Why Do Dogs Bark And What Does It All Mean
If you put 10 dog owners in a room and played their dog's bark along with the other 9, chances are each person would recognise their own dog's bark.
Not only that, they would probably be able to tell if the dog was in a happy, unhappy or playful mood.
This goes to show that a dog communicates through it's bark in a number of different situations and the fact is that humans have grown to be in tune with it for just a few of those regular situations.
But what about the more complex messages. When and why do dogs bark and what is it telling us?
Well, dogs bark for many different reasons. Sometimes it can be due to separation anxiety, or seeking attention.
Other times it can be a way of greeting another dog or asking it to play. Dogs will also bark if they are alarmed or frightened by a noise or unfamiliar occurrence when they feel on guard or vulnerable.
In the most part a dog's bark is broken down into three main parts:
Here's what different pitches in a dog's bark might suggest:
High-pitched bark: A high-pitched bark is generally associated with excitement, fear, or anxiety. Puppies often have higher-pitched barks than adult dogs. If a dog is barking excitedly or out of fear, the pitch of the bark may be higher.
Low-pitched bark: A low-pitched bark usually indicates a more serious or threatening demeanor. Dogs may use a low-pitched bark when they perceive a potential threat or are trying to assert dominance.
Constant pitch: Some dogs have a consistent pitch in their barks, which can be their natural vocalization style. This pitch can vary between high and low depending on the situation and the dog's emotional state.
Varied pitch: Dogs are capable of using a varied pitch in their barks to communicate different emotions or intentions. For example, when playing, a dog might use a range of pitches to express excitement or enthusiasm.
The duration of a dog's bark can provide valuable information about their emotional state, intent, and the underlying reason for the barking. Here are some general observations about what the duration of a dog's bark might tell us:
Short, quick barks: Short and quick barks, often in rapid succession, can indicate alertness or a response to a sudden stimulus. For example, if a dog hears a noise outside or sees a person approaching, they may bark rapidly to draw attention to the potential threat or excitement.
Prolonged barking: If a dog barks continuously for an extended period, it might indicate frustration, boredom, anxiety, or an attempt to get attention. Some dogs may exhibit prolonged barking when they are left alone for long periods or when they want something like food, playtime, or companionship.
Intermittent barking: Barking that occurs intermittently with pauses between each bark may suggest uncertainty or hesitation. Dogs may bark intermittently when they are unsure about a situation or are trying to figure out how to respond to it.
Single or few barks: A single or a few barks may signify a mild warning or a way of expressing interest. For instance, if a dog hears a noise but is not overly concerned, they may let out a single bark to acknowledge it.
Continuous barking without breaks: Dogs that bark continuously without any breaks may be displaying frustration, distress, or excessive excitement. In some cases, this type of barking can also be a learned behavior, where the dog has realized that continuous barking gets them the desired attention or response.
The frequency of a dog's bark refers to how often the dog barks or the rate at which the barks occur. The frequency of barking can provide insights into the dog's emotional state, the intensity of their response, and the reason behind their vocalization. Here are some observations about what the frequency of a dog's bark might tell us:
High frequency: A dog barking at a high frequency, with rapid and closely spaced barks, often indicates excitement, enthusiasm, or a sense of urgency. This type of barking is common when a dog is excited about playtime, greeting their owner, or anticipating something enjoyable.
Low frequency: Barking at a low frequency, with longer intervals between each bark, might suggest a more serious or threatening demeanor. A dog may use low-frequency barking to communicate a warning or assert dominance in certain situations.
Inconsistent frequency: If a dog's barking frequency varies, it could signify uncertainty or confusion. The dog may be unsure about how to respond to a particular stimulus or situation, leading to an irregular pattern of barking.
Continuous frequency: Dogs that bark continuously without any breaks may be highly aroused or anxious. Continuous barking can be a sign of distress or a way of seeking attention or relief from discomfort.
Sudden changes in frequency: If a dog's barking frequency suddenly changes from calm to intense, it may indicate that something has triggered a strong reaction. This could be due to fear, surprise, or encountering a potential threat.
As with the duration of barking, it's crucial to consider other contextual cues and the dog's body language to fully understand the meaning behind their barking frequency. Dogs use barking as a form of communication, and the frequency can vary based on their breed, personality, past experiences, and the specific situation they are in.One thing not to do is shout at your dog when it barks. To the dog this just sounds like you are barking back at it and is very counter productive. The best thing to do is reinforce and reward good behaviour, so when the dog is quiet say "Quiet, good boy/girl" and then reward. In a calm voice you can point out that barking is not acceptable with your choice of command but never shout.
Remember, do not get frustrated and shout at your dog when it barks. To the dog this just sounds like you are barking back at it and is very counter productive. The best thing to do is reinforce and reward good behaviour, so when the dog is quiet say "Quiet, good boy/girl" and then reward. In a calm voice you can point out that barking is not acceptable with your choice of command but never shout.
It's essential to be attentive to your dog's vocalizations and behavior to develop a better understanding of what they are trying to communicate. If the barking appears excessive or problematic, consider seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer or a veterinarian behaviorist to address any potential issues and promote more appropriate communication and behavior.
If there is a real problem with barking do try to sort it out as quickly as you can. The problem can become ingrained in the dog's regular pattern of behaviour and the longer you leave it the more difficult it is to fix.
If all else fails do make sure that your dog's barking is not down to a medical problem or form of senility. Some very insecure dogs will also bark a lot so it is a good idea to reassure them and comfort them as much as you can.