Trainer reveals five reasons why your dog barks at you, and why it's not always attention seeking

Dog barking at its owner on a couch
(Image credit: Getty)

Unfortunately, barking is not a language we humans are accustomed to understanding. We can identify little things like when they bark at us to play with them and the best puppy toys or be let outside for a zoom around or toilet trip. But sometimes, we can't figure out why our pup is barking at us and it's too easy to put it down to attention-seeking behavior.

Juliana DeWillems a trainer from JW Dog Training shared a video on Instagram explaining why we need to stop labeling our dogs barking as 'demand barking' or 'attention seeking'. They say that this dismissive response actually stops us from trying to understand our canines and having a chance to resolve the barking.

"I think when we put labels like that on it, it automatically puts it in the negative nuisance behavior category," she explains, "And it totally prevents us from figuring out what our dogs are actually trying to tell us". DeWillems delves into this further in the video below...

DeWillems expresses in the video that barking can be a good thing because it is a form of communication. She acknowledges that it isn't always convenient and that we should be at our dog's 'beck and call 24/7'.

But she says, "A lot of times if I can figure out what they’re trying to communicate with me. I can get to the root of the issue proactively and I can skip the whole cycle of them barking at me in order to convey this message to me." Instead, you should consider if any of her reasons below could be disrupting your dog.

Five common underlying reasons for dogs barking

  1. Boredom, understimulated
  2. Unmet exercise need - not enough physical activity
  3. Hungry, thirsty, need to go to the bathroom
  4. Frustration
  5. Unable to settle - over-stimulated, restless, haven’t learned to settle on their own

DeWillems says that if dog owners can recognize some of these causes for barking above in their dogs then they could make life easier for themselves and their pooch. 

"When we stop labeling our dogs as demanding or attention seeking or manipulative or whatever label society is going to put on them, and we see the behavior for what it is, life gets easier. 

"We find practical solutions. We find solutions that work for everyone. We find solutions that change the behavior. We find solutions that decrease the behavior that we don’t want to see. We find solutions that allow our dogs to live fulfilled and enriching lives, which helps them be happier and easier to live with," she sums up.

Each of the causes for barking above has solutions, and these are solutions that you can work through with a professional if you struggle with this alone. Perhaps, you have considered other alternatives such as calming treats, we recommend reading a vet's opinion on calming treats for dogs first.

Jessica Downey
Staff Writer

With over a year of writing for PetsRadar, Jessica is a seasoned pet writer. She joined the team after writing for the sister site, Fit&Well for a year. Growing up with a lively rescue lurcher kindled her love for animal behavior and care. Jessica holds a journalism degree from Cardiff University and has authored articles for renowned publications, including LiveScience, Runner's World, The Evening Express, and Tom's Guide. Throughout her career in journalism she has forged connections with experts in the field, like behaviorists, trainers, and vets. Through her writing, Jessica aims to empower pet owners with accurate information to enhance their furry companions' lives.