Date: May 16, 2022
Does your dog bark at the same dog you see on your walk every day? Why does he do that?
It turns out dogs bark at each other for lots of reasons, and if it only happens occasionally, it’s totally normal. But if your dog barks at other pups excessively, there are some ways to train him out of it.
"The Dodo" spoke to Russell Hartstein, a certified dog behavior consultant and trainer and founder of Fun Paw Care in Los Angeles, to find out why your dog barks at other dogs — and how to stop it.
Barking is a form of communication for dogs, so when your dog barks at other dogs, he’s probably trying to tell them something.
“One way in which a dog communicates is through barking and vocalization,” Hartstein told The Dodo.
There are a lot of different things your dog can be trying to communicate to other dogs, though. Here are some common reasons for why dogs bark at each other.
Dogs will often bark to protect their territory. So if your dog starts barking when other dogs walk by the house, he might be letting them know that they’re getting too close to his space.
Keep in mind that dogs can think of a lot of things as being their territory, including your car or an area where you usually go on walks, so he might bark at other dogs while in those places because he considers them to be “his” too.
Your dog may bark at other dogs for the same reason he’ll sometimes bark at you — he wants attention.
So if your dog’s barking at another dog at the dog park, he might be trying to get them to play with him.
Dogs are social animals, and your dog may bark just to greet other pups. If your dog is wagging his tail, has a loose body and is “play bowing,” he’s probably just barking to be friendly.
Socially facilitated barking
This is actually different from social barking. Socially facilitated barking is when dogs bark just because they hear other dogs barking.
This is why your dog might start barking when he hears the neighborhood pups howling.
This type of behavior where animals join in on an activity because others are doing it occurs often in highly social animals, like dogs (people do it, too).
It’s not well known why dogs do this, but a potential reason is because their wolf ancestors were pack animals. So if one wolf started barking, the rest of the pack might have joined in to scare off another pack coming onto their territory.
Some dogs are more reactive than others, which means that they might bark, lunge or show other undesirable behaviors because they’re scared of something. And many times, the trigger for a reactive dog is another dog on the street.
“Reactivity can be described differently by many trainers, behaviorists and pet parents,” Hartstein said. “Typically when someone uses the term reactive to describe their dog, they are referring to a behavior(s) that the parent wishes would not occur, such as lunging, pulling or jumping towards people, dogs, squirrels, cats, etc.”
It can sometimes seem like a reactive dog is being aggressive, but the response is usually out of fear.
Dogs can become reactive for a number of reasons, including:
If your dog’s super social and has lots of doggie friends who he plays with in the dog park or at day care, he may get frustrated on his leash since he isn’t able to say hello to other dogs.
So your dog might bark because he’s excited to see other pups yet annoyed that he can’t run up to them.
Fear, anger or stress
You should look at your dog’s body language to tell if he’s afraid or angry when he’s barking rather than just trying to say hello to another dog.
“For all behaviors, you have to take into account the entire dog (not just barking) and the context and environment,” Hartstein said. “All behaviors are contextual and situational. The more you train with your dog and understand one another, the more you can tell when your dog is scared, wanting to be left alone, needs to create distance to a stimulus, when to approach a dog or leave them alone, etc.”
Some body language cues to look for include: