3 Reasons Why Dogs Only Bark at Certain People & Strangers

Having a dog as a pet can be a fun and rewarding experience, but there are certain behaviors your dog might possess that you have no idea what it means. One behavior that a dog has is that it will bark at certain strangers or people while at the same time be completely cool with others. There are several reasons as to why your dog is barking at certain people and not others and most of it has to do with being protective.

Your Dog Doesn’t Like the Person’s Smell

A dog has a very keen sense of smell so it would make sense that the person’s smell could be off-putting to the dog. When a dog first interacts with someone or another dog, the first move they make is to sniff. If the smell is acceptable to the dog then the interaction goes well. You might notice this at a dog park where a dog will first go up to another and smell them before deciding to play with them.

On the other hand, if the dog doesn’t like the smell then the situations becomes more tense. The smell could be intimidating to them or just awful, and the dog will not want to interact with that person and might even bark at them. Pheromones that the person is giving off could be alerting the dog of a threat as well. When someone has a dog of their own, your dog might bark at them due to the other dog smells. Beyond that, dogs also have an aversion to certain smells such as rubbing alcohol, vinegar, citrus, and even moth balls.

Your Dog is Put Off by the Person’s Looks

The person’s look and demeanor can be unsettling to a dog too, which can cause your dog to bark at them aggressively. For example, a stranger might be standing in a way that appears aggressive for your dog. They might also be doing a certain action that is off-putting for a dog.

Another angle to this to is that a dog that has been abused might react negatively towards someone that looks similar to their abuser. This could be in terms of gender, height, race, and any other physical characteristic that the person has. Fear could lead to the dog being put off by the person’s looks if it reminds them of the person who abused them.

The Person is Behaving Strangely Towards the Owner

When someone is behaving oddly around the owner, the dog will pick up on this and often times decide to not have anything to do with that person. A dog will pay attention to many details such as tone of voice, body language, and interactions with the owner.

If the other person is seemingly angry or aggressive towards the owner, the dog in turn will begin to bark at that person or simply avoid interacting with them. The person could also just be ignoring the owner or keeping distance, and the dog will pick up on these cues and avoid them.

Can Dogs Tell if a Person is Bad?

A dog can definitely tell if a person is bad and this includes people who might be physically or verbally abusive to either you or your dog. Just like we as people judge others, dogs are known to behave in the same way. Even during a first interaction, your dog might be picking up on something that is instinctual and chooses to stay away from a person due to these gut perceptions.

Disclaimer: The content on MyPetChild.com is for informational purpose only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian when in doubt.


  • Cheryl | 13/01/2020

    This was very helpful and I think I know why my dog barks at my adult son. He and his father have a tense relationship. My question is what do I do about it. I don’t want him to ever bite my son.

  • PomPoms McShakyShake | 29/03/2021

    It sounds like you’re projecting onto your dog, the two of them might not be interacting enough with him and he gets jealous. The father should try harder to hang out with the dog. My opinion. Whatever makes the dog happier.

  • Marco Peranteau | 05/03/2020

    Why does a dogs scrunch his forehead and begin being aggressive to others in the household, and our other dog? No apparent reason, just starts.we have to put a special collar on him when he does this.

  • Me | 01/06/2021

    I would assume that the special collar is only making him more afraid so it’s understandable for him to act like that. He doesn’t understand y the collar would be in him, imagine if it was a human, the human would be angry

  • Susan | 09/04/2020

    My dog barks at people in the house he knows, and seems to like. Thank you for sharing this article. I live in the country with medium size town 15 miles away, but no pet specialists so I read what I can find on barking.

  • Nan | 25/05/2022

    Depending on breed and personality, he may bark at them for attention, the person might have played with or petted the dog in the past, my husky does that.

  • Kristine Buck | 13/10/2020

    My dog barks excessively to an aide that comes to the house for my mother-in-law. The aide does have dogs but so do alot of other people that visit our home. The aide comes one day a week for the last six months. Should I hire another aide? I am very concerned about this behavior. My dog lets the aide pet her and takes treats but then continues to bark from different rooms.

  • RJ | 16/04/2021

    Same here!! We have a neighbor that my very friendly dog barks at non stop. We don’t see this person often but when we do, its non stop. We have other friends with all types of dogs. She doesn’t bark at them. One of my friends in particular has a very large and somewhat intimidating dog and my dog just worships this friend so ( other dog sent) is clearly not the issue. I don’t know what to do? This neighbor is really nice but im embarrassed to have them over.

  • Nan | 25/05/2022

    Depending on breed and temperament the dog may be doing this as a protective instinct. Is the caretaking situation relatively new? It’s possible the dog dont understand why the person is there doing the caretaking with their person, in their house ect. Or maybe something happened with the person that scard the dog, such dropping something or a loud noise. Also is the caregiver happy in there job or was she nervous or afraid at any point because dogs sense all that. Some dogs are more in tune or intuitive than others.

  • Nan | 25/05/2022

    If you do hire a new aid, have the person take time to meet the dog first, give pets and some attention before getting to work on the aide stuff.

  • Jocelyn | 17/10/2020

    My dog bark at my boyfriend every time he comes home. We’ve been living together for years yet she seems to get so worked up when he arrives . I have to call her to come to me and calm he down . She rolls her eyes and huffs and puffs . Once in walks in she slowly approaches him and sniffs his shoes and walks away. She doesn’t bark when I arrive home if he’s there . She’s very calm when I arrive .

  • PomPoms McShakyShake | 29/03/2021

    That’s a wonderful dog. Ignore it.

  • Sharon McElwain | 06/12/2020

    My dog barks at my grown son, he’s 6’11”. Very tall but she barks when he comes in , moves etc. I’ve tried the ultrasonic buzzers, no bark , leave it & no. Nothing works. Help!!!

  • Miss V | 14/12/2020

    My dog never use to bark at my mom’s morning caretaker but ever since she has been working in the hospital he barks at here all the time. What could have changed about her as a person for my dog to bark like this. When he barks his ears are back. She pets him and he sniffs and licks her but then she goes about her business and he barks again. He barks even more when i am around her.

  • Tammy | 04/01/2021

    My son has had dog issues since he was little like 8 years old. Randomly every where we went dogs growled at him and were very aggressive towards him. My son is not an aggressive person. We have dogs and they are fine with him. Now my son is 25 and this is happening again. Dogs randomly want to attack him. What does this mean??

  • Jason Ray Wehring | 12/01/2021

    I’m reading this because the same happens to me quite often. Went to a friend’s house to measure a couple rooms for new flooring. He has 2 medium sized dogs that he put in wire kennels so they wouldn’t jump on me. But when I walked in, they went nuts! Had to walk between them (with my friend) to go upstairs. One of them was going so crazy he was able to pry the top of the cage open with his head and got halfway out barking angrily. Scared the heck out of me. My friend said they’ve never done that. I told him this sort of thing happens with other dogs. No idea why!

  • Mags | 13/04/2021

    I would like to get an answer for that too. Never had problems with dogs but since my own beloved JRT died may 2020, dogs bark at me whenever I get near to them while passing

  • cordelia dols | 21/01/2021

    My cousin’s dog usually bark at my aunt anytime she hears her voice or sense her coming from the house or coming from outside
    So mysterious

  • brooks | 26/02/2021

    l rescued my male pitt bull he should be around 7 He never bark when people come up to the house and is too friendly toward stranger.

  • Chris | 12/03/2021

    You put the blame on people! Face it, some dogs (and their owners like my neighbors) are CRAZY – they never stop their dogs from barking at us even a football field distance away in our own yard. I think dog owners have a blind spot about their bad-behaving dogs and don’t provide what the dog(s) really need (like exercise).

  • Cooper | 21/05/2021

    I had last night at 3:00 AM some guy staring at me through the window and my dog started growling and howling and barking I was scared to death and i could not move then my mom and dad came in and asked whats going on some body please give me some advice.

  • Doug | 11/06/2021

    I love the way certain people ALWAYS try to put the dogs behavior on the owner “projecting” or emitting some kind of “negative energy” I ain’t buying it cause it is not logical being all over the board with who a dog singles out…..until someone figures out how to read a dogs mind I am quite certain it will remain a mystery 90% of the time ….the other 10% is typically DUHH when there is a new wierd hat or something….I do know this about dogs…they can take a slight fear of something and blow it all out of proportion so that it gets scarier and scarier and scarier….and IF you can figure out WHAT that thing is? THEN you can work with the dog and probably maybe fix it…but so long as ONLY the dog knows? What are you gonna do to desentize him to a thing you don’t even know what is??

  • Doug | 11/06/2021

    My guess is it could be something really simple that scares the dog but THEN the dog transfers his fear to the person’s smell and once that happens then the original scary thing might not even matter from then on….just a now illogical fear of THAT person

  • Elle | 19/01/2022

    My good friend is getting married and I’m part of her wedding. Her dog who hates me is also part of the wedding. I’m not afraid of dogs however I fear that the dog will just bark for those 15 minutes while I’m up there by the bride. She is also concerned by how much her dog is barking. Could it be my race? Is it the fact that I have really curly hair and the dog is unfamiliar with it?

  • Patty | 21/01/2022

    My dog has met my son and his wife two or three times. She will initially bark, as she does with all visitors, but then settles down. They recently came to our house for the first (and only) time with our 4 month-old granddaughter. Throughout the night, the dog barked only when my son held her. We’re perplexed. Any ideas? Thank you.

  • Jeanine m caterisano | 21/03/2022

    I moved in with a couple, we all get along great, they have a small dog that barks at me only when the femal owner is present, I’ve asked them not to chastise the dog for doing so to no avail been there now almost 3 months ,and the dog continues to aleart and bark when femal owner is home???

  • Joe McArdle | 12/07/2022

    Dogs constantly seem to bark at me for no reason, for instance when I am riding a bike through their neighborhood in town, they seem to pick up a vibe (or my exertion) and then just randomly bark, even if they are inside the house and cannot see me. I feel like they can somehow sense my energy field or something, but that’s just a guess. Unless I am possessed by some Neandrethal like demonic spirit which they can feel? (hope not-lol)

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