Why dogs bark at cars?

September 2019

Today morning, a while after I woke up, I sat in the balcony with my dog Tommy, watching the rains come and go. Presently, Tommy decided to growl at something. Following his heads trajectory, I realised it was a car on the road that he was interested in growling at. He didn't bark, mind you. He knows I don't like him barking when I'm nearby so he usually controls himself. In any case, I was enjoying the cool weather so I let the matter rest, knowing that he'd stop growling when the car was gone.

He did, but then another car came, and he started growling again. "Why at this car now?" I thought, and then I took a good look at this new car. Nothing particular stood out to me, I needed a bigger sample size. While I couldn't work out WHY he was interested in that car, I had enough data to eliminate certain other hypothesis that I've come to hear about the matter.

  1. "Dogs bark at cars which have killed other dogs in past" - I never belived in this theory. Now, I have evidence to refute it. Tommy wouldn't care. I don't think I need to explain this beyond that.

  2. "Dogs bark at cars which smell weird" - First off, the wind was blowing away from us. It would have been extremely difficult for the smell of a car (while it was raining) to reach Tommy's nose in the balcony on 13th floor. Also, he wasn't barking at any single car; from my count, he barked at atleast 7 other cars in the interval where I was observing. The probability of all the cars smelling the same? Low. Coupled with the previous fact, this hypothesis => probably incorrect. I say probably because it is not necessary that there be a single smell. There could be many different aromas that could be enticing to a dog. Also, I could be underestimating the smelling power of dogs.

In any case, I observed the size, shape, color and direction of the cars that Tommy was growling (and ignoring). Pretty soon, I noticed a pattern. He was mostly growling at cars which had something white on them (either the paint or a bag on top or something) I predicted that he'd growl at a white car that I saw coming from far away - AND HE DID. I made up my mind to share this awesome discovery through the blog and was wondering how I should get started when Tommy growled again.

It was a red car.

When the red car was gone, 2 other white cars drove by, which he merrily ignored.

Then he came back from his growling spot to where I was sitting, wanting a scratch. I obliged. Now I was thinking of how I should end my blog.

Silver Lining? I have started the process of elimination. Previously held notions were refuted and the path has been opened for new theories.

If you were to ask now me why dogs bark at cars, I'd probably say that it's because they're in a mood for it. In my mind, I'd hope some curious soul somewhere finds the real reason, if there is any.

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