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Decoding the Canine Language: What Does Your Dog's Bark Mean?

MYUNGHO HAN

Posted on September 26 2018

Decoding the Canine Language: What Does Your Dog's Bark Mean?

Dogs  have  been  our  trustworthy  companions  since  the  dawn  of  time.  Nowadays,  no  matter  where  you  go,  there  will  always  be  dogs.  They  have  proven  themselves  to  be  trustworthy,  loyal,  and  understanding.  They  always  seem  to  be  able  to  get  what  we  want  to  convey.  However,  have  we  ever  got  what  they  say  even  just  a  little?  Us  dogs  trainers  have  been  training  our  pups  to  understand  what  us  humans  say  for  a  long  time.  We  spent  such  a  great  deal  getting  them  to  see  what  we  are  saying,  but  we  never  put  any  effort  into  trying  to  learn  what  our  canine  companions  are  trying  to  tell  us.  Our  pups  communicate  through  a  lot  of  ways,  from  their  scent  to  their  body  language,  their  barks,  their  whines,  etc.

Out  of  all  the  ways  dogs  try  to  communicate  with  us,  the  one  that  is  the  most  straightforward  is  the  barks.  You  may  think  that  all  dog  barks  are  the  same,  but  there  is  far  more  complexity  involved.  Barks  that  dogs  made  in  one  situation  will  sound  completely  different  than  ones  made  in  another  situation.  They  also  are  far  more  likely  to  carry  different  meanings.  The  barks  are  a  lot  more  emotionally  complex  than  we  believe  them  to  be.  Usually,  we  all  believe  dogs  bark  to  get  us  to  pay  them  attention  or  when  they  are  excited.  But  that  is  not  the  case,  they  also  bark  when  they  are  lonely,  irritated,  frightened,  etc.  

 

 

 

What do the pitches of dogs’ barks mean?


When a dog gives out low pitched barks, it usually means that the pup is giving out threats, it is angry and aggressive. Obviously, this kind of barks means “stay away”. On the other hand, the high pitch barks usually mean the opposite, either it means that the pup is requesting permission to come closer or it is giving out permission for another to come closer. Now, why do they use this rule of pitches? The answer is relatively simple, as the big and dangerous creatures usually give out really low pitch sound. Even though the dogs are usually relatively small to medium-sized, but when a dog tries to communicate, he knows that the other animals in the vicinity are listening to his sounds, so he can utilize the pitch to make them understand what he wants.

For  example,  if  the  pup  wants  the  other  animals  to  stay  out  of  its  way,  they  can  send  out  a  lower  pitch  signal,  which  will  suggest  that  it  is  a  larger  and  more  dangerous  creature.  On  the  other  hand,  a  higher  pitch  signal  like  a  whimper  can  suggest  that  it  is  rather  small  and  it  is  safe  to  approach.  Likewise,  even  the  bigger  pup  can  use  the  higher  pitch  signals  like  whimpering  or  whining  when  they  want  to  convey  that  they  mean  to  harm  when  they  are  approaching  another  smaller  animal.  Another  example  is  when  a  stranger  comes  into  your  house,  your  dog  will  bark  at  him  in  a  generally  lower  pitch  than  what  he  barks  at  you  when  you  come  home. 

 

How about the duration of the barks?

In  general,  if  the  dog  is  barking  in  a  long  duration,  it  is  likely  that  he  is  contemplating  about  what  the  signal  will  mean  and  what  will  his  next  behavior  be.  Consequently,  if  a  dominant  pup  that  is  holding  his  ground  with  no  intention  of  backing  down  decided  to  threaten  by  growling,  then  his  sound  will  be  low  pitched,  long  and  sustained.  On  the  other  hand,  if  he  growls  in  shorter  bursts  that  are  held  briefly,  then  it  means  that  there  is  surely  a  hint  of  fear  mixing  in  and  the  pup  is  worried  that  he  will  not  be  able  to  handle  an  attack. 

 

What  does  the  frequency  of  a  dog’s  bark  mean?  

 

It is common knowledge that the more frequent a dog keeps repeating a sound, the more excited or urgent he is feeling when facing a certain situation. Thus, when a dog is repeating a sound really fast and at a continuous pace, then it is likely that they are saying that the situation is quite urgent and important. On the other hand, if the pup does not repeat the sound or the repetition is really stretched out, then there is a high chance that he has lost interest and is not really bothered about the situation at hand.


For example, if your dog is out in the yard and is barking at something one or two times in about a few seconds, then it is likely that he is not really interested in or giving too much regard to what he has discovered. However, if he is giving many rapid barks in a quick succession and repeats them many times, then he really believes the thing he has found to be really urgent and extremely important.

 

Some  example  of  the  most  common  dog  barks  explained  

Now,  I  will  put  out  a  list  of  some  of  the  most  common  and  recognizable  barks  along  with  their  most  universally  accepted  interpretations.  However,  as  we  still  haven’t  managed  to  completely  figure  out  about  the  way  canine  communicate  and  some  recent  researches  have  pointed  out  that  animal  communication  is  far  more  complex  than  we  initially  thought,  so  the  same  bark  may  have  a  completely  unique  meaning  if  the  context  and  the  situation  are  different. 

 

1.  Greeting  

This  is  what  a  dog  typically  uses  to  greet  when  they  someone  or  another  pup  that  they  are  familiar  with.  It  usually  contains  one  or  two  short  and  sharp  barks  in  a  medium  or  high  pitch.  This  is  literally  “Hello!”  in  the  human  language. 

2. Alarm

This  is  the  possibly  most  heard  form  of  all  the  barkings  a  dog  can  make  in  its  lifetime.  Your  pup  has  a  high  chance  of  using  this  signal  when  they  feel  an  intruder  getting  inside  their  territory,  something  really  serious  is  happening  that  the  family  needs  to  be  alerted.  It  contains  continuous  and  fast  barks  in  a  series  of  two  or  four  and  in  a  medium  pitch.

3. Playtime!

This signal is usually what a dog will give when it wants to play. There is a high chance that you will hear it when your pup is waiting for you to throw the ball to them or before starting a game of tug. There is also a high chance for you to hear this when your dog is playing around with another canine friend. It usually consists of a stuttered bark in a medium pitch.

4. Ready to fight

This  comes  from  a  confident  dog  that  is  annoyed  and  ready  to  fight.  Your  dog  will  also  use  this  signal  when  he  needs  support  from  his  pack  when  he  is  faced  with  a  threat.  It  is  usually  a  growl  followed  immediately  with  a  low  pitch  bark.

5. Ouch!

This  is  what  a  dog  uses  when  he  was  unexpectedly  hurt  or  felt  a  sharp  pain  suddenly  that  instantly  goes  away.  We  usually  hear  this  when  we  accidentally  step  on  our  pups’  paws.  It  is  a  really  short  and  high  pitch  yelp. 

6. Surprise

This  is  what  a  startled  or  surprised  dog  will  release.  It  may  be  similar  to  the  “Ouch!”signal,  but  as  it  is  only  caused  by  surprise,  so  it  is  generally  a  single  sound  that  is  lower  in  pitch  than  the  “Ouch!”  signal.

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