The Shocking Truth Behind Why Your Dog Talks Back – Is Your Furry Friend Trying to Dominate You?

Understanding doggy back talk, why they do it, and how to fix it.
| Updated: September 3, 2023
Labrador retriever barking at a city park

Ever feel like you’re ‘barking up the wrong tree’ when it comes to understanding your dog? We’ve all been there.

But what if your pooch is trying to communicate with you by talking back? It’s not just sass; there could be underlying needs or emotions at play.

Let’s dive into this peculiar behavior, unearthing what it means and how to address it, ensuring a happier, healthier relationship with our four-legged friends.

What does “my dog talks back to me” mean?

When you’re wondering, ‘Why does my dog talk back to me?’ it’s important to understand that this behavior is a form of communication, and your pup might be trying to express something like resistance to commands, social bonding, or even possessiveness. Dog vocalization isn’t just random noise; it carries meaning and intent. So when you say, ‘My dog talks back to me,’ what you’re really observing is your canine friend using their voice to communicate in the best way they can.

Barking, whining, or growling are all ways dogs use sound for expression. Sometimes, these sounds can seem like the equivalent of talking back, or what we more commonly refer to as back talk. If you’ve ever asked yourself, ‘Why do dogs back talk,’ remember that they aren’t doing so out of spite or rebellion as a human child might. Instead, when we think our dog is back talking us, they’re likely trying to convey a message we may not fully understand yet.

Whether it’s an enthusiastic bark during playtime or a resistant growl during grooming sessions, you might find yourself thinking your dog is being disobedient or dominant. But don’t worry! It’s perfectly normal, and part of being a responsible pet owner involves learning about these nuanced forms of communication.

Possible Reasons For Back Talk

It’s plausible that your pet is attempting to convey a message or express its reluctance to perform a particular task, or it has learned that this behavior gets rewarded.

Alternatively, this behavior might stem from possessiveness or simply be a quest for attention; these dynamics underline the importance of understanding and addressing such conduct in an effective manner.

Trying to Tell You Something

Your dog’s talking back might be their way of trying to tell you something important, so don’t ignore this behavior. When your dog talks to you, they’re often expressing desires or concerns. Their talkativeness could be a sign of boredom, a plea for attention, or an indication of discomfort.

Context can play a key role in understanding what your dog is saying. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is my dog usually more vocal during specific times or situations?
  • Does the chatty behavior increase when my dog is alone or maybe when we’re in unfamiliar environments?
  • Could there be any health issues causing my dog to talk so much?

We have to pay close attention to understand what our dogs are trying to say. If we misinterpret these signals, it could lead us to assume they just ‘don’t want to do something’ or ‘they’re being disobedient.’

Doesn’t Want to do Something

Sometimes, they’re just not in the mood for that walk or playtime we’ve planned. Dogs, like us, have their off days, and it’s important to understand this. When our dogs talk back to us in these situations, they’re communicating a clear ‘no.’ It’s crucial we respect this and give them the freedom they need.

But don’t confuse this with letting them rule the roost completely. We should be firm yet understanding, balancing our needs with theirs for mutual satisfaction. This maintains our role as leaders while acknowledging their autonomy.

Now, consider another scenario where your dog might talk back: when he’s feeling possessive.


That chew toy or cozy spot on the couch is his, and he’s letting you know it loud and clear. Just like us, dogs have items they consider their own and spaces they deem theirs. Talking back can be a display of territorial behavior when we encroach on these possessions or spaces. It’s important not to mistake this for aggression—it’s merely assertiveness over their belongings.

This kind of behavior is something we shouldn’t allow to continue, though. Even if it’s only assertiveness initially, it can quickly become aggressive. We’ve all heard of food aggression, right? We can respect their space while maintaining our leadership role, ensuring that our furry friends don’t become too controlling over things they determine are theirs.

Now, let’s look at another possible reason: your dog might be craving some attention.

Your Dog Wants Attention

Have you noticed when the attention isn’t on them, they start barking as if to say, ‘Hey, look at me!’? This is a common behavior in dogs that are craving our attention. They are social animals, after all, and thrive on interaction. When we’re busy or ignoring them, they’ll do almost anything to grab our focus. It’s their way of expressing dissatisfaction with the current situation. In this case, they are dissatisfied with not being in the spotlight.

But remember, we can’t always yield to such demands; doing so might actually reinforce undesirable behavior. Setting aside specific times to give your dog attention, whether it’s petting, playing, or cuddling on the couch, can reduce or eliminate this.

For example, when I sit down at the computer to write, I pet my dog and talk to him for a few minutes, then I do the same thing when I get done. By setting this routine, he no longer bugs me or tries to force his way in between me and the computer. He’s a German Shepherd and thinks his size can help him get what he wants sometimes. Now, he will go do his own thing and only come to me if he’s thirsty or needs to go outside, which is understandable. Of course, when I move the chair to get up, he suddenly appears (as if by magic), ready to receive attention – Because now it’s his time, and he knows it.

So What Does It All Mean?

As we look a bit deeper into the realm of canine behavior, we have to consider two elements that go hand in hand: instinct and communication.

These fundamental aspects govern a dog’s actions and reactions, shaping their interactions with both humans and their environment.


In understanding your dog’s instinctual behavior, you’ll find that talking back can sometimes be a natural response to certain situations. It’s important for us to comprehend this aspect of their inherent nature and the reasons behind it:

  • Evolutionary Background: Dogs evolved from wolves who use vocalizations for communication.
    Barking and other sounds are part of their survival instincts.
  • Expression of Emotions: Dogs often ‘talk’ to express feelings like excitement, fear, or frustration.
    Understanding these emotional cues is the key to addressing any behavioral issues.
  • Asserting Dominance: Some dogs talk back as a way to assert control or show defiance.

All of this translates directly to canine-human communication, or how they talk to us.


We can’t forget that barks, growls, and other vocalizations are part of a surprisingly complex language dogs use to express themselves. When your dog talks back to you, it might be trying to tell you something important. It could be saying it’s scared, bored, or just wants some attention. Perhaps it’s informing you that it needs water, or is expressing joy, or warning us about something unusual in its environment.

None of these things are particularly bad; In fact, the last one can be life-saving. All too often, we dismiss our dog’s barks because we are busy or wrapped up in life, and suddenly, they are bad dogs or untrained. And in some cases, sure, a dog might be untrained. But in many cases, we are just being bad owners, leaders, companions. When our dog is just trying to talk to us about something.

Understanding this ‘canine conversation’ is essential for maintaining a healthy relationship with our furry friends while establishing trust and respecting their need for self-expression. This understanding will also help us to address the inappropriate talking back behavior effectively.

Addressing Inappropriate Behavior

Sometimes, there are behavior problems that need to be corrected, and it could be as simple as your dog being untrained. Other times, it could be a fear response, anxiety, or your dog trying to dominate you and be in control.

In most cases, it comes down to listening to your dog, establishing trust, and positive reinforcement training.

Techniques to Stop Back Talk

Positive reinforcement techniques, like rewarding good behavior, can be an effective method to curb your dog’s backtalk. We’re not advocating for strict obedience or suppressing your pup’s personality. Instead, we’re suggesting a balanced approach where you understand and respect their unique form of communication while setting some boundaries.

  • Recognize and reinforce good behavior: If they stay quiet when commanded, reward them with treats or praise.
  • Establish clear signals: Use consistent commands so your dog understands what’s expected.
  • Maintain patience: Change doesn’t happen overnight; it requires time and consistency.

Remember, the goal here isn’t to stifle their voice but to live harmoniously together as a team, in whatever way that means to you.

Here’s an easy example. If my dog is on the bed in my spot, I’ll tell him to get down, and if he does without a fuss or back talk, he gets pets or treats.

Petting Your Dog

Petting is not just a way to show affection; it can also be an extremely effective tool in curbing unwanted behaviors in your pup. I mentioned before that dogs are social creatures; they practically live for attention. By rewarding good behavior with petting, we’re using positive reinforcement to encourage our dogs to behave properly.

However, timing is essential – it’s very easy to reward your dog for talking back instead of reinforcing the good behavior you want them to learn. ‘Petting sessions’ sounds like such a weird way to put it, but setting aside regular time to pet or spend time with your dog can also help satisfy their need for attention, thus reducing their urge to talk back.

Remember, communication with our pets isn’t confined to words alone; physical contact plays a significant role, too.

If, despite all your efforts, the talking back persists, this might be a sign that you need additional help. Considering professional assistance could offer further insight into resolving these issues effectively.

Seeking Professional Help

Recognizing when our attempts at curbing our dog’s talking back behavior are insufficient, or backfiring is important, as it may indicate the need for professional help.

So, how do we know when we need assistance from a dog trainer?

And what characteristics and qualifications we should be looking for in a trainer to ensure they can effectively address and manage this particular behavioral issue.

Knowing When You Need Help

If your dog’s talking back behavior doesn’t improve despite consistent training and positive reinforcement, it might be time to seek professional help. We understand how frustrating this can be, especially when you’ve put in so much effort.

You may feel overwhelmed or exasperated. Your relationship with your pet could suffer. The constant struggle may leave you feeling defeated. You might worry about the potential impact on your dog’s overall behavior.

These feelings are absolutely valid, and asking for help is okay. Professional trainers have a wealth of knowledge and experience dealing with these issues. They can provide guidance tailored specifically to your dog’s needs.

What to Look for in a Trainer

So now you’re on the hunt for a professional trainer, but what should you be looking out for? We believe it’s essential to consider three main factors: qualifications, experience, and methods.

Check for certifications from reputable organizations.Look at how long they’ve been training dogs professionally.Be sure they use positive reinforcement techniques.
They should have formal education in animal behavior or related fields.Consider their experience with your specific breed or problem issue.Ensure that their methods align with your dog’s needs and temperament.
References from satisfied customers can provide additional assurance of their competence.Ask about success rates and client satisfaction.Their approach should promote freedom, not restriction, for your pet.

Dog Breeds More Prone To Talking Back

Certain dog breeds, like Huskies and Beagles, are known to be more vocal than others, so it’s worth considering your pet’s breed when trying to figure out why they’re talking back. These breeds are bred for specific tasks that require them to communicate effectively with their human partners. As a result, they’ve developed a natural tendency towards vocalization.

However, it isn’t just about the breed. Individual personality traits and the environment also play significant roles in shaping a dog’s behavior. We should keep in mind that every dog is unique and deserves understanding based on its individual characteristics.

Let’s take a look at some of the factors related to dogs’ propensity to talk back:

  1. Breed Characteristics: Some breeds tend to be more vocal due to their historical roles and genetic predispositions.
  2. Personality Traits: Each dog has its own temperament, which might make them more likely to express themselves vocally.
  3. Training & Socialization: How we train our dogs, or how well they’ve been socialized, can influence how much they talk back.
  4. Environment & Lifestyle: Dogs living in stimulating environments or leading active lifestyles may use vocalizations as part of their communication repertoire.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there specific breeds that are more likely to talk back than others?

Yes, certain breeds tend to talk back more than others. Breeds known for their intelligence and independence, like Huskies and German Shepherds, are often more vocal and prone to expressing their opinions vocally.

Can a dog’s age or gender influence their likelihood to talk back?

Absolutely, a dog’s age and gender can influence their propensity to talk back. Adolescent dogs, testing boundaries, may talk back more. Male dogs also tend to be more vocal than females due to dominance traits.

What health issues could cause a dog to start talking back?

Health issues like pain, anxiety, or cognitive dysfunction could trigger a dog to start talking back. It’s their way of communicating discomfort or distress. If sudden behavioral changes occur, we recommend seeing a vet.

Does the dog’s environment or upbringing play a role in whether they talk back or not?

Absolutely, a dog’s environment and upbringing significantly influence their behavior. For instance, a pup raised in a noisy, chaotic household might learn to ‘talk back’ as a way to assert its presence or needs.

Are there any specific signs that my dog’s talking back could be a sign of distress or discomfort?

We’d look for signs like excessive barking, whining, pacing, or changes in appetite. These could indicate distress or discomfort. If your dog’s talk back is combined with these signs, it might be distressed.

Chase Roseberry Author Image
Chase Roseberry

Chase’s life has been a remarkable journey into the world of animals. From his time spent working with an equine Veterinarian, raising exotic snakes, and live coral aquaculture, his diverse background fuels his passion for the animal kingdom.

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