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Chihuahua dog barking

No Words, Just Woofs: What Sound Does a Dog Make?

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What sound does a dog make? Dogs don’t have words to express emotions or needs, so they use sound. And dogs make different sounds to express their feelings and grab the attention of humans and other animals. Scientists believe dogs use sound as well as volume, just like humans use tone to change their meaning. Barking is not the only sound a dog will make while communicating either.

Some sounds are readily discernible such as the whine of hunger or “I want a treat and I know it’s in your pocket!” With other sounds, we know instantly that our beloved pooch is hurt or is in pain. We recognize the huff when he finally gets comfortable on the bed, the yip that means he needs to go outside, and the gurgle he makes when he wants his belly rubbed. 

No Words, Just Woofs: What Sound Does a Dog Make?

Alternatively, what does the sound of a bark mean? Each breed has its own distinct sound. The best we can do is judge by the pitch and tone of the bark what the animal is trying to convey. For example, a high-pitched whine or howl might signify someone trying to break in. A deep-throated growl/bark might alert the owner that the guy who just knocked on the front door smells or sounds suspicious. You see what we mean. 

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Many studies have been conducted to learn the inflection in a dog’s sound. One study, for instance, used a bone in an otherwise empty room. A dog was placed in the room. Unbeknownst to the dog, a tape recorder was placed behind the bone. As the dog approached the bone, he heard a “playful” growl. Upon a second approach, the dog heard a “stranger nearby” growl. The third approach netted him a “my bone, get lost” growl. The dog grabbed the bone through the first two growls, but left it alone upon hearing the third. 

So we know that a dog’s sound means different things in different contexts. Among other dogs or animals of their family such as wolves, sound is social. A yip or howl might summon others like him to a meeting or to dine on whatever prey was caught that day. Wild animals don’t make much noise for fear of being the main course at dinner. 

Among people, however, a dog’s sound is meant to convey a desire or warning. Domestic dogs have to understand people’s tone of voice, their actions, and their moods in order to know how to act accordingly. Have you ever noticed how shy a dog can be? It’s a safe bet his owner is shy, too. Mean dogs come from a variety of families, including owners who use them in dog fights or have kids that make them mean by teasing and hurting them. The dogs adjust themselves to their people’s attitudes in order to survive. The majority of domesticated dogs live with families that love them and take good care of them. The sounds they make are in response to the people.

What Does a Dog’s Bark Sound Like?

Big dog is barking

Smaller dogs tend to have a yappy or high-pitched arf. Their larger and medium sized cousins have a deeper woof-woof. There seems to be a correlation between the size of a dog and the depth of their bark but none between sexes.

Some breeds, such as the Alaskan malamute, do more than bark. They yargle or Christmas tree bark, which mimics a wolf’s cry more than it does a pack of dogs. If you hear two or more together, they will resound off one another like wolves too.

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The difference is a malamute will make the sound when among other breeds or alone. It can sound aggressive, but it is not. Malamutes will make the same call if it is mealtime, time to walk or play, or if company shows up in the driveway.

Almost every breed will make additional sounds. Sometimes these are soft whimpers, and other times they are deep growls and snarls. They all play a role in a dog’s ability to communicate.

Other Common Names for Dog Bark Sounds

  • Yip
  • Yarf
  • Yap
  • Ruff
  • Bow-wow
  • Wuff-wuff
  • Borf

What Determines the Sound of a Dog’s Bark?

First, you should understand that canine communication is complex. Science can show how a dog uses their vocal chords to emit and control their bark. The shape of the vocal chords can affect the sound a dog makes too.

The rest is an educated guess based on situation, body language, including head position, and the shape of their mouth.

Types of Dog Barks

While any given dog can have a multitude of barks, science categorizes them into six subgroups before breaking them down further by breed or emotion.

Hearing the tone of a dog’s bark can lead people to think that dog is vicious or friendly. Do not let that be your guide in determining a dog’s temperament. You always have to consider the emotions and the situation before approaching a dog.

The Excitement Bark

No Words, Just Woofs: What Sound Does a Dog Make?

The excitement bark generally combines rapid high-pitched vocalizations and whining noises. The dog’s tail usually wags fast, including their entire rear end. Some untrained dogs might also leap in the air or on their owners.

You can further see the excitement in their face and eyes. Much like humans, they can show facial expressions that match their moods.

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The Warning Bark

A warning bark can prelude another type of bark. It can be loud or under a dog’s breath. A growl or snarl might come afterward.

They might change their pitch, depending on who or what they are warning. For example, a dog might show more restraint with their owners versus another animal or human they do not know. However, always listen to the dog so that the situation does not escalate further.

The Fear Bark

Owners or visitors can often mistake a fear bark for excitement, but the body language and facial expressions of the dog can tell the difference. Sometimes, at the end of the dog’s bark, they release a howl.

Dogs experience fear like humans. It takes time and a gentle hand to assist dogs in overcoming their fears and anxiety. Some situations never resolve, and avoidance is the only solution. In many cases, owners can work with their veterinarian and trainers to help their dog.

The Guard Bark

No Words, Just Woofs: What Sound Does a Dog Make?

A guard bark is difficult to mistake for any other type of bark. Deep barks, snarls, and growls let people know it perceives a threat.

If you have ever walked past a guard dog, you have likely heard the aggression invoking fear released in the animal’s tone. This is more than a warning bark. It usually escalates on approach or if the threat lingers.

The dog’s body language changes too, but it can vary. Some dogs make their bodies ridged and still with their fur standing on edge. Other dogs will lunge and claw toward the threat.

Do not allow a dog’s tail to determine their type of bark or whether or not to approach it. This can be a costly mistake. A dog can be issuing the guard bark and wag their tail as if excited.

If approaching a dog showing aggressive body signals combined with a guard bark, it is best to stop if possible. The same applies to a dog that roams freely and is issuing a guarding bark.

The Frustration Bark

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Frustration barking is a dog’s way of saying help me. Even quiet breeds can fall into the cycle of endless barking when their owner is away or too busy to meet their energetic needs.

The learned bark is not the same as training a dog to bark. It is looking for a certain reaction, such as a treat, petting, attention, or the sound of their owner’s voice. It is basic cause and effect an owner has taught their dog, and they do it without their owner’s command.

What Else Affects a Dog’s Bark?

Like humans, a dog’s emotions can change their bark, but age and breed also play a role. The amount of dogs present can alter it as well as the dog’s perceived job.

Puppies are generally vocal and harmonious in their barking. They also play off one another, so when one puppy begins making sounds, the rest will join. However, during social play, you can often have one or two puppies making sounds while the rest watch.

This is not to say an older dog will bark less than a puppy, but puppies rapidly learn the social rules from their pack. One of the many ways they will learn to communicate amongst themselves, with their mother, other animals, and humans is through their bark.

A dog’s lineage can have a direct effect on pitch, type, and bark frequency. This is why some breed’s barks vary in the sound they make. Of course, this is a general opinion scientists have gathered from observation.

Evidence might support a dog’s role has some bearing on their bark. Working dogs tend to be more vocal due to selective breeding; however, they exercise this more when they are actively performing their job and might be quieter at other times or in other surroundings.

Vocal Dog Breeds

Brown dog is howling
  • Huntaway—bred specifically for vocal sheep herding
  • Alaskan malamute—very talkative and socially friendly dogs will greet anyone they see
  • Siberian husky—they are vocal like the Alaskan malamute
  • German shepherd—this working guardian breed will alert their owners to anything and everyone
  • Beagle—will bark at anything and everyone, including leaves
  • Basset hounds—more of a howl than a bark, they can bark at anything that smells different
  • Terrier breeds—good luck finding one in the entire subgroup of dog breeds that is quiet

The Least Vocal Dog Breeds

  • Collie—they generally show great restraint and bark only when necessary
  • Chinese Shar-Pei—while they are watchdogs, they will generally bark only at real threats
  • Rhodesian ridgeback—very protective dog breed that uses its body more than its bark
  • Mastiff—this breed does not need to waste its breath due to its domineering size
  • Great Dane—when it does choose to bark, it will create a deep sound like no other dog does

No breed is completely silent, but some practice a little more control than others do by barking only when they feel it is necessary. Other breeds have a slight variance in the shape of their vocal chords that changes that distinctly alters their bark.

Many of the breeds on this list can still bark, and they will bark if their owner is not meeting their needs. Dogs can bark excessively if they have not received enough exercise.

Even if an owner chooses to have their dog’s vocal chords severed, the dog can still produce a sound.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Domestic animal behavior still baffles scientists and specialists, barking included. This mostly occurs because of the lineage of dogs, which mitochondrial DNA traces back to wolves. However, wild wolves are not notorious for barking.

Dogs do tend to mimic their owners, and humans converse frequently. One theory states that they learned the behavior during early domestication as a way to express themselves to their owners. While it makes sense, it does not account for a dog’s communication with other dogs and species.

The above theory does not account for why some breeds are quieter than other breeds, such as the basenji that many consider the bark-less dog. Collies and golden retrievers can also make the quiet dog list, but only under certain circumstances.

Reasons a Dog Barks

  • Boredom
  • Danger
  • Scared
  • Excited
  • Playful
  • Happy
  • Lonely
  • Sad
  • Dominance
  • Hungry
  • They want or need their owner’s attention
  • Someone trained them to bark

Of course, this is not an inclusive list. The majority of listed reasons have an emotion-based motivation behind them. Bark alone, however, is one piece of a larger puzzle.

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Body language and a dog’s perception of their surroundings greatly influence their barking. The more that science learns about the cognitive and speech ability of dogs, the more humans learn the why behind their dog’s barking behavior.

Last update on 2020-09-14

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