What Your Dog’s Barks Actually Mean

Many dog owners have a hard time dealing with excessive barking, to the point where they become frustrated and upset, feeling completely hopeless as to how to stop it. Sound familiar?

The biggest mistake we make in trying to solve the issue is forgetting that itís a dogís most natural instinct to bark and growl Ė itís hardwired into them. Disciplining your canine companion for barking is counterproductive and extremely confusing for them, and can lead to an ongoing battle which is stressful and negative for all involved.

The key to creating harmony in the home and lowering the intensity and frequency of your dogís barking is to understand his motivation for it, and to work with him to calm his fears and anxieties. Shouting at him is†not going to help the situation.

Here are four main types of barking behavior, and what your dog is trying to tell you:

The Overexcited Welcome Home Bark

If you return home from work to a barrage of noisy barking, scrabbling, jumping and spinning, where your dog is completely overexcited to the point of frenzy, you might be under the impression that this is their way of showing their undying love for you. While they are certainly happy to see you, heís actually trying to say:

ďYou’re home, you’re home! Iím so glad youíre home!! Iíve been here on my own, bored out of my mind for hours waiting for you to come back, and now youíre finally here! Please donít make me sit here alone again, letís play instead, Iíve got so much energy.Ē

Tip for improving your dogís behavior: Donít reward your dogís boisterous behavior with praise and cuddles, but instead ignore them until they have calmed down and then go over and give them love and snuggles. You can also try to relieve some of their daytime boredom by giving them a toy or treat to play with.

The Attention Seeking Bark

When your furry friend begins barking at a totally random time when there is seemingly nothing to spark it off, it is almost certainly attention seeking behavior. Whether itís because theyíre desperate for the toilet, hungry for dinner, or just in need of some love and attention, a loud bark is almost certain to grab your attention in the desired way, saying:

ďHELLO, did you forget about me? Iíve been sitting here like a good boy for ages, and you seem to have forgotten about me. Please pay me some attention. Why donít you come and play with me, or maybe we could go for a walk, or you could put some peanut butter in my Kong†up for me to play with. Like NOW!!Ē

Tip for improving your dogís behavior: Whilst you donít want to reward your dog for rowdy behavior, you also need to pay attention to their wants and desires. Ask your dog to calm down and stop barking, and then reward them by paying them the attention which they were likely seeking.

The Separation Anxiety Bark

If your dog barks non-stop whenever theyíre left on their own, even if youíre just in the next room, this is a sign that theyíre suffering from separation anxiety. This is the kind of excessive barking that can drive you mad, disturb neighbors, and result in a very stressful situation for everyone involved. Effectively your dog is trying to call out for help, saying:

ďPlease someone come and help me. Iím all alone in here and I canít see where anyone is. Please come back and be with me, I just want to be loved, donít abandon me in here all alone.Ē

Tip for improving your dogís behavior: Patience is the key to improving this situation. Wait until your dogís barking subsides and then re-enter the room full of praise and even a treat. Your dog needs positive reassurance that nothing bad is going to happen when theyíre left on their own. Shouting at them and telling them to stop is only going to confirm their fears that itís bad to be left in the room on their own.

The “Whoís There, What Was That” Bark

Every dog owner knows that feeling when youíre sitting down and relaxing, or in bed at night, when all of a sudden you jump out of your skin to a chaotic, aggressive frenzy of barking. Your immediate thoughts are that something awful has happened, but you quickly realize that your dog has just seen next doorís cat creeping past the kitchen window or someone walking by the front gate. Your startled dog has been alarmed by something and is trying to alert you by saying:

ďIntruder! Intruder! Everyone needs to wake up and pay attention because someoneís coming too close to the house. Mum, Dad, did you hear me? I said that thereís and intruder outside. Oh, wait itís the cat from next door…..Itís the cat from next door, did anyone else see that? Everyone, thereís a cat outside the window!Ē

Tip for improving your dogís behavior: Calmly reassure your dog that everything is totally OK, and that there is nothing to feel threatened or alarmed at. Sometimes dogs who are new to a home bark like crazy every time someone or something comes near the front door, but slowly get used to the fact that there is no danger, and nothing to be worried about.

Photo Credit: jan zeschky


Margie F
Margie FOURIE6 months ago

The only bark I get confused between is the I want to go out to do my business bark and the Get the other dog off the bed so I can lie there bark. I am sure it is the same bark.

Leanne K
Leanne K6 months ago

Its the low rumbling growl that is far more ominous than any bark. Thats reserved for those rare encounters when they just know. I have been most grateful on two separate occassions for that quiet growl

Danuta W
Danuta W6 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Angela K
Angela K6 months ago


Jetana A
Jetana A6 months ago

Excessive barking means your neighbors hate you! Please do everything possible to keep your dogs quiet. And realize that they bark a lot while home alone.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla Vaga6 months ago


Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Joy T
Joy T6 months ago

Great info.!

Roslyn M
Roslyn M6 months ago

Useful info., thanks.

John W
John W6 months ago