Unlike cats, dogs express an astounding range of emotions, wants and wishes through their vocal cords alone and it can sometimes be a chore to understand just what exactly your dog wants from you. Could it be water and food, might there be an intruder at the door? Who knows… Thankfully, we have a fair idea and we’re on hand to help guide you through some of the more common noises that your dog (both new addition and old familiar) is making, hopefully helping you to understand what they mean!
Is There a Science to it?
Well, sort of. Many experts agree that the nature of a dog’s bark depends on three key factors: The pitch, duration and repetition of the noise in question. Pitch, for example, can determine your dog’s feelings towards what they are trying to communicate to you. A low growl or rumble usually means that your dog is unsure or is perhaps trying to make themselves sound big and scary – a key sign that they don’t like the situation they’re currently in. On the other end of the spectrum, a higher pitch noise might indicate that your pet is inquisitive or is perhaps inviting a tender hand. Put simply, low pitch noises are growls and high pitch noises are whimpers or happy barks.
Duration, on the other hand, has a slightly more psychological aspect to it. In a sense, your dog is making a conscious decision to make noise and, therefore, the longer they make that noise, the more their mind is occupied with it’s communication to you or those around them. Thus, the threatening growl of a dominant dog that has every intention of holding its ground and not backing down will be both low pitched and also long and sustained. If the growl is in shorter bursts, and only held briefly, it indicates there is an element of fear present and the dog is worried about whether it can successfully deal with an attack.
Lastly, repetition or frequency. Sounds that are repeated often, at a fast rate, indicate a degree of excitement and urgency. Sounds that are spaced out, or not repeated, usually indicate a lower level of excitement. A dog giving an occasional bark or two at the window is only showing mild interest in something. A dog barking in multiple bursts and repeating them many times a minute is signalling that they feel the situation is important and perhaps even a potential crisis for their owner.
I Think I got Most of That… But What About Just, Well… Barking?
Barking on its own is a call; an alarm to your pet’s pack (that means you and your family) for better or for worse. It might signal the arrival of a family friend or a potential threat to the status quo of your home (like the wind, or perhaps a bird). Unfamiliarity is a dog’s greatest asset and your dog will bark at anything it’s not immediately familiar with. This dates back to their ancestors time where all wolves in a pack were responsible for the safety of the many. Ergo, if your dog feels even the slightest off-put by whatever Mrs Mooney is up to across the road, you may find that they are sounding the alarm to grab your attention, warn you and prepare you for an attack.
However, the lonely bark deserves a special mention because any past puppy owner will be very familiar with this. Those long strings of solitary barks with a deliberate pause between each one is a sign of a lonely dog asking for companionship. Your dog is wondering where you are since, in the wild, dogs of the same family will always sleep in the same area. It’s up to you to not give in, but that’s an article for another time entirely.
What About Other Noises, Like That Harr-uff Sound?
Yep, that’s a good one. A dog making a sound like that is asking you to play with them and it’s usually followed by them placing their front legs on the ground while keeping their back legs upright. Aside from the above, your dog will probably make a hundred different noises in their lifetime and it’s up to you to figure out what exactly each one means. However, with a decent understanding of Pitch, Duration and Frequency, you’ll be able to guesstimate what your dog is attempting to communicate to you. However, if your dog is making sounds that suggest an injury, you may want to contact your vet.
A sharp ear is all you need to unlock the inner workings of your dog’s mind… and perhaps a little guidance from a Village Vet, too. No one knows your dog better than you, but don’t worry if you haven’t got it down to a fine art. Becoming familiar with your pet’s personality will take time, but trust us, you’ll know exactly what sound means which treat after a couple of months!
For now, Paw-Friends, we say fare-thee-well!