Why Do Dogs Bark?

While it may seem like it, dogs do not bark without a reason.


A dog’s bark might not communicate specific information, but research indicates that barks can reflect the emotional state of the dog. A study on hunting dogs found that a dog’s bark can vary depending upon what they see in the field. For example, say the researchers, the most distinctive barks were produced during encounters with the most dangerous animals, such as the wild boar. It pays to listen to your dog’s barking.

Dog Barks Vary

Sometimes barks can be emitted singly, but often are  repeated in chains that are noticed by humans. Some dog breeds do less of what is classically thought of a bark and have other sounds in their vocal repertoire, such as the Beagle’s bay, the Husky’s howl, and the Pug’s alien scream.

It’s true that some breeds of dogs that are known to bark more, including Shetland Sheepdogs, Australian Shepherds, Pomeranians, Yorkshire Terriers, and Dachshunds. If you are interested in a quieter breed, consider the Basenji, Chow Chow, or Greyhound.

Types of Dog Barks

Barks can vary in pitch and the duration of the vocal outburst in different situations. Contexts for dog barking include:

  • Fear – Strangers, loud noises
  • Alert – Someone’s at the door, the dog in the yard next door is outside, the stray cat just walked across the yard
  • Anxiety – At home alone, not enough attention, not enough exercise
  • Work – Dogs trained in protection are taught to bark in specific circumstances (police dogs, guard dogs), some herding dogs bark when moving or protecting livestock
  • Excitement – Play, anticipation (food, freedom)

Do Dogs Bark for Attention?

If you own a dog who barks excessively, consider whether the dog’s needs for attention, exercise, and environmental enrichment are being met. Chances are good that they are not. Work with a certified fear/force-free trainer to develop a behavior modification program that will reduce your dog’s reactivity in specific situations, such as guests at the front door.