Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to bark so much? Dogs may sound like they're having full conversations when they bark, but it's a normal thing for them to do. It's an important way for them to communicate and show how they feel, from being excited and playful to giving warnings about possible dangers.

However, have you observed that some breeds appear more "talkative" than others? Interestingly, a dog's breed might have a significant impact on their barking behaviour.

This post dives into the curious relationship between the breed and barking habits of dogs. We'll look at the science behind it, including how genetics and past breeding practices have influenced how various dogs communicate. 

Genetics And Barking Tendencies

The historical relationship between humans and canines extends far beyond that of mere companionship. Selective breeding, a kind of artificial selection used over thousands of years, has played an important role in the evolution of the modern dog. This approach entailed the deliberate breeding of dogs with traits deemed favourable for particular jobs.

For instance, herding breeds required a high degree of vigilance and the ability to effectively vocalize in order to manage and direct livestock. On the other hand, guarding breeds rely heavily on their large size and powerful vocalizations to scare away potential threats.

This deliberate breeding strategy went beyond physical attributes. It also had a subtle effect on behavioural inclinations, such as the way that dogs communicate. Breeds historically employed for herding, such as border collies, may exhibit a genetic predisposition toward alertness and the utilization of vocal cues to maintain control over their charges. Similarly, breeds traditionally used for guarding purposes, like Doberman pinschers, might possess genetic factors that influence their heightened vigilance and the propensity to employ loud barks as a form of territorial defence.

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Many Factors Influence Canine Behaviour

It’s important to recognize that genetics is not the only factor that influences a dog's behaviour. Understanding the historical background and the selective factors that shaped the development of different breeds gives us useful information about why some dogs seem to bark more than others. While genetics provides the foundational framework, environmental factors such as training and socialization also play a significant role in shaping a dog's overall behaviour, including their vocalizations.

Nature versus nurture

While some traits are hereditary, environmental factors like socialization and training have a significant impact on a dog's overall behaviour, including barking.

Understanding the "Why" behind the bark

Identifying potential genetic predispositions for anxiety-related vocalizations can help pet owners and trainers address the underlying reason for excessive barking.

Complexities of canine behaviour

Dog behaviour is influenced by a combination of hereditary factors, environmental influences, and personal experiences. It isn’t enough to say that barking is only caused by certain types of genes.

Breeding and barking genes

Breeding won’t directly change barking genes. Instead, it might have influenced traits that indirectly affected how dogs use their voices. Here are some common examples:

  • Breeds bred for herding or guarding often have a lot of energy and are easily alert. This can make them bark more easily at things they see or hear.

  • Over time, some breeds might have developed preferred "talking styles." Herding dogs might use shorter, quicker barks for commands, while guard dogs might have deeper, longer barks for warnings.

  • Selective Breeding for Specific Tasks

    The process of selectively breeding canines for specialized tasks, such as herding or guarding, has probably had a significant impact on vocal communication in various ways:

  • Breed-specific vocalization

  • Through generations of selective breeding, some breeds have become very good at certain jobs. Border Collies and Australian Shepherds, for example, have been carefully bred to be good herding dogs because they can communicate with animals well by barking, whining, or growling. These sounds are used as cues to direct and control the movement of animals.

    The barks of beagles and terriers served a dual purpose: to alert hunters to the location of prey and to keep the pack coordinated during the chase. On the other hand, German shepherds, historically used for herding and guarding livestock, needed a way to deter potential predators. Their booming barks effectively warned off threats and served as a call for help if needed.

  • Clear vocalization

  • Selective breeding isn’t just about how dogs look; it also influences how they talk (or bark!). Breeders wanted dogs with clear and effective ways to communicate for their specific jobs. For example

  • Imagine a sheepdog needing to tell its flock to move left or right. Breeds that could use barks, whistles, or even special sounds (like yodeling!) to give clear instructions were probably chosen more often for breeding herding dogs.

  • Keeping watch over property requires a loud warning system. Breeds with naturally deep barks were likely favoured as guard dogs because they could scare away threats more effectively.

  • Big barks, big protection

  • Dogs like German shepherds and rottweilers were bred to be guardians, keeping an eye out for danger. Breeders wanted them to have a clear way of saying, "Hey, something's not right!"

    Through generations of breeding, these dogs developed deep, loud barks. This deep, booming bark serves a double purpose: as a warning signal meant to scare any perceived threat and to alert their humans that something might be wrong, giving them time to investigate.

  • Not just words, but feelings

  • Selective breeding might have also influenced how a dog "talks" about its feelings.  Over time, some breeds might have developed preferred ways of expressing themselves vocally.

    Some breeds, like the beagle, might be more likely to bark with excitement; their happy barks and howls are like their way of saying, "Yay, it's playtime!". Breeds that are prone to anxiety might whine more often to show they're feeling scared or nervous.

    Certain breeds might be more sensitive to changes in their environment or their owner's emotions. This can make them more likely to vocalize their feelings through barks, whines, or even howls.

  • Social interaction

  • Selective breeding wasn't just about how well dogs barked; it also influenced how they interacted with their humans.  Breeds like border collies or German shepherds were bred to work closely with people. These dogs often need to understand instructions and give feedback. Selective breeding might have favored dogs that communicated effectively through barks, whines, or even body language. Over time, these working breeds might have developed ways to "talk" to their owners through vocalizations. They might bark to show they understand a command, need help with a task, or simply want to stay connected.

    Breeds bred to work with humans are often eager to please and easy to train. This makes them more receptive to learning how to communicate effectively with their owners. These working dogs often thrive on close companionship and interaction. Vocalizations can be their way of staying connected and involved with their human partners.

  • Genes and canine personalities

  • Although selective breeding practices have a significant impact on a dog's innate tendency to bark, new scientific insights offer a deeper perspective for understanding this behaviour.

    Scientific studies are looking into the possible relationship between certain genes and dog personality characteristics. For example, animal behaviourists suggest that specific genes linked to anxiety in dogs may influence the animal’s overall temperament. Stressful or fearful situations may trigger excessive barking in dogs. 

    More study is required to fully comprehend the intricate relationship between genes and other elements of dog behaviour, including vocalizations, as the field of canine genetics is always evolving.

    Table 1. Some Dog Breeds Prone to Vocal Expression


    Initially Bred For What Purpose

    Distinct Vocalization Traits


    Hunting small game

    Loud barks and distinctive howls served as a way to alert their human companions during a chase.


    Controlling vermin like rats and foxes

    Their feisty nature and sharp barks were crucial for hunting and guarding duties.


    Sled dogs in harsh Arctic conditions

    Their powerful vocalizations are often described as howling, yodeling, and "talking", served for communication over long distances and under harsh weather conditions

    German Shepherds

    Herding and guarding livestock

    Their deep barks functioned as a deterrent against potential threats and a way to alert owners of danger.

    Basset Hound

    Hunting small animals, particularly hares

    They have a deep, melodious bay that they use when tracking scents or alerting their owners to potential threats.

    Shetland Sheepdog

    Herding dogs

    Bark to alert their owners to anything unusual in their environment. They are vigilant watchdogs and may bark to express excitement, boredom, or anxiety.


    Companion dogs

    Known for their high-pitched barking, they may bark excessively if not properly trained and socialized.


    Working dogs - herding, watchdogs,  and companions to nobility and royalty in Europe

    They are known for their yappy barking, which they may use to communicate excitement, or fear, or to alert their owners to anything they perceive as a threat.

    Miniature Schnauzer

    Ratting, guarding, herding, and companion dogs

    Prone to bark to alert their owners to potential intruders or changes in their environment. They may also bark out of boredom or to seek attention.

    Less Vocal Dog Breeds 

    Some dog breeds are recognized for being less vocal than others. While all dogs can bark or vocalize to some degree, certain breeds are often quieter or less prone to excessive barking.

    Table 2. Relatively Quiet Dog Breeds


    Initially Bred For What Purpose

    Distinct Traits


    Sight hunting

    These sleek athletes rely primarily on their keen vision to track prey.  Excessive barking would not only be unnecessary but could also potentially alert their prey.


     Guard dogs

    Their imposing size and strength and their silent presence often served as sufficient deterrents against intruders, making loud barks less crucial.


    Tracking and trailing purposes

    They are renowned for their exceptional sense of smell and ability to follow scent trails over long distances. Excessive vocalizations could disrupt their focus and hinder their ability to follow the trail effectively.



    They are often referred to as "barkless dogs" because they produce a unique yodel-like sound rather than traditional barking.



    Bulldogs are generally calm and docile dogs. They tend to be more laid-back in their demeanour and are not particularly prone to excessive barking.

    Bernese Mountain Dog

    Working dog -- draft work, guarding, herding, pets

    Known for their calm and affectionate nature. While they may bark to alert their owners to visitors or unusual activity, they are not known for being overly vocal.


    Hunting and coursing small games

    They are known for their speed and agility, but they are not prone to excessive barking and tend to be reserved and dignified in their behaviour.

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    Companion dogs (lap dogs to aristocracy) and hunting small game

    Small, affectionate dogs that are not typically excessively vocal and tend to be relatively quiet compared to some other small breeds.


    Working dogs -- water rescue, draft work, guard dogs

    They are known for their calm and patient demeanour. While they may bark to alert their owners to potential threats, they are generally quiet and are not known for excessive vocalization.


    Genetics is only one factor that influences a dog's communication style. Training is equally important in moulding how your pet expresses themselves.

    If you’re concerned about your pet dog’s excessive barking, consider getting professional advice from a skilled dog trainer or animal behaviourist. They can assist you in determining the underlying reason for your dog's vocalizations and developing a training strategy to promote calmer, quieter communication. After all, a well-trained dog is a happy dog, and a peaceful home makes everyone happy. 

    April 06, 2024 — Merliza Cabriles