Ever wonder what that dog in the park is really barking about? Does it sound friendly, aggressive or is the dog trying to tell its owner something?
Many of us think "a bark is just a bark” and there’s nothing deep and meaningful about it - it’s just what dogs do. People vocalize and you instinctively know the intention by the tone of their voice - rather than the words.
Do dogs have a secret “woof” language that allows them to communicate with other dogs and perhaps us? There’s more to this barking mad story that needs to be told so if you want to know why dogs bark - get ready to discover what your Lab or Beagle is trying to say!
Why Do Dogs Bark?
When a dog is on guard duty, their bark is a warning - while a high pitched yelp can mean they are happy to see you're home. A dogs"woof," can be defined by the pitch it’s generated in a similar way to humans. Our higher sounding voice comes from seeing a cute baby in a stroller or greeting friends at the mall. The lower tones are more serious and may indicate our annoyance at someone or a message we are trying to convey.
Dogs share a similar range of tones so if a dog is growling and barking at you in the park? You might wish you were somewhere else. If the bad boy's ears are pinned back and he’s barring his pearly whites - its game over as he might be ready to attack!
Dogs are emotional creatures that think and feel a lot. Studies show they pick up on our vibes and interact in parallel ways. Many of us would get an F for "Dog Barking 101 - when our pups want affection or food" - but to be fair, a lot of us haven't got a clue what that dog barking means!
When a dog howls, it’s a kickback to ancestral times making it cute when your wee Maltese recalls her distant wolfy-wail. When it's combined with a continuous yap, look for a dog in your neighborhood that has been chained or left alone.
Whimpering is a washed out version of the bark, as a dog projects its lack of confidence or fear. The saddest thing is to hear a pup whining, especially if it's in the neighbors yard.
One of the nicest sounds your mutt will make is the “aww ruff” sound, which usually happens when you’re playing ball in the park.
Negative, out of control barking means you have to shut your curtains and never answer the door. No, seriously, it’s not fun when a dog uses his vocal chords to control and bark at anything that moves. This goes for demand barking when a pup learns they can get what they want. The barking won't stop till it 's corrected or you leave a note for Rover - “gone fishing won’t be back soon.”
Dogs have sure learned the good bad and ugly of human nature and, like kids, mimic our every move. They can bark and wag their tail until you surrender to their demands.
Their body language explains the “get out of here punk, ” bark as a street dog wanders into their yard. Their hackles will be up and there will be snarls all around as your pooch defends his turf. A fun time at the park sees a relaxed, happy pup - yapping as they race for the ball. Their puppy head tilts as they drop it at your feet, panting from running around.
Now we are more enlightened about the various ways a dog can bark - it's time to look at the history of where it all began!
- Head tilting
- Hackles Up
- Barring Their Teeth
The History of Barking Dogs
Dogs came from wolves - an extinct grey wolf to be exact. Since then, geneticists have been battling with the precise time dogs were domesticated. They have found remains of an actual dog that puts the time zone around 14,000 years, but it’s a bit of a blur when the grand-daddy of dogs no longer exists. Various breeds of dogs were seen 20000-3000 years ago, looking similar to a Greyhound and appearing on Egyptian and Asian art. The Victorian era saw dog breeding escalate and the formation of the English kennel club took place in 1873.
Did you know that only wolf puppies bark, while adult wolves howl, yip and whine? It is thought the “bark” was a product of modern, doggy evolution as a way to interact with humans. How a canine bark emerged is a mystery to us all - somewhere in dogs' domestication, a howl became a bark.
The classic "woof," is helping the police force get the bad guy every time, as they teach potential K9 pups to bark on command. Herding dogs bark to steer cattle while sentry dogs in the Military sound the stranger alarm. Other working dogs are taught to bark on cue, as well.
Some dogs bark more than others - including the boisterous Beagle who gets the supreme vocal award, with yappy Yorkies, mouthy Maltese, barking Boston Terriers and rowdy Jack Russell Terriers following fast behind.
The Science of Why Dogs Bark
Science has its ear to the barking sound of dogs, with a study that verifies dogs have a unique repertoire of woofs. A professor of animal behavior at the Budapest University has always been intrigued to know how our pawsome pals communicate. He fitted a variety of dogs with heart monitors then exposed them to different scenarios of barking.
Every time a dog heard a contrasting bark, their heart rate literally jumped. Recordings of a dog being tied up and left alone, herding dogs in action and a guard dog barking were heard, as all dogs reacted with a change in heart rate to each sound.
It’s thought dogs communicate with each other through barking and learned this art of conversation from us. Back in the wolf days, there wasn’t a lot of bow-wowing to be heard, so it appears our creative canines evolved their dialogue. It’s hoped further assessment will reveal the covert signals between dogs and their context.
If you think Scientists are barking up the wrong tree with their analysis, take a moment to hear the doggy tale of a courageous mutt whose barking saved his family from a fire. “The Seattle Times,” reported a dog's barking woke up his family who were able to get out in time.
Dogs communicating with their bark have saved countless lives, including a two-year-old boy who was saved from entering a pond when the family dog looking out the window started barking until the boy’s grandmother went to investigate.
How many dog owners have looked at their pups and uttered, “If only you could talk?” A futurologist has predicted, in 2050 your Labradoodle or Blue Heeler will be able to speak. That is, with the aid of a vocal enhancing implant. If you think that’s canine crazy - look what they can already do. One super-Collie can decipher sentences and over 1200 words while most mutts can read your emotions and maybe even your thoughts.Could you handle chatting with your Cavalier King Charles over breakfast or debating politics with your Doberman pal? Their opinions would sure be interesting as would their views on how we run the world!
Training Dogs Appropriate Barking
Untrained dogs can be barking bonkers – causing a few headaches in the home and neighborhood. It’s hard to know what any of their conversations mean when they continually woof at the mailman or anyone that walks by your house. They are in territory overload and need to learn to “speak” on command.
A cool, calm and collected dogster will bark to keep you safe. Living in close proximity to others in built-up cities has denied their right to freely woof. Keeping our pooches quiet is a 21st-century task.
Basic training is, therefore, a must as the apartment you live in with talky Terriers has super-thin walls. It’s relatively easy to teach your dog to talk on command using treat rewards. If you choose to use a clicker, ask your dog to speak and if he does, give him that delicious treat. This can also be reinforced with a positive “good boy or girl!”
You could instead use a favorite toy for training, as your hound will think it's play time and let out a hearty woof. Whenever he barks when requested - reward him with the toy. You may need to add a hand signal if the barking persists. The idea is to get one bark only - on command.
Hearing a dog bark is like listening to a melody without words. You embrace the emotion of the piece, but without the story being told, you can only guess what it's about. That’s where many folks are at when it comes to understanding what a dog bark means. It’s fairly obvious when they bark angrily at a telemarketer knocking on the door, but not every “woof” is so easy to comprehend. It is said we originally taught dogs to bark but never took the time to analyze their vocal thoughts. Through studies and curiosity we are finding out our favorite, furry-stars have a language of their own.
How to React to Your Dog Barking Appropriately
Offer yummy chicken treats.
Thank them for barking at an intruder.
Reward them with a favorite toy if they learn to "speak" on command.
Take them for a run or walk in the park.