Most people are familiar with the sound of barking dogs, at various times of day, in different situations and areas dogs can often be heard barking. But why do dogs bark?
The simple reason for a dog barking is to attract attention. A dog’s bark is like an alarm, a ringing bell or a human shouting to get help. Dogs often bark when they are disturbed or encounter a situation that frightens or excites them. Barks can often be translated as an alert that the dog thinks that something is wrong.
Barking is an alert mechanism
Most dog owners have experienced their dog barking when a visitor comes to the house and often this is the dog alerting the rest of the household that someone is here.
Rather than being seen as an act of aggression, the dog is alerting his housemates to the fact that someone from outside the home is entering their territory, and they need to know about it to get ready.
There are generally two types of bark that you will hear whenever your dog becomes aware of a visitor. If the dog doesn’t know the person or is unsure then the bark will be like a ‘woo, woo, woo’ sound, which is a classic alarm bark.
On the other hand, if the dog knows the person then the barking will be higher pitched, excited barking, often accompanied by other excitable behaviour as he tells the rest of the house that ‘Dad’ or whoever is back.
Dogs bark when they are excited
Some dogs will bark with excitement or when they play. If you take your dog out in the car to travel for a walk, then he may bark with excitement while in the car as he anticipates a walk, associating the car journey with fun and adventures.
During dog playtime, your dog may bark, either at you or at other dogs or pets that he is allowed to play with. Just as children get excited, so too does your dog.
They can bark when they are alarmed or scared
Your dog experiences the world in a different way than you and something that seems normal to you (such as the vacuum cleaner) could be a noisy, wavy headed monster to your dog and he might bark at it.
Sudden noises, thunder, the wind, vehicles going past can all be triggers that can cause your dog to sound the alarm and bark.
In many cases we may detect the reason that the dog is barking but in others if may seem that your dog is woofing just for the sake of it.
Your dog hears and smells things that you and I cannot and the sound of the mouse under the floor ( and smell) that we cannot detect, can be a cause of your dog barking.
Barking can be ‘learned behaviour’
Without realising it, your behaviour and the way that you react to situations, can be a trigger that causes your dog to bark.
If you have a chaotic approach to life and operate at a noisy level for most of the day, then your ‘noise’ can affect the dog which can lead to him joining in with barking and howling.
If you leap up like a madman when the phone rings, or shout when someone rings the doorbell, then its possible that your dog will learn to do the same.
Dogs that live with chaotic humans are more likely to bark than those that are able to experience a more ‘chilled out’ doggy lifestyle.
Emotional or physical distress can cause barking
A dog that is hurt or suffering from some form of stress ( such as separation anxiety) will often bark. This will be a different type of bark than the ‘alert’ bark and will often be more drawn out and sound ‘pained’.
This type of barking is the dog literally shouting for his family to come back ( if he is alone ) or out of simple distress, and calling for attention, if he is hurt or injured
There are a number of reasons why dogs bark and often the only real way to understand why your dog is barking is to spend time with him and to look at the world through his eyes.
Often you’ll be able to get a good idea of why he barks and, if this is a problem for you, be able to work out ways to help him to stop.
You can read more about how to stop a dog barking here.