Do Barking Dog Sounds Have Meaning?

Have you ever wondered if barking dog sounds are messages? Can hounds understand each other? Could you learn to understand them? Scientists have been trying to answer these questions for a while.

Barking develops in parallel with other social behaviors, hinting that maybe there is a meaning to it after all. Certain aspects of a dog barking sound can give other canines and even humans information.

If you have a barking dog problem, one of the first things you need to do is try to understand why your pooch is woofing excessively. There are two very important reasons for this:

1- You can do something about the trigger to stop a dog barking.

2- You will become closer to your furry best friend by learning and understanding more about his behaviors and motivations.

What's in a dog bark?

There are three aspects in barking dog sounds that will tell you something about the situation and emotional state of your canine friend.

  • Frequency or pitch: Big objects make low pitch sounds and small ones high pitched sounds. You can try this experiment at home by banging on a big metal pan vs a small one. Do you hear the difference in pitch? It has to do with size. Some scientist argue that by making low pitch sounds, like growls or deep barks, hounds want to "scare away" something or someone. It's as if they are trying to convey to you that they are big and dangerous, so you better stay away! Low pitch sounds would then serve the opposite purpose. Dog yelps and whimpers suggest that the hound is small, therefore less threatening. Evolution was probably responsible for adding the actual "meaning" (stay away vs. come closer) to these kinds of barking dog sounds.

When calling your pooch to come to you, use a high pitch excited voice.

  • Time in-between barks: How fast or slow is the canine barking? Usually fast paced barking means a dog is excited and wants to convey urgency.
  • Length of a single bark: The longer the bark is, the more threatening the meaning. In two independent studies, hounds exposed to strangers at the door had longer barks than when their owners arrived. In contrast short barks are associated with fear or excitement.

Do dogs bark to communicate?

barking dog sounds, dog barking communication

The short answer is yes. Many studies have shown that both canines and humans are able to interpret correctly a canine's situation only by hearing its barking. The interesting aspect is that both, experienced dog people, as well as inexperienced participants were able to arrive at the same conclusions. There seems to be individual specific components of a bark that can also help in the identification of a specific member of the pack.

If you are interested in barking dog sounds because you are trying to figure out why is your dog barking, chances are you already have some clue about it: whether it's fear, excitement or an alert call. The types of barking sounds below should help you start solving your barking dog problem.

Want to take your pooch to the next level? Try Dognition! It's an app that will guide you through many exercises to help you know your dog's abilities better.

Examples of barking dog sounds and their situations:

  1. Barking to get attention or play: This dog wants to interact with you. Barking will be most likely high pitched and short. He might pause in between bursts of barks to check if someone is responding to his request of attention or not.
  2. Excitement barking: This is also high pitch, short and very fast barking but it should be accompanied by a lot of body movement as well. Imagine a dog getting ready to go to the park…can't stay still!
  3. Threatening barking (guarding): This type of barking will be low pitched and a little longer. It will also be mixed with growls. Looking at the hound you will see a confident posture with many elements directed forward (ears, body, lips), tail up and wagging stiffly.
  4. Fear barking: Again a high pitched bark, short but not necessarily fast. You will also see body stress signals like tail down, ears back and body closer to the ground.
  5. Bored barking: This is an interesting type of dog barking sound because it won't necessarily be high or low pitch. It will probably be something in between. It will be continuous and monotonous too. This hound is not barking at anything in particular, just trying to pass the time. You might hear a howl breaking the monotonous bark once in a while too.
  6. Barking to alarm the pack: This should be a low pitch sound. It will come out in short and very sporadic barks. This dog is simply trying to alert you of a potential threat. The high pitch version of this would be a dog greeting his owner too.

Now that you have more information, find out why your pooch is barking so much and use the right solution to your particular problem.

If you have questions or would like to share your story please follow the instructions here. You can leave comments below as well.

Recommended Readings:

References:

  1. Barking in family dogs: An ethological approach. Pongrácz P., Molnár C., Miklósi A. The Veterinary Journal 2010.
  2. Dogs discriminate between barks: The effect of context and identity of the caller. Molnár C., Pongrácz P., Faragó T., Dóka A., Miklósi A. Behavioural Processes 2009.
  3. A new perspective on barking in dogs (Canis familiaris). Yin S. Journal of Comparative Psychology 2002.

> >

New! Comments

Questions? Anecdotes? Tips? Leave me a comment in the box below.