As a nation of animal lovers, many of us try to talk to our pets. Of course, sadly, most of us do not have the talents of Dr Doolittle, so we do the next best thing – make noises that we hope our furry friends will understand!
There are many cat lovers that spend time not only talking to their cats in human language but also meowing at them and hoping that their felines understand. In the same way, many dog owners bark at their dogs in various different tones in the hopes that their pooch understands what they are saying. So, what exactly does your dog think when you are barking at him?
Signs Your Dog Understands Your Bark
One thing you have to bear in mind is that there is no such thing as an official dog language. When dogs communicate with one another it is through body language and tone. So, when you hear dogs barking at one another the key thing that they are listening to is the type and tone of the bark.
There are certain barks that are aggressive, others that are inquisitive, while other bark tones may indicate fear, and so on. Therefore, your dog may not understand what you are saying (and let’s face it, neither would you, given that there is no specific bark for specific words and phrases). However, he may recognize the tone that you use when you bark at him.
If you bark at your dog and he starts growling or backing away, the chances are that you have used an aggressive tone. In other situations, your dog may start wagging his tail and coming toward you, which indicates that you have used a pleasant tone when you barked.
Sometimes, you may just completely confuse your dog with your barking and he may simply sit there cocking his head and looking bemused. Looking out for these signs will give you an indication of the type of bark you have used and how it has been perceived by your pooch.
Looking at your pet’s body language when you bark is an excellent indicator of whether he has understood your bark tone – and what he thinks you are trying to say. If your dog takes on an aggressive stance or puts his ears and tail down, you are best to stop barking because he clearly doesn’t like the tone.
On the other hand, if he starts wagging his tail, jumping up excitedly, and is clearly happy, the chances are he likes what you are ‘barking’ to him. If you see him sit there with his head to one side, you can try changing your tone because he may just be confused about that fact that his human is standing there barking without rhyme or reason!
There are a number of additional signs that you can look out for in a bid to work out whether your dog understands the tone of your bark. Of course, your dog cannot translate your bark into actual words, so there is no point barking at him to tell him his dinner is ready because that won’t mean anything to him.
However, some signs that indicate he understands the tone of the bark include being attentive, sitting down, alertness, ears and tail down, ears alert and tail wagging, growling, barking back, and excitement.
History of Dog Barking
Over the years, experts have carried out studies into dog barking. While domestic dogs such as our beloved pet pooches bark frequently, their wild counterparts do not tend to do the same. Some believe that it is the high level of interaction with humans amongst domesticated dogs that has resulted in this frequent barking.
Dogs bark to communicate with one another as well as with their owners. While we may not know what the dog is trying to say, we can often work out what the dog wants or how he feels by the tone of the bark. Studies over the years have also found that the tone of dog barks closely resemble one another based on the type of bark. For instance, the tone of aggressive barking is very similar between different dogs as is the tone of playful barking.
This means that when we try to bark at our bemused pooches, we need to keep these historical investigations in mind. This enables us to try and emulate the right type of bark rather than giving off the wrong signals to our pets by using a bark tone that is totally inappropriate. While you may not realize it, you could end up showing signs of aggression in your bark when it was not your intention to do so.
The Science of Dog Tones
When it comes to the science of dog barking, it is all about the tone, which is what researchers have come to realize over the years.
Dogs use different pitches and tones when they bark. The tone of your dog’s bark when he sees a stranger coming up the driveway is generally very different to the tone of his bark when you come through the front door.
The first bark may indicate protectiveness and signs of aggression while the latter is more about excitement and happiness at you having come back home. High pitched barking often indicates excitement while deep barking accompanied by growling can be far more sinister.
Training Yourself and Your Pooch
If you want to train yourself to bark in the right tones while also training your dog to recognize the type of message you are trying to portray, you will need to get some practice in. This is something that you can do simply by spending time listening to your own pooch and what the tone of his bark is like in different situations.
So, if you know that your dog is being playful or is excited about going for a walk, listen to the tone of his bark. If you think he feels threatened, aggressive, or fearful, listen to the changes in the tone of his bark. When he is wary about strangers compare his bark tone to the tone that he displays when someone he knows and likes is around. This will then give you a far better idea of the tone that you should aim to use when barking at your dog.
The other thing to do is practice your barking on your own dog – let’s face it, you would look very strange if you went off to the park and started barking at someone else’s dog! Try out different tones on your pooch and see how he reacts to each one.
With some practice and time, you will come to realize which of your bark tones is positive and which ones are negative. This will then make it far easier for you to put across the right message to your dog through barking rather than just doing it randomly and hoping for the best.
When it comes to barking, the training needs to involve both you and your pet. You need to learn about what different bark tones mean and how to emulate them effectively while your dog needs to work as your training aid by listening to your barks and reacting to them.
Written by a Boston Terrier lover Reno Charlton
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/02/2018, edited: 04/06/2020