Interpreting Your Dog’s Bark
Most dogs bark. Except the Basenji, believed, by many, to be the oldest dog breed in the world.
But, that doesn’t mean the Basenji is a “quiet” breed; instead, the breed is known for yodeling, which is often louder than many dog’s barks.
Their owners can probably tell what they want and when by interpreting their yodels, just like the average person can read their dog.
So What Is Your Dog’s Bark Trying To Tell You?
Now, let me tell you that each dog is different. And, each bark is different.
I can pick my dogs’ bark out from 100 other dogs, each of them!
So it is important to keep in mind that all dogs can vary a little, but there are some unique consistencies.
Rhythmical barking is often a sign of “demand” barking.
Demand barking happens when your dog wants something.
Throw my ball
I want outside
Give me your sandwich
Stop ignoring me
Are all ways that our dogs demand that WE perform a behavior.
I find this behavior abhorrent.
I don’t want anyone DEMANDING I do anything, unless they are signing my pay check!
If your dog engages in this kind of barking, give him a time out away from you.
Never, ever, ever do what he wants you to do (throw the ball, feed him, etc).
If he realizes that this behavior comes with a “time out”, he will stop demanding your attention with his voice.
Deep Barking and growling is often a sign of protective barking.
When my dog hears a rattle outside the yard and he doesn’t know what is causing it, he gets a very deep throaty bark.
This is his way of saying “STAY OUT OF MY YARD”.
Obviously, this is not a sound I want to hear when my dog meets someone.
Be very respectful of this kind of bark and sound, as your dog is warning you and the other person/dog what his intentions are and that he is not comfortable.
Don’t “correct” it, because a bark/growl can be a good thing.
But respect that your dog is giving you information about how he is feeling in that situation.
I would NEVER allow someone to touch my dog if he was making these kinds of noises.
Shrill barking is a sign of fear.
A fearful dog may want to be protective and scare something away, but his lack of confidence raises the pitch of his voice.
Often the dog can be seen rushing forward and then backward with ears back and tail tucked.
This is a scared dog.
This dog’s space should be respected.
It is best to let this dog run away or get himself out of this situation or help him gain some confidence.
Forcing this dog to accept a human or another dog when he is showing these behaviors is very dangerous.
Forcing your dog, or correcting him, also ensures that he loses his trust in you.
Dogs can conquer things in their environment only when they trust those they are with to protect them.
If you want to help your dog feel better, you must respect his feelings and work on his confidence, slowly, while not forcing him to feel like he must protect himself!
Constant barking is a sign of boredom.
When dogs are bored, they often alleviate the boredom by using their voice.
This is even more prevalent in outdoor dogs, or dogs that are left outdoors often.
Because, the dog gets bored and barks and then another dog in the neighborhood chimes in and after a while you have a line of barking dogs.
I think of it like prisoners in solitary confinement; someone shouts and then waits to hear someone else shout back.
When you have nothing else to do, it kills the time!
The best way to avoid this situation, is to never let it happen in the first place.
I don’t leave my dogs outside unless I am home.
I also don’t allow my dogs to bark more than twice in the backyard.
If you want to stay outside, you have to keep your mouth quiet, because being outside is a privilege.
Also, I would rather exercise and then crate my dog for the day than to leave him outside.
Outside, he could break out of the yard or learn this barking behavior.
And, many, MANY dogs have been poisoned because of this behavior!
No matter what, I want my dog safe.
Shrill Constant Barking and Howling
Shrill constant barking and howling can be a sign of distress.
The problem is, that the average distress is NOT separation anxiety!
However, once a dog starts to whine and cry and howl in his crate, people panic and let him out; which teaches him to continue this feeling and behavior.
Not only will it encourage the “behavior” of barking and howling, I think it also helps to encourage the fear and feeling that is associated.
I know, that sounds odd.
But think of it in these terms:
Every time you say “go for ride”, or take your dog to the park, he gets overwhelmingly excited.
He may jump up, dance, whine or squeal but chances are he has learned to lose a little control.
He also puts himself in the emotional state of “over excitement” and happiness.
Just as your dog can automatically put himself in a certain emotional state due to a command or a specific chain of behaviors, he can do the same when it comes to fear and panic.
By giving in, we are teaching him that these behaviors and feelings are desirable.
All babies learn to self soothe.
Just like the aforementioned list, the average mother knows EXACTLY what her baby’s cries mean.
The baby is hungry, scared, bored, awake, angry…
And, we know that all babies have to learn to deal with their crib and then eventually their beds.
We know that if their needs are met and they are safe, it is best not to always give in to the crying.
We also try not to reward certain emotional states.
Have you ever seen a child panic about EVERYTHING because the parents soothe him?
My plea to you, is not to do this to your dog or your puppy.
Allow him to work through it and self soothe.
Very, very few dogs have true separation anxiety where they will self injure to get out and get away.
Instead, I think most people create some separation anxiety in their dogs.
Again, if you know you have met your dog’s needs and he is not in danger, allow him to self soothe a bit.
Exercise him and wear him out and then allow him to work through some challenges in life.
Your training to stop your dog’s barking, and yours and his life, will be better for it!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.