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Five Categories of Barking Dogs

For classification purposes, it probably works best to think of there as being five categories of barking dogs. Three of those are beckoning barkers, which refers to dogs that are calling out to those around them. Those are the Social Beckoner, the Entry-Seeking Beckoner, and the Alarm-Sounding Beckoner. The two other types of barkers are the Threatening Barkers and the Stir-Crazy Barkers.

Social Beckoners

The social beckoner is calling out to those around him in the hope of attracting some company. If you read a detailed examination of the process of bark training your dog, you'll recognize Bear as a social beckoner. Howling falls into the category of social promotion as well. In fact, among canines, howling seems to be universally understood to mean that the howler is alone and desperately in need of some company.

The Let-Me-Back-In-the-Damn-House (Entry-Seeking) Beckoners

There are many dogs who signal their desire to come indoors by barking. I'm sure that arrangement worked well for Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, but in today's densely packed urban environment, a few quick nocturnal barks to tell the humans to open the door can easily wake twenty or thirty people.

I once lived next door to Louise, an elderly lady, and Billy, her elderly terrier. Billy, who was of a sensitive nature, viewed himself as the dominant dog, and Louise catered endlessly to his needs. It was not uncommon for him to have restless nights. On those occasions, Louise would let him out, where he would remain for about ten minutes. Then he would bark to be let back in the house, where he would hunker down for another ten minutes before she let him out again. Then, ten minutes later he would bark to be let in again and the process often continued on in that fashion until dawn. The result was that Billie would bark every twenty minutes all night long. On those nights I didn't so much sleep as I caught a few winks in between Billy's beckoning.

If you have your own entry-seeking beckoner at home, you might want to consider reading about doggie doors and how to deal with a dog that barks to get back into the house.

The Alarm-Sounding Beckoner

The third type of beckoning barker is the dog crying out to his allies that there is an emergency at hand. Such dogs are calling the rest of the pack saying, "Red alert, emergency, danger is at hand, drop what you're doing and come join me in defense or attack." The dog barking in that manner is like an organic siren screaming out a message intended to be so piercing as to preclude the possibility that a listener could ignore it and go about business as usual.

Threatening Barkers

A threatening bark is a vocalization in which the dog expresses his desire or his intention to cause injury to the object of his antagonism. It bears saying again that allowing a threatening barker to continue without correction dramatically increases the chances that the dog will eventually bite someone.

Stir-Crazy Barkers

Elsewhere on this website you'll find an account of Ray's dog, who barked nonstop every time he went outside and continued on for the entire time he was out there. Ray's dog is a good example of a Stir-Crazy barker who vocalizes out of a lack of stimulation.

I have never seen a dog leave an interesting activity to go off and bark non-stop at nothing in particular. So you know that, if he's barking like that, he's bored. He has nothing to do and there is nothing to occupy his mind, so he barks on and on and on. Stir-Crazy barking can be the most exasperating of canine vocalizations, because it occurs even when there is no stimulus present to set it off. It can start at any time and continue on indefinitely.

In the Stir-Crazy Barker we see the pathetic spectacle of a neglected dog so miserable and desperate that he has degenerated to the point of barking at nothing at all. His is not a happy lot.

This page is part of Section Six:
the More Information section of