10 Dog Barking Sounds and What They Mean

For most dog owners, sometimes the problem is that their dog barks too much but more often it is that we don’t understand what they are trying to tell us. There is no “one bark fits all” type of situation. How many times has an owner told their pooch to stop barking, and then later realize that he was letting us know something was amiss?

This list of 10 barking sounds and what they mean is a start to understanding our own dogs. For some of us it will take some work because we have to deprogram ourselves to believing that dogs just bark when something is wrong, like “if you don’t let me outside there will be a mess by the door.” You might look at this list as a way for your dog to train you!

One key to understanding this list is what the term “mid-range pitch” means. You will have to listen closely to find it in your own dog, but most dogs will rarely use a low pitch bark, so pay attention to the high pitch bark. What the dog normally uses will be their mid-range voice.

Here are 10 dog barking sounds and what they mean:

  • If your dog is continuously barking fast at the mid-range it is a territorial warning. He is calling for the pack to deal with a potential problem. Of course, there is no pack which is why they will continue to this until the problem goes away.
  • The same type of barking as #1 but with pauses between strings of barking. This is a call for the leader of the pack, not for the entire pack, to look into the same territorial problem.
  • Has your dog ever barked, and barked, and barked without stopping? OK, they do pause, sometimes for short periods, other times longer ones. This means your dog is lonely, so if they are locked in a room or in a place where they don’t have any companionship, this is what you will hear.
  • The single or double bark at the mid-range pitch is them saying hello. If you walk in the door coming home from work and hear this, you’ll immediately know what it means.
  • A single, short bark in a pitch that is a bit lower than mid-range means whatever you are doing, stop it. This sometimes explains what we see as peculiar behavior in our dog. For example, there was a dog who would bark when their owners hugged. Yes, they do get jealous.
  • This next bark should help you with #5 because it is a bit higher than the mid-range bark. If they only bark once like this, then it is them asking the human equivalent of “Huh?” But if they do it over and over, then they are again calling for the pack, but only to see what is going on.
  • This is an important barking voice especially when you see your dog interacting with other dogs. A single high pitched yelp or high pitch bark simply means they got hurt while playing. It is the verbal response to unexpected pain. This is different than #8, which is not often heard when dogs are playing.
  • Continuous yelping is usually connected to severe pain, but is also heard when the dog is very scared of something – or someone. We often say that the dog is crying when hearing this type of bark, making it the easiest on the list to understand.
  • Since we just gave you the easiest to understand, this is likely the hardest. Your dog barks with a stutter at the mid-range voice. Used to tell you they want to play, we might translate it into human language as “arr-ruff.”
  • This is at the high pitched tone of voice but not quite a yelp. We think you’ll learn this one quickly because you will hear it when they are playing with someone or another dog roughly. Translated, it means “this is fun!”

So this list is a starter list because you may have seen there is at least one missing type of bark. Which is OK because we don’t claim to know everything. The most important thing to remember is that dogs are not people, so you won’t hear them muttering to themselves or barking just for the sake of barking. When you stop to think about it, you probably noticed that if your dog is barking and barking, then you walk in the door to check out what the problem is, they stop – see #3. They’re not just being noisy to irritate you. That is, unless there is something we don’t know yet.


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