Why Do Dogs Honk Their Horns?


Stop Yulin Now
Yulin Festival Dog

The True Value of Communication

First, Why Do People Honk Their Horns?

I work for the largest mental health and addiction treatment hospital in California. My office at our central facility overlooks the street and I am frequently entertained by the driving habits of folks coming and going.

Sometimes a car double parks in the middle of the street and, of course, drivers coming up behind have no idea they are approaching a parked car. Until they get really close, which is when they slam on the brakes and lay on the horn.

Vehicle Horn
Move It, Already!

Why do vehicles have horns, anyway? A horn is intended for use when you cannot alert other drivers by any other means. Wikipedia says drivers use their horns to warn others of the vehicle’s approach or presence, or to call attention to some hazard. 


In Los Angeles, at least, drivers frequently seem to use their horns as an extension of their middle finger. Like when you’re halfway into a lane change, with your blinker on, and some complete moron barrels into the lane with that get out of my way or I’ll run you down attitude.


Truck Driving Trump
Varoom, varoom! Get outta my way!

When you’re hitting your horn – for whatever reason – you are communicating with the drivers and pedestrians around you. How you use your horn determines the message you are communicating.

Why do dogs honk their horns?

Like humans with their horns, if your dog honks its horn, there is a reason. We’re talking about barking here. Why do dogs bark? What does it mean?

Dog Honking Horn
Bark! Bark! Honk! Honk!

Dogtime identifies eight reasons why Oscar is yipping and yapping:

  1. Territorial or defensive barking;
    2. Excitement, or happiness at seeing you;
    3. Play and exercise;
    4. To get your attention or to signal you (I have to go potty);
    5. Aggravation over not being able to attain something (your pork chop);
    6. Social barking in response to other dogs;
    7. Separation anxiety and trepidation; and,
    8. Compulsive behavior.

Let’s look at a few of what I think are among the most common reasons.

Barking as Warning

This is territorial or defensive barking, and was the issue we had with our Frenchie, Stella the Enforcer. We had recently moved into a new townhouse complex (still under construction) that was full of unfamiliar sights and sounds of construction and moving trucks.

The worst part for Stella was that her back yard was now a front yard where she could see everything passing by. In other words, everything was unfamiliar, so everything was threatening.

So, I started spending time out front with Stella and helping her, with a calm and reassuring demeanor, to distinguish between normal, everyday sights and sounds, and unusual things she should be alarmed – and therefore bark – at. Over time, she learned, and she stopped barking at everything and everyone.

Except, of course, other dogs; but, that’s just because she wants to play. Being that Stella is still a young dog, that type of barking falls under playfulness and excitement which is common in puppies and young dogs. She’ll grow out of that in time, I believe.

There is a huge difference between barking excitedly and the sharp, loud barking that is a hallmark of barking as warning. You’ve probably heard the same types of barking with your own dogs.

Barking as Greeting

When my children were wee ones and I picked them up at daycare, both would come running with so much joy and exuberance, arms outstretched, and yelling Daddy!! That’s how my dogs greet me when I come home; but, since they can’t yell Daddy, they just bark.

You’re home! You’re home! Yay! We’re so happy that you’re home! Hold me. Pet me. Pet me. Hold me. Take me for a walk! 

Cesar Millan suggests that, since pack dogs don’t bark in a burst of affection, ours don’t either. He says they are releasing pent-up energy, telling you their lonely and bored, and that their needs aren’t being met. With all due respect to The Dog Whisperer, I disagree.

Daddy & Millie
With Millie, my Rescued Toxirn

Ellen works from home. She’s with them all day. She sees to their emotional and physical needs all day. There is no pent-up energy, boredom or loneliness, and their needs are met. When I come home, they’re excited and joyfully exuberant because they’re happy to see me and they compete with each other for my attention – to be loved on and petted and held or to sit in my lap.

Barking as Separation Anxiety

Bark Bark Bark

We used to live, as I mentioned, in a townhouse community, so everyone lives stacked in next to each other and a lot of residents have dogs. We even have a community dog park. One family, though, leaves their dog outside 24/7.

Firstly, what kind of life is that for a dog?! It never gets walked, the only attention it seems to get is when someone yells out the window to quit barking, and its entire world is 200 SF of concrete and bricks. And, no, the police won’t do anything.

Barking dog
Warning! Danger, Will Robinson!

No wonder the dog barks at everything that moves. It’s so starved for attention and affection that it runs up to the gate, barking, whenever anyone or anything walks by. Here I am! I’m here! Notice me! Pet me, please! I’m lonely!

I don’t know, maybe they were too cheap to pay for a protection alarm.

These are just a few examples of the True Value of Communication. I’m sure you have examples you could add. I would love to hear from you about your pups and the ways they communicate with you and their world. Please consider sending me a message and sharing – perhaps even writing a guest post for True Value of Dogs. Thank you!

Before you get a dog, you can’t quite imagine what living with one might be like; afterward, you can’t imagine living any other way. – Caroline Knapp

~ George

As always, if Ms. Rose in fifth period Biology assigned a paper on How Animals Communicate, these references may be helpful to you:

Dogtime. Solutions for barking: How to get a dog to stop barking. Retrieved online at: http://dogtime.com/dog-health/general/675-barking-aspca

Cambridge Media Services. 2018. Horn laws you need to know according to mydriverlicenses.org experts. Retrieved online at: https://mydriverlicenses.org/blog/horn-laws-you-need-know.html

Millan, C. 2017. Why dogs bark. Retrieved online at: https://www.cesarsway.com/dog-behavior/barking-and-howling/discovering-the-cause-of-barking

Park, A. 21 Aug 2015. The do’s and do-not-do’s of car horn etiquette. Retrieved online at: https://www.idrivesafely.com/blog/the-dos-and-do-not-dos-of-car-horn-etiquette/

Stregowski, J. 20 Aug 2017. Why do dogs bark? Retrieved online from: https://www.thespruce.com/why-do-dogs-bark-1118266

The Columbian. 08 May 2014. Barking can bite relationships among neighbors. Retrieved online at: http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/may/09/barking-can-bite-relationships-among-neighbors-dog/

Wikipedia. 01 Jan 2018. Vehicle horns. Retrieved online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle_horn


Leave a Reply


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Notify of