Every time your dog barks, you wish you knew what they were thinking, because you know they bark for a reason.
Barking is a natural way of communication for dogs, and a certain amount of barks is totally normal. When it gets excessive, you start getting worried over what’s the matter, or sometimes just slightly annoyed– not because you hate them, but because you can’t understand them! And of course, the . If your dog’s particularly loud, the noise can disturb the neighbours even if you’re not in an apartment building.
Here are the most common reasons why your dog barks.
They’re bored and wants attention
When your dog is left alone for too long, they might get bored or lonely, and that’s when they start barking– to get your attention.
Observe their body language: if they are calm and relaxed, tails straight or wagging, and naturally down/perked up ears, that means they want to be with you!
- Playtime. They’re barking because they want to play. They’re telling you to throw the ball, take them for a walk outside, or a walk in the park to see their fellow dogs.
- Food. They bark because they want food. If they push their food bowl towards your feet, or literally bring it to you, then it’s time for them to eat.
Just be careful about how you respond to these barking prompts. If they are used to getting what they want when they demand it with barks, they might bark non-stop when you don’t give in.
They’re being territorial and protective
Your pooch is barking because they’re telling others, “Hey, this is mine!”
When other people, dogs and animals come near the area where your dog spends a lot of time, or places the two of you spend time together– the road where you take walks, or your car– they might bark to announce their territory. This shouldn’t be allowed. Make sure to socialise and train your dog properly to avoid them becoming aggressively territorial in public spaces.
If they perceive a threat or invasion to your home –whether it’s your neighbour’s cat, another dog, or an intruder– they bark to tell the threat to go away, and they’re also telling other animals nearby.
In this latter case, the bark is for a good reason, protecting you and the family from danger. If they look alert, body tensed and are leaning forward, it means they’re ready to protect their family and their home.
They are happy to see you or others
If they bark whenever you come home, or other family members come home, or when other people come over, it’s a greeting. They’re happy to see all of you!
They can also bark when they hear something that has a positive connotation to them: the clinking of their leash, or food poured to their food bowl. They bark to express their excitement.
With excitement barks, you can see them wagging their tails and spinning in circles– unable to contain their happiness.
They’re alarmed or scared
Unlike territorial barks, alarm barks can happen anywhere– not just in their home territory. They bark at any noise or object that catches their attention.
When they’re alarmed or scared, their tails will be tucked and their ears will be pulled back..
Dogs bark when they’re startled. This is usually one bark, but can be followed by more.
If you approach your dog and they’re not paying attention, have poor hearing, or think they see something move swiftly in the grass, they might express surprise with a bark.
They are frustrated
Your dog may bark excessively if they’re uncomfortable, or placed in a frustrating situation.
It could be being confined to a small dog house, tied up and their movements are restricted, or unable to reach out to their playmates.
They’re in pain
Dogs bark if they’re in pain. It means they’re calling their pack to help them, or a certain behaviour is causing pain and they want it to stop.
If your pooch barks when you touch or pet them, they might be feeling pain somewhere in their body, or they might be expecting pain from being touched.
In other cases, if your older dog barks at night or at something that doesn’t appear to be there, that can be a sign of cognitive dysfunction for old animals. The bark may be in response to nothing, and is resolved by unidentifiable reasons.
If you notice them barking in a corner, or while staring at a wall during the night, that’s a sign to see a veterinarian and schedule your pup for a check-up. Before trying to fix their barking problem, consult with your vet first to rule out medical causes.
They hear other dogs barking
When you hear your neighbour’s dog barking, and your dog starts barking too, then they’re socialising! Your pooch doesn’t need to see fellow dogs to socially greet them, they can do so with a bark.
When dogs bark at each other, it’s a playful, natural reaction that shows they want to play.
Sometimes, when you take a walk with them on a leash, they lunge and aggressively bark at other dogs– that’s called frustrated greeting. They desperately want to say hello but feel like the leash is holding them down.
Take effort in training and encouraging your dog to be calmer around other dogs, so their stressed level is reduced in the next interaction.
They have separation anxiety
When you are away from your dog for quite some time, they get lonely and anxious because they’re overly-attached to you. Thus, they bark excessively. They’ll howl, pace around, drool, soil anywhere, destroy things and show other signs of distress.
You’ll probably hear these from your neighbours or your house caretakers. To help your dog overcome separation anxiety, you can:
- Socialise them from a young age
- Give them proactive exposure training
- Set up a confinement zone that makes them feel safe
- Teach them how to be alone
- Stay calm when you leave and arrive
This might feel cruel to you and your dog for now, but in the long run, you are helping them stand by themselves and not feel too anxious and sad when you’re away.
How to identify the meaning of your dog’s bark
When it comes to barks, there are three fundamental elements that will help you interpret their woofs correctly.
Low-pitched barks and growls are signs that they’re threatened or tense. They can be in an aggressive state.
High-pitched barks are usually positive indications– they’re in a happy mood, excited and want to play.
The duration of your dog’s bark indicates how much thought they’ve put into their barks– it shows their mental stability.
The longer the bark, the more likely it is that your dog is purposefully barking and preparing an action in response to the source of fear.
Shorter barks indicate excitement or interest in something. They can also do short burst growls, but that only means they are scared and don't want to fight as much as possible.
The frequency of your dog’s bark indicates the urgency of their need for attention. When you hear them barking a few times whenever your neighbour’s dog barks, you don’t have to be concerned about it– they’re probably socialising.
If they bark repeatedly and at a quicker rate, you might need to check if it’s because of excitement, or if they see something that they consider a threat.
Frequency may help you recognize when your dog is barking at threats, or only welcoming visitors to your home.
Interpreting the meaning of your dog’s bark correctly helps you attend to their needs immediately, and it strengthens the bond between the two of you.Spending more time with your dog, either during playtime or training, will help you get to know them more, and you’ll be able to read the meaning of their barks. Dog Gear delivers high-quality dog training equipment like bark collars to help you train your dog more effectively.