This article was updated on March 26th, 2023
Birds tweet, cats meow, and dogs bark. As a pet owner, you are no doubt accustomed to sharing your home with noisy pets. But some animals are louder than others. In particular, dogs. It is normal for a dog to sigh, whine, howl and growl on occasion…but have you ever met a dog who didn’t bark?
Today on Senior Tail Waggers, we ask the top dog behaviorists to explain the reasons why some dogs don’t bark, and what to do about a dog who is having trouble “finding their voice.”
Can All Dogs Bark?
“Unless they suffered from an injury, yes, all dogs can bark,” says Mindy Waite, Ph.D. Certified Dog Behaviorist at SeniorTailWaggers.
All dogs are born with the ability to bark. Just like talking for humans, barking is a tool that dogs use to communicate with each other in the canine world. A “woof” could be your pooch’s way of saying, “Hello, friend! Let’s play.” Or a deep grumbly bark could be your pup telling their annoying fur sibling to, “Knock it off and stop chewing on my tail.”
Your Dog’s Breed Can Influence Barking Habits
While all dogs can technically bark, some breeds bark more than others. Breed and personality will affect barking habits. That’s because (according to Pet MD) barking was historically encouraged and maintained in certain breeds.
For example, dogs who guarded livestock needed to know how to bark loudly to scare off wolves, coyotes, bears, foxes, and other predators.
Likewise, some small-sized breeds bark to announce guests, alert their owners to intruders, and get attention.
Some dog breeds which tend to be more vocal include:
- Fox Terriers
- Siberian Huskies
- Miniature Schnauzers
Breed alone doesn’t guarantee a bark-happy pup, though. “Only breeding (AKA genetically maintaining) barky dogs would result in future dogs who bark,” says Waite.
5 Most Common Reasons Dogs Don’t Bark
Now, not all dogs bark a lot.
Breeds such as the Great Dane, Borzoi, Shiba Inu, Greyhound, and Scottish Deerhound are quieter. Additionally, there could be an underlying reason why a dog might choose not to bark.
Here are 5 of the most common causes:
First on the list of reasons why a dog doesn’t bark is personality. Some dogs just don’t bark much… period. This includes characters who are laid back, relaxed and aren’t fazed by anything as well as dogs who do get stressed but show it in ways other than barking.
- Over-used vocal cords
Did you have a busy weekend at the cottage? Was your pup on guard barking at passing boats and cars? Maybe they got too tuckered out from a doggy playdate? A dog who barks more than usual is at risk of temporarily damaging its vocal cords. Water and medical attention can help.
Secondly, stress can cause a dog to bark less – or not at all. Dog behaviorists point out that canines act differently based on the environments they find themselves in. So, if your dog is silent, look around. Could an external factor be stressing them out?
- Laryngeal paralysis
Next is laryngeal paralysis, also known as damage to the throat muscles and nerves. A dog’s voice box is weakened, resulting in less barking.
The dreaded “C” word, cancer can obviously also affect how often/much a dog is able to bark. Tumors of the neck, mouth, and throat can have a devastating effect on a dog’s ability to say woof. This can also negatively impact drinking and eating. Another reason why regular veterinarian checkups are key!
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
My Dog Doesn’t Bark. Should I Be Worried?
Understandably, it can feel odd to live with a dog who doesn’t bark. But is this truly a cause for concern? It depends.
A non-barking dog isn’t necessarily an unhealthy dog. Just because they aren’t howling by the window and barking at the mailman every morning doesn’t mean they are unhappy, depressed, or in pain (contrary to what you might be inclined to assume). Similarly, if your dog was always quieter – even as a puppy – it could just be who they are.
However, watch for the following indicators. These could be signs of a bigger medical issue.
- When did your dog suddenly stop barking?
- Are they pawing at their mouth and throat, as if uncomfortable?
- Is there any redness/swelling around their mouth?
- Have they stopped eating and drinking?
- Have other behaviors changed?
Answering yes to any of these questions means you should definitely book an appointment with your veterinarian. In the article Senior Dog No Longer Barks – Reasons & Solutions, Senior Tail Waggers goes over what a vet will do when they examine your dog.
Can I Train My Dog to Bark?
Teaching a dog the “speak” command is a fantastic way to 1) learn a cool trick – a dog barking on command is a fantastic crowd pleaser and 2) help the canine brain differentiate between when it’s time to be loud vs. quiet.
Start by putting the dog in a situation where they typically bark. When they bark, feed them a yummy treat. Once you have rewarded them several times and think their barking is pretty consistent, then say “speak” and feed them a treat if they bark. Soon, they will understand how to bark on command.
“If you are going to train your dog to speak, be sure you have enough time and patience to get the behavior consistently and only occurring when you cue it,” advised Waite. “Otherwise, you may find that you have just rewarded your dog for barking at you, which can increase their overall barking!”
When to Call the Vet
Worried there is something seriously wrong with your dog?
If they are regular barkers who have abruptly gone silent, it’s time to phone the veterinarian. Likewise, if you see any visual indicators (such as foaming, vomiting, swelling, swelling/cuts, broken teeth, lethargic behavior, dehydration, etc.) go to the clinic ASAP.
It’s better to be safe than sorry with your beloved fur baby.
When Do Puppies Start Barking?
Typically, anywhere from 6 – 8 weeks old, but old dogs can learn new tricks!
Is it Normal for Older Dogs to Stop Barking?
Dogs can act differently with age. When they enter their golden senior years, it’s possible they will bark far less (Read our article: My Senior Dog No Longer Barks). Watch for abnormal behaviors. For example, canine cognitive decline can both increase or decrease barking as a dog’s sense of sight, hearing, and memory decline.
Proper diet and exercise are two ways to keep your older dog as healthy as possible.
My Dog Whines Instead of Barking. Is this an Issue?
Again, it really just depends!
Evaluate the situation carefully. Some dogs use high-pitched vocalizations to get attention when they want something, like food, attention, playtime, etc. However, when a dog whines instead of barking, it could also be a sign that they are in pain. Go check on your pup. If the whining stops right away, they are probably just hungry.
But if they whine and also limp, lick, or act strange, this could be a medical emergency.
Curious about how to take care of older pets–barkers and non-barkers alike? Be sure to follow the Senior Tail Waggers blog for more excellent pet parent info.
Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.