Barking, growling, howling, yelping, and whimpering - these are the most common ways our dogs may vocalize or communicate their needs and emotions. We do not have to be Dr. Doolittle to understand what they mean. We just have to learn to be more in tune with our dog’s physical, emotional, and mental states to understand what they’re trying to tell us.
More often than not, our first reaction to a dog’s vocalization is to be annoyed. We often react to it as if it’s bad behavior that needs to be corrected. This is especially true for dogs with excessive vocalizing behavior. Well, much like humans, Fido can also be a “nag” if nobody’s listening to him! Instead of ignoring or getting mad at him for being “noisy,” we should prick up our ears - yup, just like a dog - and try to find out what our pooch wants to communicate.
Dogs are a social species, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they vocalize in a wide variety of ways! Does he bark every time the doorbell rings or when he sees you picking up his ball to play? Does he whine and whimper when he sees you picking up your car keys? How can you tell if your dog’s bark is friendly or hostile? Has he just recently begun howling or whining at inappropriate times and you can’t get him to stop?
Our furry buddy could be vocalizing because he’s scared, anxious, angry, sad, or happy. He could be stressed or in pain. The kind of dog we have also helps to determines how they communicate. We can easily associate specific situations with a particular vocalization. If we learn to listen more closely, we’ll also learn to recognize vocalization patterns and understand their context. We are then more prepared to address and respond, even share in the conversation with non-vocal queues.
Let’s decipher what our pooch is trying to tell us:
- Distressed or anxious barks have a high pitch that usually gets higher as our furry buddy gets more upset, mostly because he feels distressed from isolation or other stressful situations.
- Boredom or attention barks are monotonous and repetitive.
- Alert or alarm barks are short and sharp.
- Suspicious barks are low-pitched and slow.
- Fearful barks are low-pitched and fast.
- Demand barks are, well, demanding - sharp, persistent, and unquestionably directed at us.
- Playful barks are excited and high-pitched barks.
- Warning growls signal aggression, and are deep-throated sounds. It’s essential that we heed our dog’s warnings and figure out how to soothe him.
- Happy growls (yes, growls can be happy, too!) are low growls that Fido usually makes while playing tug or when he is being petted.
This can be best described as a deep-throated, prolonged, and even melodious barking or moaning. Baying sounds are typically made by dogs while chasing prey, or when they’re confronting an intruder/stranger in the house.
- Howling is an unmistakable sound - prolonged and high-pitched, and repeated a few times.
- Howling can be triggered by certain sounds, such as fire and police sirens or by other howling dogs.
- Our furry buddy may also howl when he’s distressed, mostly due to separation anxiety.
- Whimpering or yelping are often sounds of pain or distress and sounds a lot like soft or painful crying.
- Excited whimpering is also common and is usually accompanied by jumping, barking, and licking.
- Unlike whimpering sounds which are vocal, whining sounds are nasal sounds and produced with the mouth closed.
- Whining often indicates stress, and may mean that our pooch needs to go outside, does not like his leash/cage, wants attention, or is missing his companion.
What else can cause excessive vocalization?
In addition to those mentioned above, vocalizing behavior in our dogs may have other underlying causes. Age, breed, and underlying medical conditions can all contribute to our pup’s effort to communicate.
Puppies are prone to whimpering; senior dogs often develop nightly vocalizing behavior.
Working-breed, high-energy, and toy dogs are naturally predisposed to excessive barking.
- Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)
- Auditory decline
Our dogs are not intentionally being annoying when they vocalize, even when it’s excessive and poorly timed. They are trying to communicate with us, with other humans, or with other dogs. And their vocalization patterns signify their physical, emotional, and mental state. Before we react negatively to their “noise,” we should first try to understand the message they’re trying to get across. Communication is a two-way street, after all.
- "Stop the Barking" Best Friend's
- "How to Get Your Dog to Stop Barking" The Humane Society
- "How to Stop a Dog From Barking" AKC American Kennel Club