There is a very famous proverb that "BARKING DOGS SELDOM BITE". According to the saying: The dogs which bark too much in loud tone, bite very rarely. It implies that the people who threaten you more saying that they will harm you, often does so.

Yesterday, my friend was debating on this topic with me very furiously saying that there is no proof behind this saying. He also pointed out that he have seen dogs who both bark & bite actively and simultaneously. I just burst out laughing after hearing this cause it sounded so funny.

So, I was just curious to know about how much truth is behind this proverb?



1 Answer 1


Barks are one of the way in which dogs communicate. For example, some barks mean loneliness and can be methodically distinguished from other kinds.

Our experiment showed that dogs can perceive the difference between barks originating from different situations, thus barking is perhaps a communicative tool not only for dogs to humans, but for dogs to dogs as well.

Dogs can discriminate barks from different situations Maros, Katalin et al., Applied Animal Behaviour Science , Volume 114 , Issue 1 , 159 - 167, http://www.appliedanimalbehaviour.com/article/S0168-1591(08)00042-7/abstract

Furthermore, the classic "aggressive warning" of a dog is a snarl or a growl, not a bite, and even this is not always associated with biting -- in other words, not all dogs that snarl, bite.

Owners of dogs that growl and snarl are often worried about having an aggressive dog. Growling isn't always serious. Dogs sometimes growl in play with each other, and may growl in play with humans. There are also conversational growls, like grumbling comments, such as 'do you really have to groom me?' which don't lead to anything. The dog isn't really spooked or angry, just grumbling. It's when dogs are spooked, very aroused, that growling starts to become a problem.

Dogs: Behavioural Problems http://www.infopet.co.uk/pages/0130.html

In conclusion: there are many reasons why dogs bark, and aggression is only one of them. Biting is more associated with other signals, like growling, and even in those cases, it depends. Therefore, to an untrained human, it is probably true that dogs that bark seldom bite, furthermore experienced trainers and dog owners may be able to tell the difference between behaviors and predict which bark could lead to a bite.

  • 4
    You've given a lot of information on barking, but I can't see anything about the correlation between barking and biting; obviously not all dogs that snarl bite, but are they less likely to than non-snarling dogs?
    – Max
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 10:29
  • @Max what do you mean? I've shown that there is little correlation because barking is not a signal for aggressive behavior. It would be like saying that talking is a signal for punching. Surely most people who punch also talk, but...
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 10:31
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    I guess you could interpret the saying as "dogs bite seldom, and barking dogs are no different", and you've given some evidence for that, it's true. But I interpret it as meaning "barking dogs bite seldom compared to other dogs".
    – Max
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 10:36
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    @Max What I have shown is that barking is a language, and is not correlated to biting. I've shown that dogs bark for different reason than aggression (e.g. loneliness), and I've shown that they bite without barking (e.g. for pain). This means that the assumption "dogs that bark often bite" is incorrect, thus "dogs that bark seldom bite" is correct. We could be discussing on what "seldom" and "often" mean, but I assume that the proverb simply means that barking does not indicate risk of biting.
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 10:40
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    How does this answer explains the amount of truthfulness behind the fact that the dogs who bark more bite very rarely? Commented Aug 3, 2014 at 10:41

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