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Why don't wolves bark?

Asked by: Grace Wurth
School: Owego Elementary School
Grade: 5
Teacher: Mrs. Elliker
Hobbies/Interests: Guitar, music, bad mitten and running
Career Interest: Guitar player and photographer

Answer from Dylan Horvath

Steward of Natural Areas, Binghamton University

Research area:
Wildlife biology/ecology-wolverines, bats, salamanders and birds.

Drawing, photography singing and hiking.


While wolves are a well-researched animal, mysteries still surround their behavior and the public holds on to old ideas about wolves. It is a common misconception that wolves do not bark, but wolves actually do bark. Wolves bark, perhaps, less frequently than domestic dogs since it is relatively rare to observe. Wolves bark for many of the same reasons domestic canines do. When wolves are nervous about something or someone, they will use a low, breathy, woofing sound. This can be seen in domestic dogs that are unsure of a situation. Often when a dog does this or growls, it means you shouldn't approach it. Of course, you shouldn't try to pet any unfamiliar dog without the owner's and your parents' permission. Sometimes domestic dogs that are taught not to bark will use a low whispery 'woof' when the urge to bark is too great. Loud barking, the bark more identified with our pet canines, is a relatively rare behavior in observed wolves. Loud barking is probably used by wolves to get quick notice from other wolves. Wolves are very attentive parents and barking by wolf puppies ensures attention from adults. Sometimes wolves will bark to warn each other of impending danger or if an intruder to their den or territory surprises them. Domestic dogs bark for the same reasons: to get attention or to warn their owners of intruders, animals, or unfamiliar people. Sometimes dogs have prolonged periods of barking for no apparent reason, which, as far as is known, doesn't happen with wolves. There are many theories for this. Dogs may be affected by captivity and bark out of boredom or want of attention. Similarly, some wolves seem to bark more when in captivity in zoos than in the wild. Another theory of why dogs sometimes bark for no obvious reason has to do with dog breeding. Dogs have been bred to be more social and loyal to people. Traits that define good social behavior in dogs are puppy-like behaviors of wanting contact and attention, submissiveness, and loyalty to owners. Domestic dogs act more like wolf puppies than adult wild wolves. A consequence of breeding for these traits is the often-unwanted trait of barking for seemingly no reason. For more information on wolves log onto or or check out the Binghamton University Nature Preserve on-line at

Last Updated: 3/1/17