Why Do Dogs Bark
Whether your dog's bark sounds more like a squeak or is loud enough to make the mailman run the other way, all dogs bark to some extent. How much your dog barks depends heavily on breed, personality and training, but the answer to "Why do dogs bark?" is a little more complicated.
Learn how to tell when your dog is just saying "Hi!" or trying to communicate something more specific with the tips and information in this guide. Being able to tell what your dog is trying to say can help you curb problem behaviours and deepen the pet-owner bond.
Why Do Dogs Bark?
The general answer to this question is: to attempt to communicate with you. There have probably been times that you've wished you could read your dog's mind or they could just speak to you in plain English, but those times your dog is whining, barking or yipping are your dog's attempts to tell you what they are feeling.
A common example is when your dog barks at a stranger walking down the street or someone dropping off a package at the door. In these cases, the dog might be barking to tell the person, "This is my house and you don't belong here." Or they may be trying to tell you, "Hey, there's a new person out here, and I'm not sure about this. You better come take a look." On the other hand, if your dog seems to be barking for no particular reason while you're just hanging out calmly at home, they might be trying to tell you that they're bored and want to play.
Types of Barking
Similar to when a baby cries and the parents can tell whether it needs to be changed, is hungry or needs a nap, the more time you spend with your dog and observe their different barks, the easier it will be for you to tell what they want. If you're stumped, however, looking to what's going on in the situation and the environment around them can help give some clues. Here's a closer look at the common types and reasons that a dog may bark.
One of the most common reasons a dog is barking is because something is going on in their environment that they are trying to alert you to. This is a solid explanation for when your dog is barking out the window at a squirrel or loud noises such as fireworks. Dogs may even bark at weather occurrences like a strong wind that rattles the windows or thunder out of fear or a "What was that?" response. In most cases, this is a normal and acceptable time to bark, but if your dog seems to bark at every little thing that happens around them, it could indicate anxiety or another problem. Anytime your dog's barking becomes problematic, it's a good idea to talk to your vet to find a solution.
If you think your dog might be barking too much because they are scared, you can help comfort them and ease their anxiety by making sure they have a safe place to go when they feel threatened. For many dogs, this could be a crate or a dog bed in a corner of a quiet room. In extreme cases, your vet may recommend a supplement or calming aid.
Dogs also commonly bark because they're excited or bored. While these are opposite sides of the spectrum, remember that your dog only has one way to audibly communicate with you. To understand what your dog is trying to say, you may have to pay attention to other cues.
Did you say the word "car" or "walk"? Did you just come home from work? Is it almost time for them to eat? A dog barking in these types of situations indicates excitement, while your dog barking after a day spent lounging on the couch could be telling you they're ready for some activity. However, if your dog is barking for either of these two reasons, it's important not to reward the behaviour as it could reinforce it, causing problems later on. Instead, make sure your dog has plenty of stimulation and exercise to curb boredom and don't interact with them — and make sure visitors do the same — until they're calm.
Your dog may also bark to try to let you know that they're in discomfort or something is wrong physically. You've probably experienced this when your dog's water bowl is empty or they have to go outside to the bathroom. Anytime your dog seems to be barking for no reason or trying to get your attention, it's a good idea to make sure that they have food and water and have been outside recently. By keeping their needs met, you can get in front of problem barking behaviours instead of just trying to react to them.
Anytime your dog experiences a change in behaviour — and this includes barking — it's a good idea to get them checked out at the vet to ensure there aren't any physical issues that may be an underlying cause. Your vet can also give you some idea on why your dog might be barking and make recommendations on environmental adjustments or training that can help you address the issue.