The jury is eternally out on dogs understanding their own barks, but you can bet if the dog along the road goes into woofing overdrive, your pooch will be at the window wondering why. Dogs are smooth operators and have learned to understand our language very well. English, Spanish, or French is a walk in the park for our smart pups, who are always interested in what we have to say.
Assuming their bark means nothing creates an image of a mindless mutt, but all animals appear to have a language of their own, with birds chirping, wolves howling, and cats meowing.
Signs a Dog Recognizes a Bark
We can’t ask our pooches if their bark has a special meaning to them, but it is evident a dog can bark for different reasons. When a stranger knocks on the door, your German shepherd might bark an alert, and if that same stranger comes through the window in the middle of the night, your dog is in guard mode and will low growl with a threatening stance.
Frenzy barking is when a pup goes ballistic at a dog that walks past their fence. It reminds us of a neighbor’s wee Terrier mix that clearly thinks they are a Mastiff and cuts loose on any size dog that dares to stroll by. Hearing the manic bark, the mutt cruising down the street takes offense and tries to put the little squirt in their place. It’s all on as the neighbor’s pup jumps up at the fence, barking wildly.
Fear barking happens when you are preparing your pooch's medicine from the vet. As you walk toward your Bichon Frise, they woof knowing they are about to get those yucky ear-drops for a minor infection. You’ll see this style of yap with a rescue dog that has been mistreated. If you approach them in the wrong way, it can seem aggressive, but the bark is saying “stay away I’m scared.” It’s easy to see why, as they cower in the corner, shaking when you get too close.
Ever left your home and heard your fur-baby barking up a storm? You’d swear they are calling you to come back as they stare out the window, looking sad. This barking plays on the heart-strings as you feel guilty for leaving your pup alone
When a dog stands on something nasty they’ll yelp in pain, and if they keep barking in a high-pitched tone, you know it might be a trip to the vet. It can also happen at the dog park when a dog threatens your pooch.
If a dog wants to play with you, they “ruff” and play-bow at the same time. It’s a way to get your attention that is cute and polite.
When you share your life with woofers, you get to know how and why they bark. It’s a communication that helps us understand what they feel. It might be arrogant to assume a dog couldn’t recognize their own bark.
The History of Barking Dogs
Many moons ago, a beast that today is symbolized spiritually had a dinner date with a two-legged species nick-named Homo sapiens. Wolves fed off man's leftovers and it must have been a mouth-watering treat, as soon after they formed a friendship.
Sounds like a fairy-tale, but something did happen in the past that saw man and wolf together, stalking the big players in the wilderness. Dogs were soon created and carried the instincts of the wolf. Their senses were elevated and supremely better than ours. Dogs were a prodigy of the wolf and human influence.
So, who taught dogs to bark when a wolf is the howling king? Did someone once train them to do it or did evolution make them unique? Wild dogs yip and howl, but you won’t hear that bassy bark.
Dr. Marty Becker refers us to Csaba Molnar, a Hungarian ethologist that believes man caused mutts to bark. It appears a dog barks in order to express their feelings and we are tuned to what they mean. Guesting on Wired, Molnar tells us that dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years and have been crazily bred to suit our needs. Wolf and wild dog pups bark, so it’s likely that humans liked this sound and wanted their pooches to stay barking mad as adults.
In a series of experiments, Molnar discovered the tones and patterns of dog barks were consistent with other pups and the way they vocalize. This would imply that dogs speak a language of their own.
To add credence to this theory, The International Wolf Center says when wolves howl, it’s their way of communicating. Howling has a range of meanings including protecting the pack and keeping their food safe from intruders. Each sound performs a task similar to dogs guarding a property.
Science Suggests Dogs Understand Their Own Barks
To get closer to the truth, a study featured on ABC Science was carried out at a University in Budapest. During the experiment, dogs listened to recordings of Hungarian herding dogs, guard dog barking, and the woofs of a pooch tied to a tree. There were also control noises used including an electric drill and a refrigerator.
The dogs wore a heart monitor so the scientist could gauge their reactions. When they heard other dogs woofing, a spike in their heart-rate was registered. The researchers were sure the dogs could tell one bark from another along with its significance. Up until this study, the thinking was that dogs barked just for humans. That theory has been thrown out of the kennel as its clear woofers communicate with each other in a similar style to their grandfather wolves.
If dogs can recognize who they are by their own scent, the odds are they could recognize the sound of their barks. Science Alert told us that although dogs failed the classic mirror test of self-awareness, they would sniff or mark the area by urinating. “The Sniff-Test of Self-Recognition" evolved and suggested dogs are self-aware.
Training for Barking Dogs
Dogs bark for lots of reasons, but then there are those that just can’t stop. They don’t seem to have a switch you can turn off after they’ve warned you about a stranger or the mutt walking past the house. If dogs can recognize their own bark, you could say the constant barker loves the sound of their own voice.
Barking etiquette is essential for those living in an apartment or next to neighbors who are not big doggy fans. Mouthy mutts can cause mayhem but there are ways to help your pooch tone down the vocals.
Dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell sees dogs that bark at anything and are driving their guardians up the wall. Over-the-top woofing has a cause and this needs to be established before the problem can be solved. Apart from the demonic demand-barking that can really stress you out, some dogs go bark crazy when someone rings the doorbell.
The family pooch feels free to bark and bark while you try to calm them and open the door. This woofer is ruling the roost and taking charge of who comes into the home. When the doorbell rings, they are there barking before you can see who it is. Desensitization is the key to changing this barker’s behavior.
You can start by sitting next to the door and having a friend or neighbor ring the doorbell. You might need earmuffs for this one, but try to ignore the dog barking and the continuous doorbell sound. Wait till the dog stops woofing, then open the door. Let them say hello to the mystery guest as a reward for being quiet. This will take time and you’ll need to do around ten minutes at a time until your bark buster gets the message.
When early man encouraged the bark, they might not have known it could get out of hand. Dog owners are fairly adept at knowing what each bark means. Its likely dogs know its them barking at the postman.
By a Japanese Chin lover Linda Cole
Published: 05/23/2018, edited: 04/06/2020