Why Does My Dog Bark So Much – And What Do Barks Mean?

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In Why Does My Dog Bark So Much we dig down into the origins of barking and find out what dogs are telling us.

We know that dogs are descended from wolves and that wolves don’t bark. So why do dogs bark?

Is it a way of communicating with the people that they live with? Or is there some other reason

Let’s find out.

A number of different types of bark have been identified, and dogs reliably use specific types of bark in specific situations.

The ancestors of our dogs didn’t bark. Barking developed during the long period of association with humans after the first dogs became domesticated.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

So it seems reasonable to assume that barking in dogs, has developed as a means of communicating with their human friends.

But dogs also use barking to communicate with one another.

Let’s take a look at the contexts in which your dog is barking, and what dogs might be trying to tell us in these different situations.

2017 international dog name surveyDogs have other ways to make their feelings known, such as body language and eye contact.

However, many people are better at interpreting their dog’s noises, than his more subtle body language signals

So for many dogs, barking is often the only way that they can make their presence felt.

Why do dogs bark too much?

Some dogs bark more than others. And in some dogs, barking can become a real nuisance.

This can be because the barking has been accidentally rewarded in the past.

Why does my dog bark so much - barking yellow labradorOr it can simply be because the dog has a genetic predisposition to being particularly vocal.

Dog Bark Translator

Understanding why dogs bark is half the battle to stopping them. Let’s take a closer look at that.

It isn’t always easy to work out why your dog is barking. So you can consider the next section of this article your Dog Bark Translator!

We will be looking into the situations in which your dog barks and helping you to discover the reasons why.  Further down you’ll also find a video of different types of barks and what they mean.

Dog Barking At Night

When you bring home a new puppy or dog, you can expect that he might bark at night for the first few nights.

Your new puppy will be lonely, confused and won’t know what to expect. However, this kind of noise normally rapidly reduces when the new pup settles in.

But what do you do if your previously quiet dog starts barking at night?

Try to narrow down the possible reasons.

Early Waking

If your dog is barking early in the morning, rather than in the middle of the night, then it can be simply as a result of early waking.

Because he’s bored or ready for breakfast, so he will bark for attention.

There is some great advice on dealing with this issue here.

Barking At Night

Dogs barking at night, truly in the middle of the night or shortly after they have been settled to bed, usually have one of two motivations.

They may be barking to alert you to something that is causing them concern.

Wild animals sniffing around in the back yard, or neighbors returning late from work are common causes of this.

Setting up a webcam will help you to work out whether there is a definable cause of the barking, so that you can work past it.

It could also be as a result of a temporary urinary infection causing them to need the toilet, or having become older the dog is unable to hold their bladder.

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Do rule out veterinary issues with a quick check-up.

Neighbor’s Dog Barking

It can be incredibly frustrating to have a neighbor with a very barky dog. As it happens, my next door neighbor has a particularly vocal dog.

I simply need to say “It’s only me” to him for him to stop if I’m in the garden. But not everyone is this lucky.

If you are on good terms with your neighbour, then go over in person and ask whether there is something you can do to help resolve the issue.

For example, getting to know the dog so that he doesn’t feel threatened when you are in your back yard.

Or asking them to try the Click for Quiet technique.

Try to remain very calm and friendly throughout the discussion, rather than complaining about the past irritation see if you can work with them to a resolution that keeps you both happy and their dog from disturbing the peace.

In many cases your neighbor will be just as fed-up the noise as you are. And may be glad of some help in resolving it.

Why Does My Dog Bark At Me?

If your dog is barking at you, then they want to communicate something to you.

Many owners unwittingly encourage barking from the day their puppy comes home. The puppy barked, you responded in the way they wanted, and therefore accidentally reinforced the behavior.

If barking works, then the puppy will bark more.

Barking For Attention

Some dogs bark at you when they want your attention. Here are some common things that your dog might want from you:

  • To be let into the backyard
  • To be let back into the house
  • To let you know the a visitor has arrived
  • To get you to play
  • To ask for something you are holding
  • To ask to be fed

You can work out what your dog wants based upon the context, and sometimes even the type of bark that your dog is giving.

For example, when a dog is alerting you to something that they are worried about they will give out rapid, show barks. Often in response to visual stimuli, such as people walking past the house.

Most dogs when they want to be let through a door will bark just a couple of times and wait for you to respond.

When you have established the reason for your dog’s barking, you need to decide whether you are happy for it to continue. Most owners don’t mind a few barks when their dog asks to go outside to the toilet or to come back in.

But barking for attention in general can quickly become tiresome.

You will need to adapt how you respond to your dog when they bark depending upon how you feel.

This article on stopping your dog barking will help you.

Barking When Left Alone

Labradors are intelligent animals, who love their families and want to spend their time together.

When a Lab is lonely he might well bark, probably in loud bursts over a long period of time.

If you are upstairs and your Lab is barking like this downstairs, wait for a pause in the noise before you reward him by returning to the room.

Training techniques such as Click For Quiet can be very helpful in tackling issues of barking when you are at home.

But some dogs bark when they are alone, because the owner has left the house and they are being left for too long a period of time. This results in them being lonely, bored or both.

Chew toys such as Kongs can help dogs who bark when left. The toy will distract and entertained for a period of time.

You may need to look at how you are managing your time if this is a recurring issue.

This article will give help and support to owners whose neighbors are complaining of their dog’s noise when they are out.

Separation Anxiety

When being left alone results in extreme barking, chewing, destructive behavior, distress and messing in the house, then it is referred to as separation anxiety.

You can find out how to tackle this distressing problem here.

Predatory Barking

Barking at cats, birds or other wild animals is known as predatory barking.

This is a form of frustration, where the dog would like to chase a prey animal but is either restraining themselves or being physically restrained from doing so.

Helping your dog to find the experience of not chasing more rewarding than the chase will help to reduce his frustration and therefore the noise he makes.

Barking As A Greeting

If your Lab barks when you get home, then this is probably just a greeting.

This will involve a couple of loud yaps and be accompanied by a furiously wagging tail and open mouth.

Dog Barks At Other Dogs

Dogs will almost all bark at other dogs from time to time. This will be for a variety of different reasons.

Excitement

Labradors are generally very sociable dogs. They want to meet, greet and play with everyone that they see.

Overly social Labs will often bark with excitement upon seeing another dog. Especially if they are restrained on a leash and cannot run straight up to greet them.

We take a look at dealing with this over excitement in regards to other dogs in this article on over-friendly Labradors.

Play Barking

Many Labs, especially young ones, will play-bark. These are short yaps given out to try an incite another dog into their games.

A play-bark will often be accompanied by a play-bow, where they bend their front legs, with back legs straight and tail wagging.

Fearful Barking

If your Lab has previously been attacked by another dog, or is naturally very nervous, then they might bark through fear when they see another dog.

I highly recommend seeing a qualified behaviorist who uses positive reinforcement training methods if you feel this is the case with your Lab.

The behaviorist will be able to asses your dog’s individual needs and work with you to slowly build up his confidence.

Annoyance or Irritation

Adult dogs will on occasion bark at other dogs, especially playful puppies, if they are annoying them. These will normally be short, lower pitched barks.

Territorial Barking

Some dogs will bark at other dogs only when they pass by the house. This self rewarding behavior occurs as the dog mistakenly believes that they are successfully discouraging an unwanted dog (or human) from coming into their house. When of course in reality the perceived intruder was simply walking past.

Visual barriers may significantly help with territorial barking at home. You can find out more about how to work through these issues in this article.

My Dog Barks At Nothing

It’s all well and good translating a dog’s bark when there is a clear reason. But what do you do when your dog barks at nothing?

There are a couple of possibilities here.

One is that there is something going on which you are not aware of.

Make a list of the situations or times when your dog appears to bark at ‘nothing’ and try to find a common cause or causes.

The other possibility is that he simply enjoys the sound of his own voice.

Some dogs find barking self rewarding. They like to hear their own bark, it makes them happy, so they bark some more.

General work with Click For Quiet and rewarding the dog when they are silent will help here.

Why does my dog bark so much?

If you still don’t know why your dog is barking, then take a look at this video. It gives examples of situations where the dog is barking, and gives an analysis of why it might be.

When does your dog bark?  Don’t forget to tell us in the comment’s box below.

References and further reading

Sophia Yin & Brenda McCowan “Barking in domestic dogs: context specificity and individual identification” Animal Behaviour 2004

Sophia Yin. “A new perspective on barking in dogs” Journal of Comparative Psychology 2002

G Sales et al. “Noise in dog kennelling: Is barking a welfare problem for dogs?” Applied Animal Behaviour Science 1997

Peter Pongracz et al. “Barking in family dogs: an ethological approach” The Veterinary Journal 2008

 

11 COMMENTS

  1. I have a 16 month female Labrador, part American/part English, who has decided to start chewing the dry wall along a doorway. We have started leaving her out of her crate at night as she was behaving well and my husband is home during the day so again she is left out of her crate. He does take her outside to run and play when the weather permits. At night she becomes quite vocal and does not want to listen.

    Can you advise me as to how to go about getting her to stop the barking, jumping and nipping at us? Also, what can I use on the doorframe to prevent further damage.

  2. Our elderly lab has suddenly started barking when my partner leaves the room. He only has to leave the living room to go upstairs or to the bathroom and he starts to bark at me and its constant. My partner has to come down and tell him a bit sternly to stop it but he continues. I have bought him a kong with treats to try and entertain him and play with him but once i stop he starts again but i feel so sorry for him as he cannot get about like he used to due to his arthoritis and wondering what to do to help him with this. He is 14 and just started doing this in the past year. He has spent quite a lot if time with my partner due to his ill health and wonder if he is worried he is leaving him when he leaves the room. He never barks at night and hardly barks when we are both not there as we have asked our neighbour to let us know. Not sure what to do from here.

  3. Our 6-month old lab Brandy barks at people with strollers, people taking out their trash on garbage day or people simply making noise shuffling their feet when walking in our quiet residential street. This is especially frustrating and embarrassing in the early-morning and late-evening hours when I am sure it is most bothersome to our neighbors.

    How can we stop this behavior?

    Thank you!

  4. My black lab mix and our golden lab beagle mix run on our property and have been trained to come to a whistle. This has worked very well. The Black lab is going to be 2 in January and suddenly when they go out in the evening she barks ( black lab)continually and will not respond to the whistle or calling. The other dog comes back as usual. In fact she runs back and forth on the property and increases barking when called. This is a new behavior and I am at a loss as to what to do. Looking for suggestions on this one.

  5. My choccie Rolo starts barking before I get chance to open the back door. He then runs up the garden barking. He will then stop dead and look around as if to say what was I barking at. He always barks at pigeons he absolutely hates them. I find his barking very frustrating as we have neighbours who don’t have dogs who must be as fed up as I am. We have paddocks and arable land at the end of our garden he cannot get up there as it’s fenced off for our veggie patch. We are at our wits end at what to do with him.

    • Hi Geri
      The first step in stopping this is to refuse to open the back door until the dog is quiet. Teaching a dog that being quiet get him the things he wants often spills over into all aspects of his life so that he is quieter generally.

  6. my lab is a very good barker, if she barks there is a reason, company is coming, another dog , critters at night,. she is a wonderful pet, loves little children and attention. there are times if she dosent get her way–she will slam herself down on the floor.she is only seven years old and is already going down in her hips. all i can do now is keep her out of pain with pets pain meds and joint health for dogs. i read the about when to let you lab go—so sad but i know the time will be soon,. love this website.

  7. We have 4 Labs, Dad, Mom and Son and Daughter.
    They bark each time they have a thought. We live outside city limits by quite a bit, so no one cares. They will stop if you tell them too, and they are so stinkin’ cute! Love these articles.

  8. From Geoffrey,
    I think this is the most interesting site I have encounted , lots of info ,I would NEVER un-subscribe Thank you all.. Recently lost my adorable Alfie 13 , I know I will never get over it and my health has been badly affected, but looking at this site helps me a great deal..I am 75 and agile but I would be comparing another dog and it HAS to be a Labrador .. Thank you all for a wonderful site as it has informed me more than my own vet what was wrong.. Bye broken hearted like a lot more animal lovers……..

  9. My lab, Cooper, barks at babies and has even growled. It’s a bit confusing as I really don’t know why. He played and licked a friend ‘s baby at first, then seemed confused and started barking in his face! Any advice on that particular subject?

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