Dogs have a limited vocal range, so if they have something to say, they only have a few ways to say it. Like people, some dogs are chattier than others, and if you have one of those talkative types, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. And if your dog is generally quiet? You may be curious why he decided to start barking at someone.
One reason dogs bark is because they feel anxious. If they are barking at a stranger, it may because they are nervous or worried. If your dog barks at people out of anxiety, get him out more, take him for frequent walks so he can get used to being around people he doesn't know. It will take some patience, but he will learn that there is no reason to be worried when he sees a stranger.
Your dog may also bark at people, including you, because he is feeling territorial. If he barks along a fence line, at the door or window, or when standing over his food dish, he is probably saying "stay away." While some barking -- for instance, to let you know there is someone at the door -- is acceptable and maybe even appreciated, aggressive barking at people walking down the sidewalk or at you when you enter the room while he's eating needs to be addressed.
Greeting or Play
Barking isn't always negative. If your dog barks while wagging his tail when you arrive home, or he runs up to you, drops a toy and barks, he is happy to see you and ready to play. As long as this barking doesn't escalate into spins, running rampages through the house and other uncontrollable behavior, you should consider it a compliment. If he jumps on you when he greets you, you may want to discourage this. Even if you don't mind, it is a bad habit that can cause problems if he decides to greet others, particularly children or the elderly, this way.
Because barking is one of the few ways your dog has to communicate with you, he may be using his voice to let you know he needs to go outside or he's hungry or thirsty. If he comes to you and barks, or goes to the door or his food dish and barks, he is probably trying to let you know he needs something. If you acknowledge him and give him what he needs, he will soon learn to reliably repeat this behavior, which is very convenient, particularly when he has to go outside.
By Stephanie Dube Dwilson
About the Author
With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.