

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.