Why doesn’t your dog bark? When you should be concerned

To some pet owners, a dog that doesn’t bark often, or at all, seems like a dream come true. When faced with this puzzle in reality, though, a quiet dog can be cause for concern, especially when this change comes on suddenly.

If you’ve been asking, “Why doesn’t my dog bark?” look no further. In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to make the best decision for your furry friend, whether you have a pup or a senior dog at home. Remember, even if your dog’s lack of sound isn’t from a serious health issue, you can’t go wrong with asking your trusted veterinarian for advice.

When do puppies start barking?

According to Certified Canine Behavior Consultant Mikkel Becker, puppies begin vocalizing around 2 or 3 weeks of age. At this early stage, you’re more likely to hear whines and grunts. When your puppy reaches 2 to 4 months, these vocalizations will start to turn into barks, though each dog reaches milestones at their own pace. If you’re worried about your pup’s vocal development, don’t hesitate to reach out to your veterinarian to rule out any potential issues.

a beagle mix dog howls with his mouth open, showing teeth

Why doesn’t my dog bark?

There are myriad reasons why your dog may not bark, from medical to emotional to even completely situational reasons. It may take some observation before you narrow it down, but with some diligence, you’ll be able to help your dog get comfortable with his own voice. These are a few reasons why your pup might be quieter than normal that aren’t a cause for great concern.

Breed disposition

While “a dog that doesn’t bark” rarely exists, some breeds are shyer than others when it comes to barking. Purina has compiled a list of quiet dog breeds, which include:

  • Akita
  • Australian shepherd
  • Basenji
  • Bulldog
  • Greyhound
  • Papillon
  • St. Bernard
  • Whippet

and many more.

Your dog’s personality or training

Sometimes, regardless of a dog’s breed, they just prefer not to bark often. This can develop when your dog is a pup or can happen as he ages into adulthood and starts to lose some of his puppy energy. Even senior pups can have behavioral changes as they age, though a veterinarian should be sought out if it seems to happen overnight.

Dogs can also be trained not to bark, and this training can stick with them throughout life. If you’ve recently rescued a dog and don’t know his past, this could be a contributing factor to his silence. Unfortunately, shock collars and other invasive training can permanently deter barking, even after the reinforcement stops. There is even a surgical procedure called debarking that inhibits a dog’s ability to bark, which a rescue dog could have previously gone through (via Hills Pet).

Anxiety or new situations

Some dogs are a lot less vocal and apt to be 100% themselves when faced with a new situation. Big changes, like relocating to a new home, can be stressful for a pup, so be patient if he seems a little too quiet at first — he may just need some time to adjust. If the problem persists, especially if your furry friend is known for his voice, anxiety may be a factor.

Even without any big changes in their life, dogs can develop anxiety symptoms similar to ours, including being quieter than normal. Locating the source of your dog’s anxiety is key to helping him feel more comfortable and confident, and, remember, your vet is always there to help if you’re unsure. Treatment may consist of medication, training, preventive strategies, or a combination of approaches.

a poodle mix opens his mouth to bark

When to consult a veterinarian

Although they are less common than behavioral concerns, there are more serious medical issues that can cause a dog not to bark. Here’s what to look out for:

Diseases of the larynx or respiratory system

A number of throat issues can occur, many of which affect a dog’s ability to bark. In these cases, your pup may try to bark but be unable to make a sound. You may also notice barks becoming suddenly quieter or even a change to your dog’s tone of voice (via Hills Pet). These complications can have causes as straightforward as overuse of the voice or as complex as untreated cancer, which is why it’s smart to have your vet take a look.

Surgical complications

Trauma to the throat and larynx, including surgical intubation, can leave any canine feeling sore and hoarse. You may even notice a cough (via Merck Veterinary Manual). Even successful procedures are hard on the body, so your pup may just need some time to recover. If his condition doesn’t improve, however, a follow-up may be necessary.

Chronic vomiting

Both people and pets experience throat discomfort from vomiting, especially when it becomes a frequent occurrence. The stomach acid that comes up with vomit can cause irritation or even ulcers in the throat, so this problem shouldn’t be left on its own. While you’re at the vet, you can also address the vomiting itself.

Whatever the reason for your dog’s lack of barking, you can easily help him with some diligence and care. Your veterinarian will also be there to guide you, so try not to panic. As scary as it may seem, a change in your dog’s barking habits can be healed before you know it.

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