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17 Reasons Why Your Dog Barks At Certain People + 5 Tips

Why Does My Dog Bark At Certain People

You’re just strolling outside with your pooch. Until…

They yap at a random man walking by. 

Due to the sudden attack, he freezes and doesn’t know what to do.

And you’re standing there, surprised and embarrassed at the same time.

Your dog’s behaved to most people. But they bark at certain ones from time to time.

How is that possible?

Read on to learn:

  • What makes them snarl at a particular person.
  • If it’s caused by a behavioral or an age-related problem.
  • Whether it’s out of fright, excitement, or protective instincts.
  • 5 tips on what to do if your dog only reacts to specific types of people.
  • And a lot more…

Why does my dog bark at certain people?

Your dog barks at certain people because they: like them, had bad experiences, lack socialization, are encouraged to do so, or have territorial or age-related issues. The person might be sick, rude to you, behaving or wearing something unusual, doing things they hate or reminding them of trauma.

People also ask:

17 reasons why your dog barks at certain people

#1: They look unusual

“A funny-looking man is approaching me!”

Like babies, dogs may also freak out about what a person wears.

Some might hate not being able to see someone’s face clearly. Like when people wear glasses, hats, or masks.

They might also be confused if they see them with a cane, wheelchair, or walker.

After all, your dog doesn’t see those things daily. And don’t understand what they’re for.

#2: Bad experiences

Your Dog Barks At Other People Due To A Bad Experience

It’s hard to point a finger. But if your pooch seems really scared. And seem to single out this one person by barking at them, it could be because of bad experiences.

The person might have made your dog uncomfortable before. And whether it’s intentional or not, it still created a trauma on your dog.

That’s why your furry buddy is acting weird around them.

They might have yelled at or punished your Fido. And if yours is fearful and sensitive in nature, that makes it even worse.

Constantly teasing and touching them is also possible. People might have played with them roughly. Pulled their tails or ears. Or anything that’ll be scary or annoying for a doggo.

#3: The person reminds them of someone

Have you adopted your pooch from a shelter?

If so, do you know their history?

Because it could be a trauma from a particular type of person.

Your dog could be a victim of abuse. Or they had an awful experience with someone before.

And because they associate things, they might freak out at the sight of a similar individual.

It can be due to the same appearance, scent, or body language. For example, they might bark at a large man with a beard if they’re harmed by one.

I’ll give you an example. 

When I was a child, my family would travel around the country to see the 100 national tourist sites of Bulgaria. 

During one of the trips, we stopped at the end of a village to relax. While we were in the car, we saw an animal get under the vehicle. We also heard a weird sound.

Although I was scared, I went out and checked what it was. 

I was shocked because I didn’t expect what came before my eyes…

It was a small skinny dog. I could see their ribs. Their eyes had the saddest gaze. 

And if that’s not enough, it had a rope around its neck. And on this rope there was a bell… Which was constantly stressing the poor dog and giving away their location. 

I felt so bad about the poor creature and wanted to untie the rope. But, as you can imagine, the dog wouldn’t let me near them…

As soon as I got closer, the dog ran away. 

This image haunts me ‘till this very day. And I can only guess what misfortunes this dog had to go through. All because of people.

So, if you took your dog from a shelter, they might have experienced something similar. You never know.

Then it’s only understandable they’d bark at someone who reminds them of the tough times they had to go through.

#4: Lack of exposure

Does your dog only bark at a specific gender or age?

If so, it could be due to limited experiences with them. So they’ll put their guard up. Because fear is a natural emotion that protects them from harm.

Are they afraid of children? It might be due to their noises or sudden movements.

If they’re more cautious of males, they might look intimidating. As most of them are tall, have deep voices, and walk assertively.

It could also be due to the scent of their hormones. As those can give off aggressiveness. 

Experts say that canines must be exposed well during their ‘socialization period.’

It usually occurs from 3 to 14 weeks old. And fear towards people can be formed in that phase. But they can get rid of it as long as they form positive experiences with them.

#5: The person smells bad…

Not body odor. What I mean is there could be something ‘off’ with their scent.

As you may know, dogs have a fantastic sense of smell. They can sniff human emotions.

So, it could be that they’re nervous or aren’t used to dogs. That’s why they send fear signals. And your buddy detects it.

Canines may also consider people who have a ‘chip on their shoulder’ as a threat. As they’re unbalanced and may have anger issues.

You can imagine a black aura hovering over them. And I’m sure you wouldn’t also like to be near such.

#6: The person is sick

Canines can also sense if someone is ill.

So they might bark at someone who’s depressed. Or has an oncoming seizure or anxiety attack.

Your pooch might have what it takes to be a good service dog. As they’re quick to react to something like that.

You may have also heard that some dogs are trained to sniff cancer, malaria, and even coronavirus.

#7: Weird body language

Your Dog Sense Danger From Someone With Weird Body Language

Your dog might bark at someone who moves differently. The person could be drunk, has a limp, or speaks strangely.

So, they might be startled and consider them a threat.

They might think, “What’s wrong with this man? They could be dangerous. Alert!”

#8: Your dog smells something

Does your dog start to bark at someone they know?

It could be due to their perfume, deodorant, or hair products.

Some canines may not like strong fragrances. And given that they can smell 10,000 times better than humans, those can be too much.

Also, your pooch might have sniffed their clothes or skin. And detected other animals’ odor on them.

It’s possible due to their ‘Jacobson’s organ.’ It’s like a second nose inside a snout!

Amazing, isn’t it?

#9: They’re staring intently

“How dare you look at me like that!”

It’s also possible that the people they bark at stared at them for so long. And they don’t know that it’s the last thing they should do in front of a dog.

Yes, dogs hate being looked at directly. And no, they aren’t being shy…

They feel threatened. It’s like someone’s challenging them.

Imagine a stranger having a staring contest with you out of nowhere. It would give you creeps too.

I remember my friend’s sister. She looked at their neighbor’s dog for half a minute. The pooch got so angry and remembered her.

So every time the doggo sees her, they snarl like crazy.

#10: Improper greeting

How did those people greet your dog?

They could be approaching them all of a sudden. Running up to them and patting their head with no permission.

That’s why your pooch snarled and snapped in the air. Because obviously, they didn’t like it. 

They might have said, “Oh, you call that a greeting? More like attacking!”

And this could be dangerous. As some people might not know how to say hello in a non-scary way.

#11: They don’t seem nice

“You better stay away from my human!

Or else…”

Does your pooch bark at someone you’re uncomfortable around?

As mentioned before, they can smell your emotions. They know if you’re anxious, happy, or angry.

And it might be that while you’re talking to this person, they sensed your uneasiness. It may also happen if you see someone suspicious coming your way.

So, your dog ‘told’ them to go away.

Also, they might have observed that they’re rude or unfriendly to you. As they can see right through them.

#12: Being overprotective

Your Dog Is Overprotective

Does your buddy get angry at people who hug or kiss you?

Oh, no. It could be because they’re jealous and being overprotective.

You’ll know it if they bark at them when they get close to you. It’s like they don’t like sharing you with anybody else.

They might be protecting you as their #1 supplier of food and care. Or they just don’t like it when you pay attention to other people aside from them.

If they growl, it’s only a warning. But if they start baring their teeth and curl their noise…

It might be unsafe for the people around you. They may attack them. So this behavior must be corrected right away.

#13: The person looks like a trespasser

Territorial dogs will snarl at anyone who comes near their space. And that’s a different case when they only yap at specific people.

So if your pooch started barking at someone you know, they might not be properly introduced. So they’ll see them as a threat.

They might have gone into your house without you. And your Fido was startled and acted crazy. So they let out their ‘alarm bark.’

#14: Resource guarding

It could also be that your dog was approached while they’re eating. So it looks like they’re only barking at them.

Doggos who have this will protect their food or toys from anyone. And they can be aggressive and snap.

#15: They want rewards

Do you give them treats? Or comfort them after they got riled up?

If so, you are encouraging this behavior. And you’re not aware of it.

It might also be that the people they bark at gives them treats too. So your pooch knows that when they whine at them, they’ll get some tasty snacks.

#16: Old age

Does your pooch bark at someone they know?

And also does it to you?

Studies show that aggression (45%) and being more vocal (8%) are found in most old dogs. 

They got that data from more than 400 hounds. And those are usually the first symptoms of dog dementia.

Aside from it, they can also have poorer vision and hearing.

That’s why they always seem confused or irritated. And couldn’t recognize you and other people.

#17: Your dog wants the person’s attention

Lastly, it might not be only due to negative reasons.

If there are people they’re scared of, there must be someone they like too.

Does your dog wag their tail? Along with high-pitched barks?

It could be that your dog just wants their attention. They might be inviting them to play. Or hoping for a walk or some cuddles.

Note: There could also be strangers who are also dog parents. While some might just be giving off positive energy. And your pooch sensed it.

5 tips on what to do when your dog barks at certain people

#1: Understand your pooch more

A study shows that humans are indeed capable of knowing dog language. By playing recordings of different barks, most of them knew what each meant.

Aside from the sounds they make, you may also need to watch their body language. Because it’ll be different when they’re excited, scared, or being aggressive.

And by observing this, you may easily find what triggers their yapping. So you would know how to act on it.

If they’re only warning you of possible danger, or they’re afraid of someone.

#2: Avoid reinforcing it

Whether it’s encouraged or not, it would be best not to yell or scold a barking dog.

Keep your cool and speak calmly instead. Because talking in a raised volume will only scare them. While a high-pitched and sweet voice might motivate them to continue what they’re doing.

Also, you may need to tell the person they’re snarling at to stay relaxed too. And don’t let them touch or get closer to your pooch.

If they’ve been giving them treats whenever they do it, kindly ask them to stop. Then explain to them what will happen if they continue doing that.

#3: Educate others on do’s and don’ts

Some people might not know if what they’re doing will anger a dog. As a result, your pooch will be aggressive or scared of them.

So, you may inform them about the things they shouldn’t do. Whether it’s your friends, family, or neighbors. Especially to children who might disturb them when they’re eating.

Help them understand any behavior they have (e.g. resource guarding and territorial). And for sure, they’ll be more careful next time they meet.

In some cases, it’s not always the dogs who need to adjust. If they feel threatened, there might be a thing that’s bothering them. And that’s what needs to be taken care of.

#4: Get rid of…

No, not the people they dislike or your dog. I’m referring to any unwanted behavior or fear they may possess.

Turn negative into positive

So if your pooch is afraid of a specific person or a particular type, you may need to expose them gradually. This is to help them realize that there’s nothing to be scared about.

  1. First, ask the person they bark at to help you. 
  2. Make them sit somewhere in a room. Then put your doggo on a leash and go there.
  3. Place them in a spot far enough from the person to not make them nervous. But they should still be able to see him/her.
  4. If they’re uneasy and barking, move away a bit. Once they calmed down, shower them with treats and praises.
  5. Now, if they stopped snarling whenever they see him/her. You may ask the person to throw some snacks on the floor.

This won’t reinforce them as long as they’re not barking before. So make sure to only do this once they’re calm.

Repeat this every day. And as you progress, move closer to the person. But stay distant and avoid any contact until your pooch is fully adjusted.

Build trust

So if your dog is now unbothered by the person’s presence, don’t stop there.

Create more good experiences that your pooch could associate with him/her.

You can ask them to feed your Fido some meals or take them for a walk. You may also give them their fave toys (or new ones) and play with them.

Note: Remind them to speak calmly and avoid any movements that may startle your dog.


If they seem better and don’t react that much to certain people, you may walk them yourself outside.

Do this daily to make up for their lack of socialization. Let them sniff the surroundings and see different people and animals.

It’s good to always bring some treats with you. And give them some when they stay calm around a stranger.

#5: Get help

If they’re really aggressive, you may need to seek an expert for it. Especially if you can’t stop them from attacking.

There could be some health or anxiety problems that you won’t fix by just changing their behavior.

If they’re a senior dog, you may go to your local vet to rule out any medical issue.

And if they’re not, you may ask a trainer who uses positive reinforcement. This may also help if they have aggression to their food or anyone who comes near you.