3 Reasons Why Your Dog Acts Like He Sees Something

You might have noticed that your dog stares in one particular direction a lot as if he saw something. This behavior could be caused by a number of issues including fly-snapping syndrome. If you noticed this behavior in your dog recently, here are a few reasons why this is happening and how to go about fixing the problem.

1. Your Dog Has Fly-Snapping Syndrome

Your dog could have fly-snapping syndrome, which is when your dog suddenly begins to snap in the air a few different times while still looking straight ahead. Your dog will focus his gaze in front of him and he will act like he sees something, even though there is nothing in the area. Veterinarians believe this is caused by a neurological disorder, such as a partial seizure or epilepsy. It’s possible that fly-snapping syndrome is hereditary and is a result of canine epilepsy.

This behavior could be caused by eye problems such as vitreous floaters. Your dog could have floaters in his eyes and the black spots he sees he is mistaking for a fly. Compulsive behaviors are also thought to be a cause of fly-snapping syndrome, and could occur as the result of lack of socialization,being left in small rooms, or possible physical abuse in the past.

2. Your Dog Heard Something Strange

Dogs have very different hearing capabilities than humans, so it’s possible your dog heard something strange you aren’t aware of. Your dog likely will begin to stare as if he saw something in the direction where he believes the sound was coming from.

A dog can hear about four times the distance that humans can, so while their sight isn’t nearly as good as people, their hearing highly outweighs ours. If your dog is looking like he saw something, he likely heard something way off in the distance that you are unable to hear. While these sounds might not really be strange to you, your dog could be picking up on higher frequencies that you are unaware of.

3. Your Dog is Having Hallucinations

Hallucinations can be caused by fly-snapping syndrome, which likely is the result of canine epilepsy. Other medical issues could cause hallucinations as well, such as vitreous floaters and seizure disorders. Vestibular disease is also a possible cause of the hallucinations in dogs, which makes dogs feel like everything is upside down. You should take your dog to the veterinarian as soon as possible if you believe your dog is hallucinating, since it can be the result of an undiagnosed medical condition.

How to Minimize a Dog’s OCD Behavior

OCD behaviors can be minimized in your dog by incorporating more play time into their daily routine. You want to give your dog both more physical stimulation as well as mental stimulation to help ease the OCD symptoms. Take your dog on longer walks or get your dog some more interactive toys to keep them occupied throughout the day.

It’s also a good idea to try to distract your dog when you notice behaviors occurring, such as when they begin staring like they saw something. If your dog looks to be just staring off in the distance, distract him with treats or toys. Usually distracting your dog will snap them out of the behavior.

Call his name and try to get him to focus on something else. There are also medications that you can try if your dog is really struggling with OCD behaviors and nothing else has worked. You should take to your veterinarian to get an idea of what medications would work best to minimize these compulsive behaviors.

Disclaimer: The content on MyPetChild.com is for informational purpose only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian when in doubt.
Scared Dog

31 Comments

  1. Sarita Bradley January 13, 2020 at 9:08 pm

    I have a 12 year old Pomeranian, it bothers me cuz he acts like he sees something flying around the room and he watches it. His ears are positioned back like he’s scared. Sometimes he’s physically shaking. Me and hubby are really worried, it’s spooky too cuz his head pops up from a laying position as if something unseen has his attention all of a sudden and he reacts to something we can’t see. Sometimes he’ll stand up, jump off the sofa, it’s constant anxiety except for when he’s eating, playing with us, or asleep. His ears go from a back position fear, to attention as if he is being called. Then at moments in all this he’ll stop and stare for about 2 minutes. Then lay his head back down but ears at attention. It only stops when he decides to go to sleep. What is wrong, can you help? This has been going on since we got him. We do know he is afraid of thunder and lightning but it’s not raining tonight. The creepiest is when he looks at one of us but looking pass us as if something is around us or above us. I read your article. We did rescue him from a semi abusive home. And his original owner was a man on oxygen, who smoked, set himself on fire and Leo was trapped in the bathroom with him and we were told he watched the guy burn to death. Then he ended up with the lady we got him from. We got Leo in 2013 from another lady that had him for awhile but he suffered from neglect, she hit and yelled at him a lot and we are unaware what other trauma he may have suffered. Then he will come sit beside me at my computer some times, not shaking or scared but more protective like,like he just got up and walked away as if following something I can’t see, as if he’s protecting me from some unseen thing. I wish I could send you a video of his behavior. Yeah I am very creeped out right now! I really need to know what’s going on with him, would like to get him the correct help. He’s such a little guy and i love him so much, i pray over him a lot. Thanks in advance for whatever you can diagnose from my info here. Clarence and Sarita

    • Gail August 27, 2021 at 11:40 pm

      My 7 month puppy started doing this after coming back from the groomers a week ago. Staring at the wall, ceiling looking into space as if something is there, more so in the evening. I’m really worried about her.

    • Hector Valdez September 13, 2021 at 5:09 pm

      Hi, My dog acts exactly the same as you described. He has always had the issue and he has had a nearly perfect life experience since birth. What was the outcome?

      • Susie Arviso June 2, 2022 at 12:08 am

        I’m so glad Hector.
        I have a ten pound gold colored long haired deer-head Chihuahua. He’s 5 years old. He was the runt of his litter and I found out the day after I bought him that he had pneumonia. He was in hospital for a week. Then we were told he had collapsing trachea. They told me if he had surgery, there was a good chance he could die in surgery. I love that little guy so much. I pray that the lord will heal him. God Bless you all.

  2. Donna August 20, 2020 at 1:05 am

    I have a 2 yr old Maltese/terrier. The things described in the letter about just started 3 days ago. Took him to the vet. She examined his eyes and saw nothing. I’m so scared. This little guy has become so important to me. He does not want to go outside unless it is dark. He hides under a chair or my bed where it is dark. Can you give me suggestions? He has no other strange symptoms.

  3. Tamy henry August 21, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    My 3 yr old shepherd acts like she sees something in the yard. We tell her to go outside and Use the bathroom but then she wants to hurry up in common scratch at the back door to get inside the house. This has been going on for at least 2 weeks now. She seems scared. Does she see some bad spirits or ghosts?

  4. Dreama adams September 1, 2020 at 9:36 am

    I have a female border collie. I’ve had Ruby since birth and she has one blue eye one brown. She’s 6 yrs. Very smart loves to play. A year ago she started staring at the ground as if she sees bugs and pawing at them. Vet didn’t know a thing about it and suggested specialist hundred miles away. Cant do that. What do you suggest? Thanks.

    • Christine May 30, 2021 at 3:16 am

      Hi Dreama,
      I’m curious if your border collie’s behavior was ever diagnosed? I have 3 y.o. male mix (of several herding breeds including border collie) and he does the same thing. Your post is the first I’ve seen anywhere on the internet about this. I’m not convinced at all that it’s fly-catching or something related. I’d love to know if you’ve learned anything since your post! Thanks, Christine

    • Susie Arviso June 2, 2022 at 12:13 am

      I read that its called fly-snapping syndrome, but it could also be a neurological disorder. You should take your furry friend to the Vet to be examined.

  5. Hazel Marcowich December 9, 2020 at 1:30 pm

    We have an 11 month old pomapug whom we bought from a reputable breeder, he began hallucinating 3 weeks ago. We took him to the vet who gave him an anti toxin and a prescription for activated charcoal as we thought he might have ingested mushrooms or some other stimulant whilest on his walk, nevertheless 3 weeks later and he is still fly snapping which is accompanied with periods of shuddering sometimes. He is otherwise healthy and happy, he is well socialised with humans, kids & other dogs so we are @ a loss as to what this is??

    • Ivonne Rivera-Gall September 10, 2021 at 2:25 am

      Our 7 month old Chihuahua started doing this recently. What ended up being the prognosis for your dog?

  6. Spot February 12, 2021 at 3:16 pm

    My dog sees dead people…

    • Kate November 1, 2021 at 11:19 pm

      That’s what it seems like. Our 3 YO border collie mix just started this behavior and we are concerned.

    • Kelly January 12, 2022 at 5:50 pm

      Thst exactly how I would described what my dog does.

  7. Julie Cummings February 18, 2021 at 6:30 pm

    My 13yr cocker spaniel has started with cataracts. She has a bit of arthritis in her leg/hip and is now going deaf.
    She paces around too.
    She has started fly snapping and staring.
    Any advice please.

  8. Jill WHITTLETON June 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm

    My nearly 2year old dog runs around the back yard and jumping up trying to catch invisible moths from the grass . Sometimes there maybe little bits of grass flying around , but she spends hours doing the . She is not bored at all but its puzzling me . She is a very active spoodle pup .

  9. shannon June 29, 2021 at 9:26 pm

    i have 1 yr old coonbeagle mix shes been fine till a couple nights ago she kept looking round like somwthing was there or crawling on her now shes doing it and wont get on couch which is where she lays any other time she was layin there stiood up n looking round at couch like something crawling on her then jumped down and wont get back up n keeps staring at ceiling and walls n table can anyone help me and tell me y pls

    • Kate Georgina Henderson July 6, 2021 at 10:22 pm

      Did you ever get to the bottom of this? Our dog is doing the same suddenly.

    • Sam July 15, 2021 at 8:31 pm

      My dog has also started doing this suddenly. I scheduled a visit with out vet in a few days, but I’m curious if anyone’s dog has stopped doing this?

  10. Micah July 14, 2021 at 4:28 am

    My 3 year old goldendoodle/labradoodle has out of nowhere something is behind him and gets all skiddish. Really weird and started out of now where. Happened twice today and the last one was very obvious. He’s done it about 4 times in the past week or so. Anyone have something similar?

    • Jan March 24, 2022 at 3:02 pm

      Yes my dog does the same it is neurological can long to fly snaping and liver disease

  11. Regie September 14, 2021 at 8:07 am

    I adopted rescue a 4 months old Staffyxpom, she was a lovely dog, I had her for almost 5 years, Sadly 3 years after I had her, start having seizure, gradually ones, then twice a year, I took her to the vet on the first instance, they didn’t find anything. after few month or so, she had a bad seizure, rush her to the Animal hospital, was told Epilepsy. She was on medication. Blood test shows nothing. couple of months later it become regular seizures. Then becomes almost every other day. Took her several times to the vet, up until the last seizures, becomes so bad. She has to be put down as she has possible brain damage already. Its was hard for me. Because she was such a lovely gentle girl. My constant companion especially the times I was having chemo and R treatment. I misses her so much. She was just short of 5 days of her 5th Birthday.

  12. Michael December 9, 2021 at 3:32 am

    I’ve recorded my 7yr old Shih Tzu acts like she sees something and her eyes and head move as if she sees something. It’s freaking me out. Do I need to take her to the vet?

    • Kathy January 11, 2022 at 2:41 am

      My 9 year old Boston terrier started doing the same thing about a week ago. He only does it in the evenings, after dinner. I wonder if his brand of dog food has contaminants or toxins in it, maybe a bad batch or something. I’m going to feed him homemade cooked chicken and vegetables, no dog food, and see if that helps.

  13. Kathy January 11, 2022 at 2:30 am

    My 9 year old Boston Terrier started snapping at invisible flies and staring at something that we can’t see. It’s been going on for about a week now and I wonder if his dog food has some toxins in it or something.I will try feeding him home cooked chicken meat and vegetables to see if it is caused by contaminated dog food, which seems to be happening a lot lately.

  14. Sonya January 13, 2022 at 7:36 pm

    My 7yo Maltese woke me twice in the same wee hours scratching at the door and whining to go out. I followed her to the lounge room as she went around the entire house sniffing the air and ‘searching’ for something. She was up on the lounges then up on her back legs looking up onto the cabinets etc. I took her outside but she didn’t need to do any business. It really freaked me out as she went to tte same places. It’s the first time ever that she’s done this.

  15. Deborah A Whooley March 7, 2022 at 9:11 pm

    I have a Maltese/Dachshund, 6 years old. She has been seeing things that aren’t there for years. She doesn’t just stare in one place…it is like she is following whatever it is. She follows whatever in this manner…she will start staring, then as it moves, she may look up, across, down. Could be any of those. Her movements are not jerky…she moves in a slow, deliberate manner. She does, on about 20%, begin barking. She does not look away from it ever. I am a christian. Because of this…when she begins staring and barking I talk out loud stating this home is only for anyone who is good and loves the Lord, if you are not good…you must leave immediately. (I know this sounds kind of strange.) But she stops barking. My husband passed and I am getting used to being alone. I absolutely believe she sees something I do not. Just in the past week she has begun doing the same thing in the bedroom. Really don’t like it in there. I am so glad to find a group who has the same issues as I do with my little dog.

  16. terrie March 10, 2022 at 12:52 pm

    my 11 year old Jack Russell has just started trying to catch something in the air (there is nothing there). i am really worried as she has never done this before. She is partially blind/ deaf with joint problems.

  17. Sebastian Perez March 20, 2022 at 4:18 am

    I guess no one’s been able to track down what this is? Sounds like all these dogs, mine included have a similar or variation of seeing things. Mine mostly in the late afternoon and then once it starts he’s not the same dog. Next morning he’s him again, repeats every night. No one able to get a clear diagnosis?

    • Jan March 24, 2022 at 3:07 pm

      My dog is the same linked to liver disease and mild type of seizures tried prozac prescribed didn’t work I just live with it and take care of him.

    • Mayra Rodriguez April 1, 2022 at 2:09 am

      Hi, my dog is almost 6 months and started to do da a few weeks ago. It’s worse at night time. Did you find out what it is?

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