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Translating your dog's barks


This article contains: Dog

Dogs bark for many reasons, they might be happy to see you or trying to protect you from danger. But how do you know what they’re trying to tell you?

Petplan looks at why dogs bark and how to decipher what your dog is trying to tell you…

Why do dogs bark?

There are many reasons dogs bark, and your dog’s noises more often than not have a meaning behind them. Dog barking is a way of expressing distress, excitement, defending their territory or merely getting your attention. It is one type of vocalisation that our dogs can use to communicate with us and their fellow furry friends.

Originally, dog barking was an alarm-call function. However, small changes to the sound of these barks has allowed dogs to convey even more messages to humans and other dogs alike.

Different pitches of dog barking

To translate your dog’s bark, start with assessing the pitch of the bark:

  • Low pitch – your dog is trying to give off a threatening stance perhaps as a form of protection to you or themselves. Along with this dominant bark, your dog will seem more aggressive than usual
  • Medium pitch – if this bark is stuttered and combined with a gruffling sound, your dog wants to play!
  • High pitch – unlike a low pitch bark, this means your dog is afraid and feeling insecure. You should assess the situation and try to work out what is distressing them. High pitch barks are also a way of your dog expressing they’re safe to approach

Duration of dog barking

How long your dog’s bark continues for can also indicate what they are trying to convey.

For instance, a single yelp usually indicates pain whereas a series of these high-pitched, short barks means may suggest that your dog is afraid of something.

Barks or growls that are low-pitch and held for a long time suggest your dog is defending themselves and won’t back down, often accompanied with a strong and stationary stance. However, more frequent barks might indicate your dog may be worried of a potential attack.

Other dog noises

Barks are just one of the ways dogs can talk to us. In other times, they may grunt, emit low sighs or grumbles to show that they are content around their owners or other dogs.

Howling reminds us of our dogs’ ancestry: wolves. It is a long-range, pack-assembling form of communication. Few dogs will produce this sound as it is mostly stimulated in extremely distressing circumstances, such as keeping it locked away alone or when a dog suffers from separation anxiety.

Puppies can often be heard whining to get attention. If you hear an obvious whining sound, try to figure out what your pup needs - maybe a toilet trip or food.

Understanding your dog’s barks and noises is essential to their care, and helps you to know how your pet is feeling. By listening carefully to our dog’s noises and observing their body language, we can become closer to our dogs, confirming they are man’s best friend.

Always remember that all dogs, like people, are different and the owner will come to understand what their own dog is saying to them, as they begin to understand him or her.

How does your dog communicate with you? Let us know in the comments below…


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