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Do Dogs Have Different Barks?

Chihuahua sitting on grass barking

Dog bark meanings have confused canine owners for ages. Barks made in different situations have different sounds and each of them could serve a unique purpose. Sometimes, it’s easier to figure out why your pup is barking, like the yap around dinnertime. On the other hand, some of the dog barks will require more of your attention to understand their meaning.

There are 3 main factors that you need to consider while analyzing a dog’s bark. The first one of them is the PITCH of the bark. The general rule of thumb suggests that the lower the pitch, the more serious the dog. This is the reason why the tone of play barking is usually much higher than alert barking.

The second important aspect of canine language is the FREQUENCY of the woofs. Generally, the longer the string of barks, the more aggressive the dog is feeling. Similarly, dogs use shorter bursts of woofs to grab your attention. 

Lastly, the duration of barking can also help you to become an expert in dog speak. If your pup made short, clipped barks, it’s highly likely that he/she is excited for some reason. In contrast to that, a prolonged series of growls could be used to warn the parents about a potential danger.

Different Dog Bark Sounds

Side view of Jack Russell Terrier Barking while standing in tall grass

Dogs are surprisingly good at communicating with people. They bark in several different sounds to express their wants, needs, and fears. The range of vocalization varies from one breed to another and sometimes, it can be difficult (especially for new owners) to figure out what they mean. Having said that, the following are some of the most common sounds that dogs use to express their feelings.


yellow labrador standing next to pond barking

All dogs bark but some breeds do that a lot more than others. Likewise, there are many variations, like intimidating woofs and high-pitched yaps, in the barking sound that can have different meanings. The trick to determine the right meaning of a dog bark lies in understanding the context. However, it can be a little hard for new dog parents because these things come with experience.


close up of Jack Russell Terrier growling

The general perception of growling is that it’s a warning to ‘stay back’ or ‘stop touching’. Although it’s true in most cases, a dog’s growl could also mean other things. For instance, a dog may make a low rumble while playing to indicate that you need to do better. On the other hand, a snarl (showing all his/her teeth) is a clear indication that you are crossing the limit.


medium sized black and white dog howling

Although this type of communication is generally associated with wolves, some dogs can also howl. This bark sound is commonly used (by canines) to communicate with the owners when they leave the pet behind. Just like wolves, howling is quite contagious among dogs.

Some dog breeds, such as Siberian Huskies, tend to use howling as their regular way of talking. They make strange and amusing sounds to express various feelings and emotions, like joy and frustration.


black dog peeling over wooden barrier

This less assertive bark is typically used by dogs to get your attention when they need something. For instance, your pup may want to go for a walk or he/she is feeling hungry.

In addition to that, canines also use whining to show anxiety, pain, or fear. A dog suffering from separation anxiety tends to whine when left alone. Similarly, your pooch may tend to whine if he/she has to deal with an underlying injury. For this reason, it is very important to figure out the context surrounding the whine to take appropriate action.


close up of beagle

This type of bark is normally associated with disappointment or contentment. It can be confusing to understand the meaning of a groan because it is done for contrasting reasons. Therefore, you will have to keenly observe the context of the groan to understand what it truly means. For example, if your dog wanted to go for a walk but failed to convince you, the resulting groan is out of disappointment.

Different Dog Bark Meanings

Dogs bark for specific reasons and the barking tone changes in different contexts. Although we can’t read their minds, we can make an educated guess by using observational evidence. For instance, the context of different barks and accompanying body language of your dog are quite helpful. The following is a list of different barks, alongside their potential meanings, to give you a general idea.

Alert Barking

small white dog barking from a window

The primary purpose of alarm barking is to inform the owner that something out of the norm is happening. You must acknowledge the bark and take care of the root cause to calm down your pup. One common way of doing that is to praise the pet and offer him/her a treat. Alert barks usually begin with a short, high-pitched yelp that is followed by a short burst of deeper barks.

Play Barking

3 beagles playing in a grassy field

This high-pitched bark lacks intensity and is often repeated in a series. Play barking is not only used around humans, but it is also quite common among dogs. According to experts, dogs can also indulge in this type of barking when they see other canines playing. Similarly, some dogs prefer to take on the role of ‘cheerleader’ and bark from the sidelines.

Demand Barking

Chihuahua barking at person sitting down

The sole purpose of this type of barking is to force you to fulfill the demands of your canine companion. More often than not, this negative behavior is instigated by the negligence of owners. Once you give in to the demand of your dog, he/she will learn that barking is the way to convince you. After that, you will have a pet who is always barking to get his/her desires fulfilled.

The best way to counter demand barks is to ignore the woofs and whines of your pup. Persist with this strategy for a while and your dog will stop this negative barking.

Fearful Barking

yorkie peeking around a corner

A dog turns towards this form of barking when he/she is afraid of something and wants to move away. Many people confuse these barks with aggression but there are some distinctive differences. For example, a fearful dog is nervous and has flattened ears while the ears of an aggressive dog are upright.

These barks are high-pitched and repetitive and are more common in small, under-socialized dogs. Having said that, a dog of any size can display this behavior if he/she is afraid of something.     

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