Do you remember the scene in 101 Dalmatians where the dogs passed along the news of the stolen puppies by barking at twilight?
Well if Honey had been one of the dogs in the movie, those puppies would never have been found. Because my dog Honey only talks to big dogs.
Barking To Friends
We’ve always lived in a city or town. So we don’t encourage Honey to bark.
But we understand that if another dog in the neighborhood starts barking, it’s foolish to think Honey would never feel the need to reply.
The crazy thing was that back in Ithaca, she only barked at friends.
Any random dog barking in the neighborhood did not attract her notice. But when Riley, the handsome golden retriever who lived two yards away barked, Honey always replied.
In fact, she sounded kind of desperate.
I’d swear she was saying “Woof, I love you Riley.” “Bark, bark, please come over and play with me.” “Yip, don’t you love me anymore?”
Riley totally ignored her. He only barked at the pittie who lived on the other side of his fence.
Until he saw Honey on a walk, he paid no attention to her barking whatsoever.
Barking To Strangers
The neighborhood we’re staying in temporarily has a few dogs.
In fact, a house across the street has (three?) West Highland terriers that bark every night when they’re let out for a break before bed.
Heck, they bark any time they’re let out. And when someone comes to the door. And just to exercise their lungs.
Honey has not barked back once.
Last night, she didn’t even lift her head from the floor when the evening bark fest started.
And that highly reactive cairn terrier that we see on walks explodes when he sees Honey. She totally ignores him.
But if we hear a large woof from off in the distance, no matter how far, Honey always barks back.
Last night, before the terriers started, we heard the faint barking of a large dog on another street. And Honey let out a woof before rushing to the screen door to look for the pup she was talking to.
She responds the same way any time she hears a large dog barking. Even though she has never met him or her.
Dogs To Reply To; Dogs To Ignore
I’m not surprised that Honey responds to every large dog in the neighborhood when she barked only at dogs she knew in Ithaca.
Things are uncertain and I expect to see small changes in Honey’s behavior.
But why doesn’t she bark at all dogs? Why does she only return barks to dogs that sound big?
Perhaps big dogs and small dogs speak different dialects?
I have noticed that Honey communicates better with dogs with similar mannerisms and body shapes. She responds more quickly to a loose-limbed golden with a swishy tail who wants to play than to a boxer with a more upright posture and stubby tail.
Maybe it’s not just body language that differs from dog to dog but also barking language.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve worked especially hard to teach Honey to hold back around small dogs.
Honey likes to play. But I notice that many small dogs, if they haven’t been socialized around big dogs, find them intimidating.
If someone asks to introduce their small dog to Honey, I often make her sit and allow the small dog to approach first.
If it’s obvious the small dog wants to play and doesn’t find Honey’s size threatening, they often play together beautifully. Honey will practically lie down to shrink herself to a proper playmate size for a frisky little dog.
But if I see a small dog start to hide behind his or her person’s legs, I tell Honey to calm down and hang back.
If we see a small dog on a walk, I often cross the street to avoid the reactions we sometimes see with bossy little pups.
So maybe Honey has internalized my message to be mild around small dogs and expanded it to also not talk to them.
I have no idea.
Who Does Your Dog Bark At
Perhaps this behavior stands out so much because Honey is not naturally very barky.
Some dogs alert more easily or are just more talkative.
When I had German shepherd mixes, I never noticed who they barked at because they barked at everyone. And everything. And barked some more.
But Honey only barks occasionally. So that she only replies to big dog barks really stands out.
I haven’t found anyone else asking this question.
I don’t know of any researchers working on this issue.
I’m dying of curiosity.
Have you noticed anything similar in your dogs? Are they barky by nature? Or are they selective barkers? And whose barks are they most likely to reply to?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Because if Honey is conspiring with all the large dogs in the neighborhood, I don’t want to be the last to know.
Any idea why Honey only barks at big dogs? Do tell.