Barking up the wrong tree means to be following the wrong line of thought, to pursue the wrong course of action. Barking up the wrong tree is an American idiom that appears in the early 1800s, from the practice of raccoon hunting. Racoon hunting is accomplished with the assistance of a pack of hound dogs. The hounds run ahead of the hunter, tracking the scent of the raccoon through the woods and chasing the raccoon up a tree. When the hunter catches up with the hounds he knows that the tree which the hounds stand under, baying and barking, is the tree that the raccoon has raced up. However, if the raccoon is particularly clever, he might climb one tree and jump to another, leaving the hounds barking up the wrong tree. Related terms are bark up the wrong tree, barks up the wrong tree, barked up the wrong tree.
When those in power bark up the wrong tree, it comes as a responsibility of civil society and public intellectuals to warn them. (The Kathmandu Post)
We should also keep in mind that prosecutors sometimes bark up the wrong tree. (The New York Daily News)
But he is continuing to pursue possible additional litigation against other vendors involved in the effort, and in an unusual move, this week he warned legislative auditors who are conducting their own investigation that they are barking up the wrong tree. (The Baltimore Sun)
“If we don’t strengthen the grassroots clubs, we’re barking up the wrong tree sort of thing” (The Queensland Times)
Since ensuring equal standards in education is not possible without correcting the wider inequalities, claiming that bringing back the policy of detention will raise standards is mischievous and barking up the wrong tree. (The Hindu)