Why Do Dogs Bark? (Plus, Decoding Dog Barking)

I like to call my toy Poodle Diane Sawyer because she loves to report when things happen.

The doorbell rings? She lets out a “Ruff, Ruff … Ruff, Ruff!” My phone alarm in the other room goes off? I don’t have to worry about missing it because she’ll let me know. The lawn guy just arrived? Yup, she’ll keep me posted about that too.

Sure, barking can be useful at times. But, let’s be honest. A yapping dog can be embarrassing and irritating in certain situations, leaving many humans yelling: “No!” “Stop that!” “Shut up!” “Quiet down!” There’s a reason why my article 5 Tips To Get Your Dog To Stop Barking is one of my most read posts.

But let’s take a step back for a second and ask the important question: Why do our dogs bark?

Barking History

I recently read the book Do Dogs Dream? Nearly Everything Your Dog Wants You To Know by canine psychologist Stanley Coren. In the communication section, he addresses the history of barking and how it was actually one of the main reasons human settlers kept dogs around. Back in the day, dogs would act as their alarms when dangerous animals or potentially threatening strangers approached their settlement. With loud dogs on guard, humans were able to rest more.

“It seems obvious that for personal and community security purposes, the most effective dog is the one with a loud and persistent bark. For this reason, a dog that barked loudly was kept and bred with others that also barked.”

According to Coren, this is one of the main differences between wild canines and domestic dogs. Our ancestors actually trained domestic dogs to bark and get loud. Fast forward to today and we’re trying to do the opposite!

Decoding Barking

Barking is a language. It’s the way our dogs communicate their emotions and report what’s going on around them. Just like people around the world learn new languages to communicate with people from different countries, we need to learn some basic canine linguistics!

Check out this infographic to help you understand your pup a bit better:

Let's be honest -- a yapping dog can be embarrassing and irritating in certain situations. Rather than yelling at your dog to "STOP," it's important to figure out why dogs bark. Read on for the history of barking and a quick reference guide to decode the canine language.