Why Do Dogs Bark At Me?

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Every once in a while I’ll meet a person who claims that dogs just don’t like them.

They say dogs always bark at them and growl at them and just immediately, with no apparent reason, respond negatively to them.

Being a person who loves dogs and knows there’s no canine-conspiracy group out there deciding who all dogs like and who all dogs don’t like, I took to the internet to find some answers. 

Do dogs not like some people? Is that why some people claim that dogs are always barking at them?

In short, why are dogs barking at you all of the time?

Dogs bark at you because they are picking up on a signal you are sending, consciously or not. You may be nervously expecting them to bark at you, which in turn causes them to bark. Your body language, appearance, or smell may also trigger them. There is something about you that is causing the reaction.

But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that dogs just don’t like you or that they have some sixth sense about you.

That said, dogs never bark at nothing, and if this is something that you’ve noticed a lot of different dogs doing, then the only common denominator here is you.

Identifying what signal or cue that you are putting out when you encounter these dogs that bark at you is of course the most important step.

Dogs have an excellent sense of smell, a highly sensitive nose, and a brain that processes the world around them differently than we do.

For that reason, it can be difficult to figure out why exactly dogs are barking at you, and it may be tempting to chalk the whole thing up to an impossible generalization like “dogs just don’t like me.” 

So if you or a friend or family member are having an issue with dogs barking at them all of the time, read on for some likely reasons why they are barking and also some helpful tips to stop them from barking.

Do ALL Dogs Really Bark At You?

Before we dive into all of the reasons that sog may be barking at you, let’s first stop really think about whether or not all these dogs really are barking.

It’s true that an encounter with a dog aggressively barking at you for seemingly no reason will leave a lasting impression.

Even though incidents of dogs attacking people are extremely rare, it can still be extremely rattling to be barked at unexpectedly.

But, could it be that when you’re thinking about your experiences with dogs and how they always bark at you, that you’re actually just recalling one or two particularly aggressive incidents?

It is, of course, entirely possible that lots of dogs do actually bark at you often, and that is what I’m going to address in the rest of this article.

But you should really consider if this is an actual problem that you are encountering or if maybe this is just something you are perceiving or are expecting to happen. 

It’s uncommon for many different dogs to respond with barking to a person. It’s not like they all got together and collectively decided to shun you.

If you’re interested, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Dr. Patricia McConnell.

Whereas many books and articles about the dog/human relationship discuss dogs and expect us to try to figure them out, Dr. McConnell deep-dives into why we do what we do around dogs. By understanding our own actions, we can better interact with our doggo buddies.

But I digress. If you are sure that you are getting an above-average amount of barks from dogs and are not sure why, read on.

Reasons Dogs Bark At You

Understanding what signals you are putting out that the dogs are responding to is the first step to getting dogs to stop barking at you.

It would be great if dogs came with a troubleshooting manual like our electronics do. Then we could just flip to the page with our problem and get a quick and easy solution.

Unfortunately, it’s seldom that easy. Dogs are intelligent, complex, and nuanced animals, so it’s unlikely that there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

You should therefore consider each of the below reasons individually and also together while you try to come to a better understanding of why dogs are barking at you.

Reason #1 – You Are Anxious

At the point that you have taken to the Internet for answers, I think it’s safe to assume that you believe and expect that the next dog you see will likely bark at you.

It’s not unreasonable for you to have this expectation. After all, the last time you saw a dog, he barked at you. And the time before that. And maybe even the time before that….

Indeed, not expecting dogs to bark at you would be ridiculous at this point. It just seems like they always do!

But the fact that you are expecting all these dogs to bark at you may actually be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

All dogs are extremely sensitive creatures who can pick up on how we are feeling because of the signals, conscious and subconscious, that we put out when we feel certain ways.

If you use your happy voice, you can probably get your dog excited and running all over the house. A bad mood or a fight with someone else can send your dog off shaking and tail-tucked.

And if you’re nervous and expect something bad to happen, they’ll be able to tell that too.

So, if your mood is nervous, anxious, and you feel like something bad is going to happen the next time that you meet a dog, you can bet that dog is going to be able to tell that that’s how you feel. At least a little bit.

Imagine a dog out for a walk with their owner. They are in a strange place but are otherwise having a nice walk.

And up comes you and the whole mood shifts. They can tell anxiety struck you the moment you saw them. 

Your posture changed, your hormones shifted. Your heart started beating faster. 

You’re afraid and expecting a fight, and those feelings only get more intense the closer you two get to one another.

What do you think that poor dog is going to do?

Of course they are going to bark! Of course he doesn’t want to meet you! You seem like you’re expecting a fight!

Everything about your body language, which is anticipating being barked at, is exactly the type of thing that would make a dog bark.

Reason #2 – Eye Contact

This point may go along with anxiety, but I have seen a lot of people who are not very familiar with dogs accidentally and, without anxiety, break some of the Cardinal rules of dogs and eye contact.

While there is a lot of overlap with how dogs and humans communicate, there are some very important differences, one of those being how we handle eye contact with one another.

With people, eye contact is not necessarily a bad thing. It may mean that you are listening closely, sharing an intimate moment, or are otherwise subconsciously signaling that you trust the other person.

This is seldom the case with dogs.

Dogs rely much more heavily on body language than people do, and they do not use eye contact for the subtle positive communications that people do.

For dogs, eye contact is usually a sign of aggression or dominance.

Prolong periods of eye contact with a dog will often result in the dog averting his gaze, shying away, or perhaps even rolling over on their back and showing you their belly.

This is a sign of submission because your eye contact with them, as far as they could tell, was a sign that you were focused on them and you were expecting them to show you that they know their place in the pack.

If you encounter a dog who you don’t know and maintain a lot of eye contact, it may be that the dog decides, hey, who the heck is this guy?

Rather than rolling over or acting submissively, they may instead bark at you as a display of their might or even as a sign of aggression.

If you notice that you’re staring a dog in the face when they start barking at you, they are probably responding negatively to the eye contact.

Reason #3 – You Smell

Hey, I don’t know you, so don’t take this personally. But we have to cover all of our bases here.

Dogs have a tremendous sense of smell and a brain that is perfectly calibrated to process all of the smells that they take in.

Most dogs are familiar enough with most common smells not to get triggered by most things. And even if they do encounter a new smell, it’s unlikely that they’d want to bark at you over it.

But, if you have perfume or cologne or some other strongly scented hygiene products, know that dogs will definitely be able to smell them.

Again, your deodorant is unlikely to be a trigger for a bunch of dogs, but it‘s possible that one every now and then will be confused by the smell and respond with barking.

This becomes especially true if you use strongly scented products containing oils and fragrances that dogs may not have encountered before.

If your signature brand of cologne contains frankincense, it’s entirely possible that this one random smell they never encountered before except on you is making them bark.

Besides fragrances that you are actively putting on your body, other factors affect how we smell too.

Certain medications can change your body chemistry and cause a different and distinct smell that we people cannot detect but dogs can.

And while I hope everyone is healthy, it has been reported that dogs have been able to smell and identify cancer in their owners before the owners even knew it themselves.

So, while again unlikely, all these dogs may be barking at you to alert you that something is wrong.

All of this to say, you need to really scrutinize what types of smells that these dogs may be picking up on you if you’re going to figure out what is going on.

Reason #4 – It’s Your Looks 

No, dogs are not judging you by your looks like that. But there are things that you may be wearing or doing that a dog or even many dogs do not like.

Many dogs don’t like bicyclists. They are fast, there’s a person on them, they make a weird, mechanical noise and for some reason, some dogs just don’t like bikes

If you always get barked at while you are on your bicycle, it may be that they are barking at the bike, not you.

If you are walking, your posture or gait may also be enough to get a dog barking. This is especially true if you are anticipating an encounter and are perhaps holding yourself stiffly, quickening your pace, or pointing your body away from the dog when you walk by.

If you walk with a cane or walking stick or even something simple like wearing a large sun hat could be enough to confuse a dog who has not seen them often. Anything unique that you are wearing could be a potential reason that the dog is barking at you.

Reason #5 – Unpleasant Sounds

Again, back to that bicycle scenario, a dog may not like your squeaking bike chain or the bell that you ding when you go on by.

If you listen to music in earbuds or headphones, it’s possible that the dog can hear music but is confused by the source of the noise and is barking at you out of confusion.

The particular sound of your keys jangling or the particular squeak of your shoes on the pavement could also be enough to get a dog or multiple dogs barking.

At this point, it should become kind of obvious that there are a ton of factors that could be causing dogs to bark at you.

From squeaky shoes to sun hats to the way that you are walking, it seems that there is a nearly endless number of impossible to identify factors that are causing dogs to bark at you.

The point of throwing out all of these examples is not to overwhelm you with possibilities but instead to give you an idea of the breath of the issue you are dealing with.

Dogs are incredibly perceptive creatures, especially their hearing, and while they may make their own sounds to communicate when they hear sounds outside what’s normal (at least for them) that could lead to barking. The sound could even be so quiet or high-pitched that you cannot even hear it yourself, could be the culprit. 

Reason #6 – It’s Contagious

Just like the common cold, a dog bark can spread through a pack of dogs one by one until they are all barking.

Barking is contagious, so once one dog gets started barking at you it is very likely that all of the other dogs around you both will get started barking too.

Those other dogs are not necessarily responding to the same cue set off the first dog. Instead, they are simply barking at you because dogs, being social animals who are used to living in packs, are quick to bark and howl when those around them do.

Now, this fact may not help you to understand why that first dog got started barking at you, it may be helpful in understanding why many dogs on mass are barking at you.

One dog may actually be onto something, but the rest are just joining.

How To Get Dogs To Stop Barking At You

It is highly unlikely that you find being barked at by lots of dogs every time you encounter them a pleasant experience.

Using the list above and applying some hardcore scrutiny to the situation, you should be able to come up with one or more reasons as to why dogs are barking at you.

The next step is to get them to stop.

Some of the steps you will need to take are pretty obvious once you have identified the reason why the dogs are barking.

Here’s a great video with a lot of useful information on how you and your family can meet new dogs better and safer (and hopefully, quieter).

If you are making lots of eye contact with the dogs, just cut it out. 

You can look at the dog’s body, chest, face, but do not maintain direct eye contact with them

Just be enough to help most of you.

It may be necessary for you to reevaluate your daily routine and assess whether or not you are putting on an offensive smell or a distracting article of clothing that could be triggering the dogs.

It’s up to you how much you are willing to adjust your lifestyle to correct this situation.

But you should know that nothing is going to change unless you take steps to do it. After all, you cannot realistically expect all dogs to change their behavior if you are not willing to do the same.

If you’re walking around with a ton of anxiety about the situation, the solution may be obvious, but harder to accomplish.

You need to change your attitude when you are encountering dogs.

This is probably going to take some time since you have to really, actually change your behavior. Dogs will be able to sense your anxiety, so you need to do everything you can to quell that.

Try to have an open mind about the situation. Most dogs are probably animals who would be happy to sniff your hand and get a scratch on the head.

Be positive and genuinely excited to meet new dogs. Your are positivity will give them positivity.

To that end, bring treats with you to help grease the wheels of friendship between you and these new dogs.

These salmon treats by pupford are a great pocket-sized treat that is easy to take with you on your walk. Dogs love them plus they are stinky enough to distract them from their barking, even from a distance.

Make sure that you meet the owner and make sure that it’s okay to give them treats before you still in case their dog has an allergy or it’s on a particular diet or training regiment.

Giving the dogs a treat is a great way to endear them to you and put another positive experience under your belt. More positive experiences like this will help to actually change the tides of the situation.

Even if dogs bark at first at you, do what you can to make friends with them. Make sure that you leave each situation positively with every dog that you need, even if it started off rough.

That’s sad, don’t overdo it. You may not end up being best buddies with every dog you encounter.

And pushing a dog who is barking or forcing physical contact when they clearly do not want it is not a good way to make friends.

And you risk putting both of you at risk by escalating an already aggressive situation.

Therefore, it may sometimes be necessary for you to ignore the dogs were barking at you. Hopefully over time, with more encounters, they will desensitize themselves and get over their fears and stop barking at you.

Dogs Are Barking At You

Once you have identified why dogs are barking at you and start taking steps to get them to stop, be patient.

Don’t be discouraged by setbacks like a pack of dogs going absolutely wild when you walk by, even after you’ve changed your cologne.

Know that dogs are both complicated and simultaneously simple animals. They will respond to our signals and it’s your humanly responsibility to take ownership of our communications with our furry friends. 

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