“Why do dogs bark?”
As dog owners and animal lovers – even aficionados – we find ourselves asking this question a lot, even though we know the most obvious answer. Barking is one of the most common ways that dogs communicate with humans and other dogs.
What we really want to know is “What are dogs saying?” That’s a much broader topic. Clearly, the reasons for barking can differ from dog to dog.
First things first, it’s important to understand that barking is the way dogs convey their emotions, needs, and desires, whether that’s excitement, fear, boredom, or a desire to protect their charges.
Dogs were originally bred to perform specific tasks, such as hunting and herding. Barking played a crucial role in their job performance. Through years of domestication, dogs have maintained their ability to bark as a means of getting their point across to their human counterparts.
When it comes to identifying different types of barks, there are several factors to consider. The pitch, duration, and frequency of your dog’s bark can provide clues as to what a dog is trying to say.
For example, a high-pitched bark that lasts for a short duration may indicate excitement or greeting, while a low-pitched, continuous bark can signal aggression or fear.
It’s also important to note that barking is not always – and, in fact, is rarely – a sign of bad behavior. In many cases, it can be a sign that your dog is simply having a great day.
Why do dogs bark? Perhaps one of the biggest reasons is excitability. Your dog may bark when you come home or begin barking when they hear the telltale sound of you retrieving their leash. These are barks of excitement.
Excitement barking is particularly common in puppies and younger dogs. Many dogs also bark during playtime with people or other dogs, which is a telltale sign that they are having fun.
Additional reasons for barking abound, of course, and factors like body language and context can also help decipher the meaning behind a bark.
Alert and Warning
Dogs may bark as an early warning system. They have an instinct to protect their territory and their family members. A warning bark usually consists of a series of short barks in rapid succession. This is their way of alerting us of potential danger, whether it’s an intruder or a stranger at the door. When dogs sense danger or feel threatened, they bark louder and for longer durations.
Dogs are social animals and crave attention and interactions with their owners. Barking may indicate it’s time to play, go for a walk, or refill the food or water dishes – at least from their point of view. Dogs bark to get our attention, and when we respond to them appropriately, they learn to communicate with us by doing so more frequently.
Fear and Anxiety
Loud noises, unfamiliar environments, separation anxiety, and more can trigger anxious or fearful barks, signaling that your dog isn’t emotionally or physically comfortable.
Dogs may also bark when they are startled or spooked. Frequently this is a single bark, spurred when a person walks up to a dog who is hard of hearing or was not paying attention.
Pain and other medical conditions can cause dogs to bark incessantly. Usually, the change comes suddenly. Any abrupt difference in your dog’s barking behavior should be taken seriously and addressed with your family veterinarian. Ear infections, dental problems, and even age-related hearing loss can cause discomfort, leading to an increase in barking.
What to Do if Barking Gets Out of Hand
Yes, barking can occasionally be excessive, leading to frustration for owners.
We should note that some breeds – such as chihuahuas, Pomeranians, huskies, and many breeds of terrier – are more talkative than others. If you have a breed that is known for being chatty, you may need to work extra hard to help them ease up on their alert system.
It’s always important to pinpoint the cause of excessive barking. Once you know the reason, you can take steps to address the underlying issue. If they’re bored, additional toys and activities can put a pin in things. If anxiety is the reason, you may need to work with a professional trainer or behaviorist to help them overcome their uneasiness.
Dog training programs, like those offered at Springdale Pet Ranch, are a great way to strengthen the bond between pet and person while fine-tuning any behavior issues, such as excessive barking. Here, our knowledgeable trainers can help you identify the root cause of your dog’s barking and create an effective game plan to address and correct this behavior consistently and lovingly.
Springdale Pet Ranch has over 25 years of experience providing the kind of pet care services we desire for our own family pets. Our training staff offers customized programs built on proven and positive techniques that appeal to your dog’s natural motivations. Reach out to our team today to learn more about our fun, meaningful, and effective approach, and schedule your free training evaluation.