Just as humans need to vocally communicate with one another, dogs have their own system of communication. You probably know that dogs bark for a reason, but do you really know what each sound means? Not all dogs communicate the same way and it can vary from breed to breed, however the list below will provide some guidelines to help you decipher your dog’s message when he or she barks. It is also important to be aware of a dog’s body language, such as if a bark is accompanied by a wagging tail or showing teeth.
A few loud barks that are not high-pitched: This is generally a call for recognition. The dog is calling attention either to herself or to something that she is unsure about and needs a second opinion. Usually the dog is neither in danger nor pain and is simply making an observation in the same way a human would say “Hey, look!"
Continuous barking that does not change in pitch: Something has caught your dog’s attention, or you are expected to perform a task. This can be the sighting of a neighbor walking his own dog without coming too close or the sight of a bird up in a tree. If a dog is waiting to be let outside or the food bowl is empty, this can be a reminder that something needs to be done and should be done now.
Continuous barking that changes in pitch or loudness: This might start out as a situation in the section above that has escalated. The neighbor is now walking up our driveway, and I must inform the family that we have a guest! This can also be an incessant call for playtime. If the dog is barking at another dog, a human, or another pet, this might be a sign of “Hey, play with! Play with me!”
Barking (either continuous or in short intervals) that is low in pitch: Check to see if your dog’s fur is standing up, her tail is between her legs, or something has happened that has startled her. This type of barking is usually a warning and accompanied by growling. It is typically used when a low, quiet growl does not solve the problem. If there are no other signs of fear or aggression, this can also be the same kind of call to attention as mentioned in the first section, but your dog may just have a lower bark than other dogs.
High-pitched barking or yelps: These are cause for concern, since they are usually indications of pain. If dogs are playing and someone suddenly yelps, it is a good idea to check for any injuries. Smaller dogs and puppies generally have higher pitched barks while larger, older dogs generally have lower pitched barks. Make note of what is a normal sounding bark and investigate when a bark sounds that is higher or sharper than usual.
Continuous barking broken up by intervals of silence: “Hello...Anyone there?” This kind of bark is consistent with boredom or loneliness. You might not hear this one frequently if you are home, but might from a neighborhood dog. If a dog is left outside for too long and wants to come back inside, she might use this one to search for her humans. Some dogs have been known to use this one if they are separated from other pets or the children in their household.
Low, stuttering barks (either single or multiple): This is the translation of “Let’s play!” or “How fun!” Dogs usually make this one when they want you to throw the ball, play tug-o-war, or meet a new, friendly playmate.
As always, use your best judgement and try to understand what is being asked of you. Look at body language, take in every situation, and try to make note of what is your dog’s normal barking behavior. Once you understand why your dog is barking, it will be much easier to stop the barking and to keep your pal happy.
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By Callie T.