Dogs seem to bark for the strangest reasons, as far as we’re concerned. Is your dog barking at you but not your husband? Here’s why.
Dog bark at certain people for a variety of reasons. The most common one is that your dog feels threatened by that person, even if this is not the reality. They will bark to warn that person away to protect themselves.
Dogs will also bark to generally communicate. They could be barking as their way of conversing and talking to a specific person.
Lastly, barking can also signify their attempt to assert dominance over another person. This pack-based behavior developed many years ago and still exists today.
Below is everything you need to know about your dog’s selective barking!
Why is my dog barking at a specific person?
Have you noticed that your dog is barking at one person in particular? You? Or perhaps your husband, your child, your sister, your father, etc.? If so, there are the three main areas that we introduced above as far as the causes:
- Feeling threatened
- General communication
- Asserting dominance
When dogs feel threatened by a person or an event, they will bark to warn that person away. Your dog’s goal is always to protect himself and protect his primary caretaker (his alpha), you.
So, if your dog is barking at a specific person, it’s because they perceive that person as a threat either to their safety or to you. This happens a lot with dogs barking at, for instance, your husband because your husband is close to you all the time. Your dog is used to having their own relationship with you, and now this new person is suddenly encroaching on their territory.
It could be the threat of that person as far as their relationship with you, or it could just be to their physical proximity to you. There are several ways to test this to see what appears to be the trigger.
It’s important to note that a dog’s assessment of a threat is often different than a person’s assessment. That is, just because your dog is seeing your husband as a threat doesn’t mean that they actually are a threat!
Dogs will bark at a specific person sometimes simply because they want to have a chat! Dogs communicate through barks, growls, whines, and yips to each other.
Since they see you as part of the pack, they will do the same thing to you! They’ll chat away with you, and it often will take a quieter and less insistent form of barking than, say, perceiving a threat.
You’ll also notice positive body language like panting, a friendly wagging tail, and different sounds all mixed in together.
Some dog breeds actually will pick up the words and sounds that they hear their humans use and will try to mimic them, too. They obviously can’t understand them, but they understand that humans “bark” a certain way and try to join in on the conversation!
In some situations, dogs will actually see themselves as dominant. If you are going to do something that they don’t “approve of,” they will start barking at you to get you to “fall back into place” beneath them. This will often sound more like territorial barking since they are using it as displeasure.
This is necessarily dangerous, but it’s not a good thing either. Dogs can nip or even “discipline” their packmates, so you’ll want to consider reconditioning this behavior to make sure that no one gets hurt. We’ve talked about this more below!
Why does my dog bark when my husband hugs me?
If you have a situation where your dog is barking at you when your husband or another family member hugs you. In that case, it’s most likely a warning! Your dog’s goal in life is to protect you, his primary caretaker. When someone hugs you, they are close enough to your “weak points” that your dog is warning the hugger away.
Another interpretation is that your dog tells off your husband for getting in their space! That is, if your husband hugs your, puts his arm around you while watching TV, etc., he is invading your dog’s space/cuddle zone with you! Your dog is telling your husband off for invading. It’s pretty cute when you think about it, you have to admit.
Why does my dog bark at me and no one else?
If your dog barks at you but no one else at all, this is because he views you as the prime caretaker. When he barks at you, he’s trying to tell you something (he needs to eat, he wants to get your attention, etc.).
Barking is how dogs communicate, after all. You can take that as a compliment since your dog obviously thinks that you are the only person who can meet their needs!
Similarly, dogs will bark at people when they are excited to see them. If your dog barks at no one other than you, it’s because no one else even piques their interest or excitement. He has eyes only for you!
Another version of this is that your dog doesn’t see anyone else around you as a threat, so he does not need to bark at them. This is great for knowing that your dog doesn’t sense any danger in those people that you choose to surround yourself with!
Why does my dog bark at me for no reason?
Simply, there is always a reason. Even if you don’t necessarily know the reason, your dog isn’t barking for no reason at all. Dogs bark to communicate something to you, so you can always safely assume that your dog is barking for a specific reason, even if that reason makes no sense to you.
Sometimes dogs will bark just to hear their own voice. Or they’ll bark because they are anxious or lonely. Sometimes they’ll just bark to say hi. There is always a reason for dogs to bark. You’ll want to see if you can take a look at their other signals to understand why.
Why does a dog bark at a family member?
If your dog barks at a specific family member, you can bet that there is something about that family member that is registering with them. Other than the reasons discussed above related to behavioral barking, there are two main reasons why your dog might be barking at one specific person:
- They’re reacting to a product/smell that they have
- They remind your dog of a past trauma
Reaction to a product
Dogs have very, very strong sniffers! Their sniffers are also very sensitive. If a person is wearing strong cologne or perfume or has a particularly scented deodorant or shampoo, it may simply be overwhelming to your dog.
If they are in a confined space with that person, they’ll be uncomfortable and will often bark at them because they’re saying, “stay away from me, you stink!”
Sometimes, a dog will experience a person who looks, sounds, or smells like someone currently in your life, which will cause them to lash out.
A dog’s brain doesn’t work the same way as a human’s brain does regarding trauma and logical reaction. When they see, hear, or smell “the cause of their trauma” again. They will react to it and will do bark to defend themselves.
This is not uncommon with dogs from rescue organizations or those that are knowingly abused before coming to be part of your family. These will often require the help and support of experienced professionals in dog behavior therapy.
How to stop my dog from barking at me and not my husband
Suppose you’re having a serious problem with your dog barking inappropriately at your husband, child, sister, father, etc. In that case, you will want to make sure that you take the proper steps so that your dog understands — this is the keyword, here — how to react appropriately to that person and their role in your life as well as your household. Here are some steps to help!
Understand the cause
As mentioned above, your dog is barking at this person for a reason. To understand how to address the behavioral problem, you need to understand it. This is where that “testing” comes in handy.
Are there situations where the dog is fine with that person near you? Is it only when they come near you? Instead, is it if that person tries to handle the dog or talk to the dog? Take some time to understand your dog’s barking trigger.
Counter-condition the behavior
With the help of some treats, you can then counter-condition that behavior. If it’s a territorial situation, you’ll want to give your dog a treat every time he is around that person and doesn’t bark or stops barking. This, combined with love from you, will help him slowly understand that everything is okay and that behavior isn’t needed.
In a situation like past trauma, you’ll need to take a de-escalation approach where you show him in gradual steps that he is okay and that this person isn’t going to hurt him. This will be at your dog’s pace.
If it’s a situation like dominance, you will need to clarify to your dog that you are the alpha and not him. This should be done early in their life anyway, through obedience training. But don’t be afraid to reassure that if needed!
Don’t blame the dog
No matter how little progress your dog is making or how long it takes, or even the fact of needing to do it — never blame the dog. They act on instinct and don’t understand that there is no threat. They need to be taught that, which is where your interaction comes in. Never blame a dog for a biological behavior, even if it’s inappropriate!
Get professional support as needed
In all of the causes behind your dog’s behavioral barking, professional support will be a huge helping hand. They can often help your dog all the way from diagnoses of the problem to a successful and appropriate reaction to whatever the trigger used to be.
They will help “translate” your dog’s behavior to you and will also show you how to “communicate” with your dog on what an appropriate reaction is! Ask your vet for recommendations for pet behavior professionals.
Dogs will bark at specific people, like your husband, for all sorts of reasons. These include feeling threatened, generally communicating with that person in conversation, or asserting dominance over that person. Other less likely causes include needing to be met or past trauma.
There is always a reason for your dog’s barking at one person, even if it makes no sense to you. Understanding the signs and how to help deal with them is essential!
Dogs bark for all sorts of reasons, and quite often, most of them make little sense to us. Understanding the cause of your dog’s specific focus on one person will help you understand what it means and what to do about it!
Know someone with this problem? Share this with them and help them to enjoy more peace!