Why Do Dogs Bark At Strangers?

Written by: Casey Estorque

November 9, 2018

Almost every dog owner (and human for that matter!) has to deal with a barking dog at one point or another. Most dog breeds differ in barking behavior, but every domesticated dog barks at one point or another. Whether it be the second your doorbell rings, during a trip to the dog park, or from a loud noise off in the distance, we all wonder: why do dogs bark? In short, there’s many reasons dogs bark, and it may not always be a cause for concern, but today we’ll look into a few common reasons:

1. Territorial instincts
2. Sounding the alarm!
3. Greeting

Territorial Instincts

Dogs are naturally territorial animals. In nature, unfamiliar creatures pose a threat when they encroach on an animal’s territory. Although your dog is domesticated and human-friendly, they still possess territorial instincts. (Yes, even your pudgy pug potato.) So, while you may see your mailman or new yoga pal as harmless beings, your dog views them as territory intruders. In dogs that are especially dedicated to defending their territories, visitors trigger fear and anticipation of a threat. This, in turn, motivates them to alert their pack and scare off intruders with, well, lots of noise and attention. In breeds that are bred as guard dogs, such as German Shepherds and Mastiffs, this behavior of territorial barking is especially common.

Alarm Barking

Dogs sometimes bark at unfamiliar people simply because they’re spooked! Pups can really live by the motto “stranger danger!” So what’s the difference between territorial barking and alarm barking? While similar, they have different motivations. For instance, a dog who barks territorially is mainly concerned with defending their turf. So, they’ll bark at strangers who approach their home, but not at strangers they meet on the street.

In contrast, an alarm barker unleashes woofs at new people wherever they are, to bring attention upon them, whether in or outside of a dog’s territory. This behavior is common in dogs who are not socialized to people outside of their human family, as well as in dogs who are generally insecure or may have anxiety. Not to fear though, you can definitely modify this behavior! If you do positive reinforcement training to boost their confidence, a nervous dog will start behaving with a little more security in new situations.


On the other hand, your dog may really just love meeting new people! A dog who wants to say “Hi” to everyone, whether it’s the gardener or a stranger at the park, may bark their greeting. Greet barking is accompanied by lots of excitement such as tail wagging, whining, jumping, and other friendly gestures. These gregarious hounds simply want to smother everyone with their love! Keep in mind: While you know your dog is saying “hi! how are you! I love you!” others might not, so to curb this type of behavior, give your dog something else to do when they meet new people (like the “sit” or “place” commands).

As you can see, there are many different reasons why dogs bark at strangers. They range from a dog’s duty to defend their turf, to a pup that’s eager to greet everyone in sight. If this barking behavior becomes problematic, determining the reason for your dog’s barking is the first step in finding a solution. You can find more information on dog types that bark more or less than others in order to choose the right pup for you!

Want to get a pup? Make sure you do your research and adopt from a local rescue or reputable breeder! If you need help scrolling through dogs in your area, try using the app BarkBuddy, where you can swipe right to the right dog for you! 🙂

Want the most fun way to bond with your dog, whether they’re a chatty Kathy or a silent Stu? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Our treats are made in the USA and Canada, and our recipes never contain any wheat, soy, or corn. Because we want #BarkBoxDay to be incredible for pups AND their parents, every box is wrapped in a fun surprise theme that changes monthly. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $108 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

For more, check out these articles!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Written by: Casey Estorque

November 9, 2018

Nutritionist-crafted food for your dog's breed or mix.

Recipes designed for dogs' individuality



A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.


A themed collection of BARK-designed toys, treats, and chews.