Why Does My Dog Bark At Other Dogs?
What’s he trying to say? 💥📣
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.
Why does my dog bark at other dogs?
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:
- Not being properly socialized as a puppy
- Having bad experiences with other dogs
- Lack of training to learn self-control
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:
- Fear — tucked tail, lowered body and ears pinned back
- Anger or aggression — stiff body with bared teeth and raised hair
- Stress — tense body, lowered body and tail, and panting
How to stop your dog from barking at other dogs
Barking is a natural behavior for dogs, so if your dog just barks occasionally to greet his friends, you shouldn’t worry about trying to make him stop.
But if you can’t make it down the street without your dog barking at every pup you pass, then you might want to consider management or training.
Determine the cause of your dog’s barking
Before you try to stop your dog’s barking, you should try to figure out why he’s barking — if it’s territorial behavior, reactivity, excitement or another reason. Knowing your dog’s triggers will allow you to avoid them or train your dog to ignore them.
Dogs can easily pick up on our emotions, so if you get stressed out when your dog starts to bark, your dog will get even more anxious, hyper or afraid — which could cause him to bark even more.
So practice staying calm as soon as your dog starts barking.
Teach your dog to bark on cue
You can also teach your dog to bark only when you want him to.
“Another way is to teach your dog to bark, and then teach them to be quiet,” Hartstein said.
To start, teach your dog the “Quiet” command. If your dog barks when another dog walks by the house, you can let him bark a few times, then tell him “Quiet,” and give him a treat when he stops barking. This should teach him not to bark excessively and to be quiet when you tell him to.
If your dog barks at other pups, you can work on his obedience training with commands like sit, stay and heel.
The heel command can be helpful on walks so he knows he needs to stay by your side as you pass the other dog (rather than trying to run up to him).
Teaching commands like “Place” (teaching your dog to go to his spot, like his bed) can also be helpful for dogs who bark territorially in the house. If your dog is barking at other dogs walking by the house, you can tell him to go to his spot (ideally, not by a window).
And a trainer can help with this type of training as well.
Keep your dog inside when you’re not home
If your dog is able to bark at dogs when you’re not home, it will strengthen the behavior. So to stop territorial barking, keep him inside the house with the windows covered when you’re not around.
If your dog’s reactive, it may help to work with a trainer or dog behavior expert to teach your dog to be less reactive.
Some ways to help manage reactivity include:
- Removing yourself and your dog from the area when you see another dog, even if your dog hasn’t spotted him yet (by crossing the street, turning around, etc.)
- Figuring out what your dog’s triggers are and trying to minimize or avoid them (if it’s one specific dog he doesn’t like, if he barks during one part of your walk, etc.)
- Using a harness so you’ll have better control if your dog pulls on the leash (We tried the Kurgo harness and gave it our Paw of Approval.)
Use counterconditioning and desensitization
“One way is to desensitize and countercondition your dog,” Hartstein said.
When your dog starts barking, give him treats. This is called classical conditioning — your dog will learn to associate his stress or fear triggers with something good (treats), and eventually he’ll react positively.
Desensitization is exposing your dog to his triggers in relatively safe environments so he’ll have little to no response, and he’ll eventually become less reactive over time. So this might mean inviting a neighborhood friend and their dog over for walks around the block together. (Just make sure to introduce them slowly and in a neutral environment, like the dog park.)
Don’t punish your dog
Barking’s a natural behavior for dogs, so you shouldn’t punish your dog for barking, especially if he’s barking out of stress or fear. This could also make him bark more, as he could become even more scared or stressed out.
If your dog only barks every now and then when he sees his friends, he’s probably just trying to talk to them, and you shouldn’t worry. But if your pup’s an excessive barker, some training, management and lots of patience can go a long way.