Animal Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark?

From boredom to territorial issues, dogs bark for lots of different reasons. They can also bark when they're scared, stressed or even frustrated.
Animal Behavior: Why Do Dogs Bark?

Last update: 18 June, 2019

For dogs, barking is a means of communication, but it’s often difficult to know exactly why our dogs are barking. In this article, we’ll tell you about the many different reasons dogs bark.

Why do dogs bark?

If you have a dog, you’ll probably have noticed that they bark for all kinds of different reasons. Sometimes, however, you might have trouble working out exactly why they’re barking. You might scold them, or even find it a little frightening. As a result, it’s good to know why dogs bark:

1. Dogs bark when stressed

There are lots of different things that can make dogs feel stressed. It all depends on their personality, individual experiences, and even breed.

It’s often difficult to work out when your dog starts to “stress-bark”, but you might be able to identify specific situations when your dog starts to get noisier than usual.

Some of these reasons could include:

  • If your dog has been mistreated in the past
  • Having spent long periods of time isolated
  • Frustration because it’s not allowed to do something

2. Dogs bark when bored

Dogs that spend most of the day alone often get bored. And when that happens, they can start to misbehave: breaking plant pots, pulling clothes out of the closet, or even barking or howling.

Often, the only way you’ll ever know what your dog gets up to when you’re away is if a neighbor tells you, or if you hear them barking from a distance.

This can also happen if your dog is left out on the patio, terrace, or the garden. It can also occur when it’s left out of family activities even when you’re home.

To reduce this type of barking, you need to make sure you’re giving your dog enough attention. Give him toys, and make sure you play with him when you get home.

A puppy barking in the park.

3. Overwhelming happiness

Sometimes, tail wagging and leaping around just aren’t enough to express the sheer joy your dog feels when you get home, feed him, or play with him. Some dogs also bark to express their joy and enthusiasm.

If your dog is overstimulated – like when they’re doing agility or other energetic activities – you might also find that it barks uncontrollably.

4. Things going on outside

As you probably already know, a dog’s hearing is far better than a human’s. As a result, it’s not uncommon for him to hear things that we don’t. This doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s some imminent danger outside your house. In most cases, it’s probably just because a cat, squirrel or bird is out in the yard.

5. Frustration

It’s normal for pets to feel frustrated when they don’t get what they want. One way to express this frustration is to bark.

So, what kinds of situations can make dogs feel frustrated? For example, your dog might feel frustrated when it plays with laser toys, when you show it the ball but don’t throw it, or if it feels left out.

6. Territorial behavior

Territorial behavior is another reason why your dog might bark with no obvious cause. They use it to show that they are the “owner” of that territory (like your house, for example).

So, if your dog stands in the doorway, out on the balcony or in the hallway and starts to bark, it might be trying to send a message to other animals that “he’s in charge here” and thus warn off any potential intruders.

A dog barking outside.

7. Health issues

Did you know that dogs are more likely to bark when they are ill, disabled or injured? For example, it’s common for blind or deaf dogs to bark frequently. They find it more difficult to understand their surroundings, and use barking as a defense mechanism.

8. Genetics

Finally, we need to talk about the role genetics play in whether one dog is more likely to bark than another. Some breeds, such as Beagles, Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds (i.e. hunting dogs) usually bark more than breeds like Molossers, for example. Small dogs, such as Poodles, also tend to bark more than larger breeds like Golden Retrievers.

So, now you know lots of different reasons why your dog might bark. Hopefully this will make it much easier for you to understand your four-legged friend!

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  • Mujica González, R. S. (2012). Etologia clínica en caninos. Mundo Pecuario.