Why Do Dogs Bark?
Nothing puts a strain on your relationship with your dog like excessive barking. But why exactly do dogs bark? It’s a behavior that certainly serves a purpose, and can even be very useful at times, but when it’s done in excess it’s difficult to understand what’s causing it and how to stop it.
If you’re looking to learn more about your dog’s barking, you've come to the right place. We’ve compiled a comprehensive guide to all the most frequently asked barking-related questions along with their answers. Read through the whole thing for better insight into not only what makes a dog bark, but what makes them tick.
There are many techniques to help to curb your dog’s barking behavior, but not all of them are effective — some of them are even downright cruel. With a humane no-shock collar from Pet Pawsabilities™, there’s no need to waste your money on bark-stopping devices that don’t work. After all, you shouldn’t need to hurt your pup to get some peace and quiet in your home.
The Main Reasons Why Dogs Bark
Before we get into the specific scenarios in which dogs tend to become overly noisy, let’s take a look at some of the root reasons why your dog might be barking. This is not necessarily a complete list, but it does cover all of the most common causes for a noisy pup.
- They bark to seeking attention
- They bark when they need or want something
- They bark when they're excited
- They bark when they are greeting you
- They bark when they sense a threat
- They bark at the TV
- They bark when you hug someone
- They bark when they see someone pass by
- They bark when they are bored or overly energetic
- They bark when they're surprised or frightened
- They bark when they're in pain
- They bark at fireworks
- They bark at walls
- They bark at the mailman
- They bark at horses
- They bark at each other
- They bark at strangers
- They bark when you leave
- They randomly bark
Once we answer specific questions about why dogs bark, you’ll notice that the underlying reason is most likely one of the above. Knowing this can help you understand what measures to take if you’re looking to train your pup to keep it down. If you are looking to purchase a new dog and don't want to add noise to your household you can also check out what dog breeds bark the least and what dog breeds bark the most here!
The Most Frequently Asked Questions about Barking
There is a seemingly endless list of things that might make a dog bark, and for every one of those things there is a dog owner wondering why they’re doing it and how to make it stop. Below are answers to some of the most common questions that owners of very vocal dogs tend to ask, along with a suggestion for how you might get them to stop the behavior.
Why Do Dogs Bark at People?
The answer to the question "why do dogs bark at people" is going to depend on the person that the dog is barking at. For instance, if they’re barking at their owner, it’s most likely that they’re seeking attention or rewards, or they have a need that must be met--such as using the bathroom or eating. If they’re barking at a stranger it’s probably because they’re surprised, frightened, or they sense danger. This can be exacerbated when the dog is restrained by a leash.
If you’re looking to get your dog to stop barking at you, its owner, you need to totally ignore them. This means no talking to them, no petting, no eye contact, nothing. Either that or you may need to help them burn off some excess energy by taking them for a nice long walk.
If you’re looking to get a dog to stop barking at strangers, you need to either acclimate them to meeting new people, or train them to be quiet on command. Both take a good amount of time and effort, but they can be very worthwhile in the end.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Nothing?
This can be perhaps the most confusing of all barking behaviors. However, when your dog is barking at “nothing” it’s likely that they’re actually barking about something. This means that they may want attention or have an unmet need. Perhaps they’re bored or hungry or need to go outside. They may also be barking at something you can’t detect, as dogs have a far greater sense of hearing than humans.
If your dog is barking for attention, you don’t necessarily want to give it to them because it will encourage the behavior further. Wait until they’ve stopped barking without so much as looking at them, then give them attention. If they have an unmet need, wait until the barking stops, and meet the need.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Other Dogs?
So why do dogs bark at other dogs? The most likely reason why a dog is barking at another dog is because they are territorial creatures and they feel as if their territory is being encroached on. What they consider their territory doesn’t necessarily have to be their crate or their favorite room or their home, it can be the entire block they live on or their favorite walking route.
Your best bet to get your dog to stop barking at other dogs is to give them an opportunity to meet more and more new dogs, and let them slowly get closer and closer to them when they do. This will help to socialize them and reduce their territorial behavior.
Why Do Dogs Bark in Their Sleep?
This form of barking can actually be fairly adorable, but if it’s done too often it’s distressing, particularly when you’re trying to get some sleep. The reason why dogs bark in their sleep is because they’re actually dreaming, just like humans do. And if the barking seems like they’re angry or distressed, they may actually be having a nightmare.
It can be a bit tricky to get a dog to stop barking when they’re not even conscious that they’re doing it — or conscious at all, for that matter!
Your best bet is to leave them be and let them move along in their dreams to a place where they don’t feel the need to speak up. If the barking is too much to handle, you may want to consider having them sleep somewhere else. Just don’t wake your pup up, as being shaken from a dream can be quite disorienting for people and dogs alike.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Night?
Nighttime barking can be a major issue for dog owners, particularly if they have nearby neighbors. There are a bunch of different reasons why your dog might be speaking up when the sun goes down.
Sometimes dogs bark at night because they see or hear something outside and they’re on higher alert because light conditions are poor. Other times it’s because they’re bored, lonely, or haven’t had enough exercise for the day, and nobody is around to entertain them.
If your dog is barking at some sort of uncontrollable stimulus, like animals or other noises outside, you may need to apply some training methods to get them to quiet down. If they’re barking out of boredom or because they’re too energetic, you need to get them some exercise during the day so that when it’s time for you to go to bed, it’s for them to go to bed, too.
Why Do Dogs Bark at the Door?
It’s always important to keep in mind that dogs are territorial by nature when asking why dogs bark at the door, or why do dogs bark at doorbells, and their first instinct when they feel their territory has been invaded is to bark. Your dog has learned over time that the door means visitors, and because they never know who’s on the other side of that door, a knock is going to get their attention.
Since it’s impossible to control every knock, your best bet is to get your dog to stop reacting to it through training. You can do this by having a friend act as the knocker or doorbell ringer, while you use positive reinforcement to encourage your dog when they are not barking.
Why Do Little Dogs Bark So Much?
It’s true that many of the most notorious barkers happen to be smaller breeds, but it’s not necessarily something that has been bred into them. Small dogs bark so much because…well, because they’re little.
It’s harder for them to get the attention they need or to assert themselves properly when they don’t have the big size or the big booming bark to do it. Thus, they make up for it with a large quantity of little barks.
The answer to this question will depend on the exact reason why your little dog is barking. Identify their need and meet it, identify the stimulus and remove it, or look into some other bark-stopping methods such as training or bark collars.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Sirens?
Nothing adds to the chaos and discomfort of blaring emergency sirens quite like a pup who thinks it’s appropriate to join in and bark at sirens. Although it can be enough to drive you nuts, it’s actually fairly reasonable that your dog tends to do this. The sound of sirens is a jarring one, especially for them, so they may bark at what they think is a threat and their family. They may also think the sirens are a faraway dog howling out to them, and so they’re responding.
The best way to get a dog to stop barking at sirens is to simply ignore them entirely when they do it and reward them with treats when they don’t.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Vacuums?
It can be a real nuisance when your dog takes it upon themselves to try and defend your family from the vacuum cleaner when you’re just trying to clean your home. But why do dogs bark at vacuums?
If you think about it, it’s really not pleasant for them either when a loud and unusual object that moves around as if it were alive invades their territory. They’re barking because they find the vacuum threatening and they want to protect their home.
Perhaps the simplest way to solve this issue is to keep your dog out of the area when you’re trying to vacuum. You might also want to try a bit of exposure therapy with them. Turn the vacuum on briefly and then turn it off, allowing your pup to see that it’s not going to harm anyone. Repeat that process, lengthening the amount of time the vacuum is on, until your pup is desensitized to the noise and the machine.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Cats?
Dogs and cats have an age-old rivalry that’s not exactly easy to train out of either of them, so it should be no surprise if your pup has a propensity for barking at any feline in their vicinity. They usually do this because it’s instinctual to do so. Some herding and hunting dogs have an even stronger instinct to bark at cats due to their breeding.
This may require some training, as it’s written in most dog’s genetic code to be wary of the feline species. Your best bet is to encourage quiet behavior in the presence of cats with some positive reinforcement, such as treats and pets. If that doesn’t work, consider a bark collar and if you're wondering why dogs bark at cats check out our blog.
Why Do Dogs Bark at Children?
There are many reasons why a dog might have a tendency to bark at children, and many of them are the reasons why dogs bark at people in general. However, a unique aspect of kids that might make a dog more inclined to bark at them is that they can be unpredictable, a trait which most dogs are not so fond of. Erratic behavior makes dogs nervous, and when they’re nervous they bark.
It’s important to be very cautious if your dog doesn’t have a great relationship with children, as even a small pup can hurt a child pretty badly if they get aggressive with them. Early socialization is the best tactic to prevent these issues, but if that’s out of the question, careful socialization at any time can still help, or you can obedience train them.
Why Do Dogs Bark Excessively?
It’s fairly uncommon to have a dog that doesn’t vocalize from time to time, but there’s a big difference between barking and barking excessively. When your dog barks far too much, it can be due to a variety of things. They may not be getting enough exercise, they may be starved for attention, or they may have some kind of doggy anxiety disorder.
How to Get Them to Stop
To stop excessive barking, you need to determine the cause and train your dog not to bark. Make sure you’re getting them plenty of exercise, lots of play time, and all the attention they need. If you’re doing that and the problem persists, you may want to speak to a professional about a potential anxiety issue before anyone involved animal control.