Pet Expressway for Dogs

Understand Different Dog Sounds

Understand Different Dog Sounds

The canine world is made up of a vast array of diverse dog types and sizes. Consequently, there will be different dog sounds and vocalizations for every breed of dog. For example, smaller dogs have a more yapping bark when compared to their larger breeds such as the German Shepherd that have a deep bark.

Dogs communicate not just vocally but in their body language too as they use their tails, facial expressions, and body positions to convey messages. Learning how to read the different signs will be most helpful and will strengthen the bond between you and your dog. In this article, we will be focusing on learning how to understand the different dog sounds and vocalizations with some interpretations of the sound.

It can be more difficult for humans to read and understand bark vocalizations than reading body language. The reason behind this is that you need to focus on both the pitch of the sound (bark) and the rate of repetition. Perhaps if you have a talent for music you could pick this up quickly.


Meanings of Different Range of Pitch Sounds

When describing “pitch” we use the definition from Merrian-Webster which describes pitch as highness or lowness of sound

  • Low Pitch
    This usually means that your dog is giving a warning or there is an impending threat or pending aggression
  • Mid-Range Pitch
    A mid-range pitch can mean neutrality, alertness, or pleasure.
  • High Pitch
    A high pitch can mean fear, or pain, however, it can even mean pleasure if it is high with less sharpness in the tone.


Rate of Repetition of the Dog Bark

When interpreting a dog sound you also need to consider the rate of repetition of the dog vocalization.

  • Rapid Rate of Repetition
    A rapid rate of repetition of a vocalization means excitement and a sense of urgency.
  • Slower Rate of Repetition
    A slower rate of repetition of vocalization is associated more with fleeting thoughts, pleasure & play, and a lower level of intensity in excitement.


Dog Barking - Understand Dog Sounds


Ways to Interpret Dog Bark with Examples

It is easier to interpret dog barks and other vocalizations by combining the pitch with the rate of repetition.

Mid-range pitch with continuous bark
Interpretation: A dog or another person is approaching, be aware

Mid-range pitch with repeated, rapid with pause bark
Interpretation: The dog is alerting the leader of the pack of trouble.

Mid-range pitch with short, sharp multiple barks
Interpretation: The dog is saying hello ie a greeting

Mid-range pitch with a single short sharp bark 
Interpretation: The dog is annoyed and disciplining another dog

Mid-range stutter bark (ha ruff)
Interpretation: The dog is initiating play

Mid-range bark that rises sharply (aka rising bark) = play bark.
Interpretation: The dog is feeling excitement and fun

Low pitch with a slower style but continuous bark
Interpretation: The dog perceives danger and is preparing to defend you and himself

High pitch with a short single yelp bark
Interpretation: The dog is saying ouch

High pitch with a series of yelps
Interpretation: The dog is communicating he is scared or hurt

Keep in mind that low barks can come from dogs who are confident as well as dogs who are afraid and are trying to scare you away. Is the fearful dog who is more likely to bite you.


Dog Growling

When people hear a dog growl many always assume it is a sign of something negative like aggression, however, this is not always the case. There are many different types of growls but the 3 main dog growls include

1. The Play Growl

Many new dog owners may be surprised to learn of play growls. When puppies are playing together you may often hear this type of growl. Older dogs can play growl too and generally speaking these play growls come from the dog’s mouth and they are a sign of friendly interaction. In the past, my old dog use to play growl. It was almost like a growl conversation.

2. Dog Growls from the Throat

The growls that come from your dog’s throat may be a warning to a person or another dog. So it might be best to take precautions and listen to the warning signs before trouble erupts.

3. Dog Growls from the Belly

If you hear growls coming from your dog’s belly then take note as these growls are a sign of immediate impending aggression.


Dog Growl Interpretations

Here are some dog growl interpretations:

Low pitch soft throaty sounding growl
Interpretation: Back off, warning threat

Deep low pitch growl with a bark included
Interpretation: Impending aggression if pressed

Mid to higher pitch growl with a bark
Interpretation: The dog is worried and frightened, lacks confidence but will still defend himself

Mid to higher pitch growl that undulates
Interpretation: The dog is terrified and could fight or flight

Noisy throat growl (sometimes with a stutter bark)
Interpretation: The dog is playing or engaged in a game


Dog Whines

Dogs usually whine when they want or need something. Whining can be quite high-pitched and will almost sound like a plea for something. If your dog is excited and eager to go for a walk he may whine while you are getting ready to bring him out.

Sometimes other dogs may whine when meeting other dogs. This is a form of appeasement behavior and a dog that whines signals to the other dog that he is not a threat and will not pose any danger. Dogs can also whine when left alone due to separation anxiety issues or if they are anxious or scared. Whining can sometimes be combined with barking and yelps. The best way to interpret the dog whine is to look at the overall picture and figure out the reason behind the whine noting the context or environment where the whine was made.


Other Dog Vocalizations Interpretations

Soft whimpering
Interpretation:  The dog is afraid or hurt.

Loud, long-lasting whimpering
Interpretation:  The dog is wanting or demanding something or wants attention.

Sighing with eyes open
Interpretation:  The dog is giving up or is disappointed about something.

Sighing with eyes closed
Interpretation:  The dog is content or feeling pleasure. Perhaps from a belly rub!

Interpretation:  The dog is excited and wants to be on the go.

Interpretation:  An action of a very confident dog perhaps staking his territory or announcing his presence.

Yip howling
Interpretation: Loneliness abandonment, an expression of sadness.

Interpretation:  The leader indicating he wants to be followed by the pack


Further Information

For further information on dog training techniques and to learn more about barking and how to deal with it then check out the Secrets to Dog Training. It’s the complete manual for dog ownership and is designed to fast-track your dog’s learning.

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Keith Byrne

Keith Byrne

From an early age Keith has been around dogs. He has been involved in dog grooming, dog walking, dog sitting and dog showing as well as voluntary work in animal shelters. His aim is to help all dog owners especially newbies learn about dogs and care for them in a loving, caring and fun way.


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