How To Understand Why Your Dog Barks
Dogs are majestic creatures and some of the best creatures on this planet. There is a reason why dogs are considered man’s best friend. They just love you unconditional and want to help you in any and all ways that they possibly can.
So, it is only fair that we try our best to help them as much as possible. And what better way to help them than to try and understand them. Dogs try to communicate with us in so many ways. If you check out the post, ‘how dogs communicate with you’, you can see some of the many ways that our puppies try to talk with us.
Reasons why dogs bark
One thing that I touched on in my post about dogs' form of communication is barking. And while I touched a little on that, there are SO many more ways dogs try to communicate to us through barking. Heck! It is like us talking to each other! So I wanted to go into more detail about the many reasons why dogs bark.
The main ones I am going to talk about today are genetics, they want something, they want something emotionally, and their environment. I know that at first glance that doesn’t seem like much, but just you wait! There’s so much more to come.
So surprisingly, there are many instances where genetics plays a large role as to how often a dog is likely to bark. Some breeds are known to be much more vocal than others. For example, beagles and chihuahuas are amongst the breeds that tend to be the loudest. This is based on their genetic makeup which gives them a larger desire to try and communicate verbally to others.
In contrast, some of the breeds that are known for being much more silent are French Bulldog and BullMastiffs. These dogs will bark when triggers such as the ways described below, but are significantly less likely to bark on a regular basis.
And while genetics do play a fairly large role in any breed (or human for that matter) there are also instances where it can vary from dog to dog. You could have a silent beagle and a very vocal French bulldog. So while genetics are one thing to take into consideration, there are many others that also play a role.
They are trying to tell you something physically
Man! This section was so hard to title because that is one of the many reasons why dogs bark, but it just doesn’t sound cool the way it was titled. So let me go into more detail. Dogs want to talk to us, that’s obvious. But sometimes they are trying to tell us something about their physical needs rather than emotionally. When I notice a dog barking, I will usually look to see if there is an obvious physical reason why said dog is barking before I go into investigating the emotional reasons behind it. I am going to talk about six of the main reasons that dogs will bark because there is something physically important that they need from you. (See! There’s just no smooth way to say it. Oh well, I’ve never been known for being smooth).
They are too hot
This one is an important one to consider. So often humans forget that dogs carry around a winter coat with them pretty much during all times of the year. That means when its 100 degrees outside and you’re in a nice sundress with glasses, your puppy is still in the winter attire. Talk about hot! So when it starts to become more than they can handle, they will bark to their humans.
They are hot, they want to either go into the shade, go inside, or they may need water from dehydration. It’s important if it is hot out and your dog randomly starts barking that you consider the heat. The last thing that you want is for your puppy to have a heat stroke or become ill from dehydration.
Another thing to note is that they don’t wear shoes. So it is important to be mindful of the payment heat when walking your dog. You don’t want to think you are exercising your dog for such a long time, only to find out their paws have been slightly burned by walking on a very hot payment. Just imagine you were walking on the payment without shoes on, how would that feel on your feet?
Similar to hot, but basically the opposite is the cold. ‘But Paige, you said they have winter coats on all the time, they should be fine in the cold right?’ Wrong! Domesticated dogs are not used to the extreme temperatures their ancestors were.
And while it is true that they have a “winter” coat, even if you have a winter coat on, you’d get cold staying out in the cold for too long. So what do dogs do? They bark! They are saying, ‘Hey hooman! I’m cold! We need to find shelter or go back inside where it’s warmer!’ If they are barking, find some way to keep them warm! Remember, they are probably just as cold as you are.
Dogs bark mostly as a way to communicate with you. So when they are hungry, how else are they going to tell you? Of course, they are going to bark at you. Therefore, if the temperature is fairly decent and around the time that they normally eat, they are probably trying to tell you they are hungry.
This one isn’t as crucial as the first two. However, you do want to take it with a little consideration. While it doesn’t hurt you for your dog to be hungry, you want to imagine yourself if you were in the same situation. If you were hungry and trying to tell the person who feeds you that you need food, you don’t want to be ignored. Especially not for too long.
Thirst is another reason that dogs will bark. This is very similar to hunger, however, this should be taken more seriously than the hunger. Dehydration is a very scary matter in dogs. I always like to bring water and portable bowls so that dogs can always drink at any time. I highly suggest any dog owners do the same.
Someone’s in trouble
Alright, this one probably is the least likely to happen, but I still like to add this. You see in movies that dogs are barking vigorously at their humans. They are trying to tell their humans that someone is in trouble! They are true heroes. And while that will probably only ever happen in movies, it is definitely something that COULD happen. Eh, probably not. But a girl can dream.
They want you to follow them
This one is a more likely version of someone being in trouble. Sometimes they have found a very awesome bone that they want you to see, or they think you are in trouble and trying to bring you to safety. If you notice their body language trying to pull you into a direction along with their barking, they may be trying to get you to follow them.
They need you emotionally
While dogs will sometime bark to tell you they want something physically, they could also need something emotionally. (See, this is why I was struggling so much to separate them). Dogs have emotional needs too. And when they need something from you emotionally, how else are they going to communicate with you other than barking?!
So if nothing physically seems to be bothering your dog, but their mannerisms are changing, it could be more emotional than physical. I am going to dive further into some of their emotional needs that they may require your assistance for.
Sometimes dogs will bark as a way to show they are fearful or scared. A lot of times people will confuse this bark with aggression. If I had a dollar for the number of “angry” dogs that were actually just scared of the situation in front of them and acted in a form of fear, I would be quite rich. If there is a dog that seems to be barking with their tail tucked in and trying to curl themselves small, they may be scared!
And again, they are barking and using their body language to show you that they are scared. I talked more about this my post, ‘Is Your Dog Scared?’. The main point when it comes to barking is that they are trying to tell you that they are uncomfortable in whatever situation they are in. If there is something you can do to change their environment or the cause of that fear, then do it. Otherwise, if they are just overall scared, give them space. They are trying to use their bark as a warning for space.
The complete opposite of scared is your dog will bark when they are excited. Picture this, you come home for a long day at work. What does your dog do? They come RUNNING to you, barking and tail wagging. You can pretty much rule out all the physical needs since they were safe in a house all day. They are very obviously excited to see you! They are saying the equivalent to when a kid screams and runs to you when they haven’t seen you in a while.
They are barking to tell you ‘Hello Human! I missed you so much! I thought you were gone forever! But you’re home forever! Yay!’ or something along those lines. I tend to make up conversations with dogs, but that’s what I imagine they are trying to say. As I said before, this bark is usually accompanied with a wagging tail and sometimes jumping. They just want you to know they are happy to see you!
Dogs face emotions just like us. And one of those emotions is anxiety and nervousness. Dogs that are known for having high anxiety, are known to bark when they are nervous. This anxiety is often stemmed from an underlying condition. And while their bark doesn’t always tell you the condition, it does tell you what triggers it.
One example is my parent’s dog. We unknowingly got him at a pet store (I go into more detail on this in other blog posts). He was taken from his mother too early and therefore had major separation anxiety when we were getting ready to leave him alone. This would cause whining, barking, crying and sometimes even shaking.
He was trying to tell us that he was scared and didn’t want us to leave. He was afraid we were never coming back. It is also important to keep in mind that dogs don’t always understand that when we leave, we come back. Especially if they have had abandonment issues in the past. If your dog is barking along with shaking and seeming nervous, their bark is usually anxiety driven more than anything. Work to figure out the trigger of the anxiety, which will help you pinpoint why they are feeling that way and way you can do to help soothe them.
Bored dogs are just as if not more dangerous than a bored toddler. Dogs need stimulation just like any other being. If they have been cooped in a house all day with no interaction, they may bark at you to entertain them. Like a toddler going, ‘Mom! Hey Mom! Mom! Mom, I’m bored’. I am slightly convinced that this is what they are saying. If your dog seems normal, not overly exciting, or sad. Has plenty of food and water, chances are they are bored and want you to play with them.
Remember that you are their world. A bored dog can’t just go watch TV and entertain themselves. They need you to play with them sometimes too. If you don’t want to play with a dog ever, then you should not get a dog. Simple as that.
The environment effects can sometimes tie with emotional barking. There could be environment effects that lead them to feel a certain way. Other dogs can cause your dog to want to join in on the barking fun. Loud noises such as fireworks, thunderstorms, or unfamiliar sirens can give them anxiety and/or fear and cause them to bark because of that. Some dogs even get so nervous these events that their owners have to get them Thundershirts, or something that helps calm them down during these events.
If you notice your dog always seems to bark more when there is a thunderstorm, there is a good chance that they are afraid of thunderstorms. They are trying to communicate to you that they are scared. I would again reference my article about Scared Dogs to see all the many ways you can help your puppy feel safe during these moments.
Dogs want to communicate with us. And they have a lot of ways in which they can do it. Barking, however, is the thing closest to talking so they tend to do that along with the other ways. There are a lot of factors that go into why your dog is barking. So rather than looking at one, make sure you always try and look at the bigger picture. Why is your dog barking? Who is he/she barking out? Is this a reoccurring bark? What is their body language like while they are barking?
All of these questions will help you understand your dog’s bark even better and form a stronger relationship.