Canine Vocalizations How To Speak And Understand Doggish

The Resource for Everything About Dogs

Canine Vocalizations How To Speak And Understand Doggish

by Lex Fredericks

Canine Vocalizations;
Learning to Speak Dog.

Dogs rely mostly on body language to communicate with us and other animals, but learning to identify your dog?s vocalizations is another useful tool to reach the level of understanding that enables true freedom with our canine companions. Dogs strive to learn basic components of our language and learning to understand their language Is not only the conscientious thing to do, it helps us really understand what our dogs are trying to say.

The article before this covered canine body language, and this article on canine vocalizations or ?Doggish? as it?s sometimes called, should accompany that knowledge. Dog behaviorist, Stanely Coren was first responsible for illuminating the subject of Canine linguistics and anyone interested in truly mastering ?Doggish? should purchase his Book ?How to Speak Dog?, which is considered the ?bible? of dog behavior by many.

Let?s start with the most commonly misunderstood of canine vocalizations.

Many people hear their dog growl and automatically assume that growls mean aggression. This is not the case. Dogs frequently growl or groan for other reasons than aggressive intent. The growling sound associated with play or simply aimed at making a comment or expressing enjoyment Is a ?round? noisy growl originating from the throat as opposed to the chest that sounds like ?Ruuuuuuuh or Rrrrrr?? It is uttered through pursed lips and can be regarded as ?this is interesting!?, ?this is fun!? or ?I am here and I?m happily involved with the situation.? This growl can be heard while your dog is playing or while people are conjugating. Aggressive growls are either soft, rumbling and low pitched and originate from the chest or start in a low pitched growl and end in a sharp bark. These growls mean ?back off! I am feeling defensive? and are accompanied by the appropriate body posture. Higher pitched or undulating growls and defensive barks can be translated into fearfulness and indicate that the dog is frightened and preparing to protect himself. Growls that rise and fall or rise in tension accompanied by a fearful body posture mean ?I?m frightened and if you press me I may run but I may also fight!?. It is important to learn the difference between the growly groan of a playful dog and the ?grrrrrrrrr? of a fearful or aggressive dog. To understand the body posture in conjunction with the sound is crucial. A relaxed dog saying ?rrrrrr? is different from the aggressive or fearful growl of a dog who is feeling threatened and communicating her perception of a serious threat. The more solid and unwavering a dog?s growl is, the more sure he is, and alternately, The more the dogs voice changes pitch and wavers, the more unsure she is.


Alarm Barks:
Rapid midrange pitch barks (3 or 4 barks with pauses between) are an alert bark, beckoning other pack members to get ready to rally. Rapid midrange barking is a more persistent plea for the pack to rally. The first bark means ?something may be happening!? and the next one says ?something probably happening! We may need to take action in a minute!? The next bark is a continuous barking, slower and of a lower pitch. It means ?there is definitely a problem here! Alert the pack!? Some breeds are more inclined to alarm barking than other breeds. Many dogs considered to succeed or fail at watchdog (not guard dogs) Ability are judged on their tendency to bark and how tolerant they are of intruders in their territory.

Loneliness Barking:
Long string of barks with pauses between each indicate loneliness and a plea for companionship. It translates as ?is anybody there? I?m lonely and need someone now!? Howling can also be a loneliness behavior. See ?Howling? below.

Attention Bark:
A single bark, sharp, short, mid to high pitch and sounding a little forced signifies a command issued by the dog! This is a learned communication and often precedes a dog getting what he wants from his human master. It can be translated into ?listen! I want this!? while pointing at the door, a toy or standing by the treat jar. It means ?attention!?

Greeting Bark:
One or two sharp, short barks, midrange or high is a greeting bark. It literally means ?Hello! I see you?re here!?

Annoyance Bark:
A single, sharp, loud bark, low pitched is to express annoyance at being bothered, woken up, harassed or the like. It means ?Stop it! Get lost!?

Play Barks:
A stuttered bark that sounds something like ?arrrrr ruff!? is usually emitted during play in the play bow or while running. It simply means ?Let?s play!? A rising bark is in anticipation of chasing a ball or the like. It means ?this is great! I?m having fun!?

Howling is always an appeal to communicate with the pack. In wolf packs, wolves will howl to locate each other, to announce their presence and sometimes just for the fun of howling together!

A yipping howl, like ?yip yip yip awoooooo? is an attempt to try to locate other pack members. It means ?is there anyone out there? I?m lonely.? A bark howl like ?ruff ruff awoooooooo? is a lonely dog upset that nobody has answered his howl. It means ?Why hasn?t anyone answered me or come to be with me? I?m anxious and lonely. Help me!?

A long, mournful howl is an announcement. ?I am here and this is my spot, where are you?? It declares territory and locates other pack members.

Baying is a sound often made by hounds and is a little different than howling. It simply means ?all together now! Let?s go!?

Whining is puppyish behavior that is usually uttered as a request or a plea. Whining means ?I want?, not to be confused with whimpering which means I?m terrified?. A whine that rises in pitch or ends in a yelping sound is a plea. The louder and more insistent, the more urgent the request. This noise is a puppy noise and means ?I need? or ?I want?. Whining that fades at the end or drops in pitch is anticipatory. It signifies mild frustration and excitement. It means ?come on already! Let?s go!?

Whimpering is different than whining. It means that the dog is very uncomfortable, in pain or terrified. It is a fearful noise and should be heeded. If a dog is whimpering out of fear, he may become quiet when touched. But if a dog is whimpering from pain, he will continue to cry and may need medical attention.

The moan growl is an attempt to be included or a statement akin to ?I am here and this is interesting!? Moaning and yodeling (common in Malamutes) is a happiness sound and means ?I am here and this is great!? ?Talking? is a form of moaning and is a dog?s attempt at being included and expressing enjoyment . It differs depending on the dog and is not to be confused with growling. Moaning is also a form of mimicking and some dogs try to talk to their owners?especially if they?re encouraged to!

A simple sigh can mean ?everything is a-ok? or ?fine, I give up.? A dog settling after frantically making his bed or turning around for 5 minutes will often sigh happily, whereas a dog who has been trying to get his way for awhile who finally resigns and gives up may also sigh, as in ?fine, whatever! I relent.? Sighing is also a calming signal and just means ?Let?s just be peaceful?

Distress Sounds:
A single yelp or a short, sharp, high-pitched bark means ?ouch!? or some similar statement. It is a response to sudden pain or discomfort. A series of yelps means the dog is experiencing something very painful or frightening and means ?I?m hurt!? ?I?m scared? or ?Help!? Screaming is a noise no dog lover wants to hear. Screaming indicates extreme pain and panic and means ?Help! I think I?m going to die!?

A yawn that ends in a high-pitched squeal often means the dog is impatient or anxious. A casual yawn is calming signal and means ?I can tell you?re upset, but I mean no harm and want peace.?

Sneezing doesn?t always mean your dog sniffed something that?s tickling his nose. It is a calming signal and can also signify playfulness. It can mean ?This is great fun!? or ?I mean no harm.? Sneezing is not always a calming signal though, sometimes it just means foreign matter has irritated the dog?s nose.

The longer and more drawn-out a dogs vocalization is, the more likely it is to be deliberate. Urgency can be gauged on how long the vocalization is in the sense that shorter noises tend to be less intentional and indicate a more pressing need or want.

In general, high-pitched noises can be regarded as submissive, frightened, puppyish or meek And low-pitched noises can be regarded as dominant, confident, adult and assertive.

Some breeds are more vocal than others. Body language is often a much stronger indicator of a dog?s intent and emotions than Vocalizations, but knowledge of both canine vocalizations and body language arm us to understand our dogs as best as we possibly can.

Learn to listen to your dog and train yourself to make correlations regarding your dog?s body language, vocalization and apparent emotion or desire. Acknowledging your dog?s speaking encourages your dog to communicate more with you and that is strongly desired. Distress, fear and loneliness noises indicate that your dog is unhappy in one way or another and the situation needs attention and improvement. Listen to your dog if you expect him to listen to you!

Lex Fredericks is a Registered Veterinary Assistant/OTJ Veterinary Nurse and dog trainer who lives in Toronto. She has worked with and trained wolves, big cats, bears and primates for film and originally began learning training dogs and learning about the language of animals at the age of 7 with Hungarian grandfather and horse/dog devotee George Egon Fallus. She currently lives with a Bullmastiff rescued from gang violence, a Presa Canario, a mastiff cross rescued from British Columbia, a rescued wolf hybrid, a rehabilitated feral cat, and cat she and her husband rescued with the Vancouver police. She can be reached at her website,

Lex Fredericks - EzineArticles Expert Author

Return to Index


Cannot find it here? Search the internet with the power of Google: