Why Do Dogs Bark?

Some dog owners believe that they can understand their dog's barking and what it means. At my house, our dog Trixie has a unique bark she gives for each member of the household when they return home. Sometimes when Trixie barks, I feel like I can understand exactly what she is trying to say. It reminds me of an old joke:

A man walks into a bar with a small dog under his arm and sits down at the counter, placing the dog on the stool next to him. The bartender says, "Sorry, pal. No dogs allowed."
The man says, "But this is a special dog -- he talks!"
"Yeah, right," says the bartender. "Now get out of here before I throw you out."
"No, wait," says the man. "I'll prove it." He turns to the dog and asks, "What do you normally find on top of a house?"
"Roof!" says the dog, wagging his tail.
"Listen, pal..." says the bartender.
"Wait," says the man, "I'll ask another question." He turns to the dog again and asks, "What's the opposite of soft?"
"Ruff!" exclaims the dog.
"Quit wasting my time and get out of here," says the bartender.
"One more chance," pleads the man. Turning to the dog again, he asks, "Who was the greatest baseball player that ever lived?"
"Ruth!" barked the dog.
"Okay, that's it!" says the bartender, and physically throws both man and dog out the door and onto the street.
Turning to the man, the dogs shrugs and says, "Maybe I should have said Joe Dimaggio?"

Some dog owners feel that barking is a nuisance and that their dog is doing it to misbehave or gain attention. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), barking serves a variety of functions, and each type of bark has a specific purpose. Whether it's for protection, food or excitement, a dog owner will eventually learn the meaning of their yipping and be able to train them more effectively.

Types of Barking

  • Territorial - If a dog believes there is a threat of any kind they may begin barking fiercely. Many dogs are hesitant of strangers and bark territorially at them. This can be hard to train around if the barking is a nuisance.
  • Affectionate Greeting - A dog will sometimes bark to let you know you were missed.
  • Attention Seeking - If a dog has unspent energy, barking may be telling you he needs more exercise.
  • Alarm Barking - Similar to territorial, a dog will bark if spooked by a disturbance. It is a reaction to something that has frightened your pooch.
  • Social Barking - We have all heard it. One dog in the neighborhood howls and then the whole block is filled with barking and howling.
  • Separation Anxiety - You may never hear it, but your neighbors might. When a dog is left alone for too long they will bark and howl to let everyone know they miss their owner.

Bark Prevention A "talkative" pooch can be difficult to train. Some breeds of dogs are naturally more territorial and vocal than others, which has been brought on from years of breeding. However, with enough training even the loudest dog can quiet down their barking habits. For a pooch that has a problem with territorial barking, try to limit their interaction at the front door when strangers come by; keep them in another room or outside until you can introduce them properly.

A dog can be trained with "quiet" words while gently holding their muzzle if barking persists. Also, a "treat method" of training can work, too.

Bark Collars are a popular training method used by dog owners who have a hard time controlling their pet's barking. There a few different types of training collar for dogs that are incessant barkers from spray collars to heavy duty vibration and shock collars for stubborn learners.

We may never know just know exactly what our pets are trying to tell us, but with a bit of patience and proper training techniques, dog owners can control chatty Chihuahuas and loud Labradors.

By Sean Bowes
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