While dogs can’t talk, that doesn’t mean that they can’t communicate with you or other animals. In addition to their body language and verbal signs they use to display their emotions, they also make different sounds to communicate with each other and with humans. Here's what sounds dogs make and what those actually mean.
Barking is the most common way in which dogs communicate. However, not all barking has the same meaning. In fact, there are differences in barks and not all barking sounds the same even to us, which is why there are many different words that describe barking. There are multiple words for barking sounds even in a single language, while every language has a specific word for barking as well.
Dogs bark to express different emotions. They bark when they are anxious, bored or excited. They also bark when they are seeking attention, or to communicate with other dogs. One study showed how humans interpret dog vocalizations and determined that low-pitched barking means that the dog feels threatened or anxious, while high-pitched sounds display the desire to engage with something or someone.
Another interesting study showed that humans guided the evolution of dogs’ barks. The researchers noticed that barking is a common way for domesticated dogs to express themselves, while it is not so common in wild dogs. Since no evolutionary trait can explain this difference, the conclusion was that domesticated dogs developed barking to better communicate with humans.
Another common sound that dogs make is growling. It can sound pretty scary and in many cases it is a warning that dogs send to humans or other dogs, which might lead to an attack. However, offensive aggression and guarding behavior are not the only reasons why dogs growl, they also do it when they feel scared or insecure.
Even playful banter can make a dog growl. It is all about the context and, once again, tone and pitch of the growl.
Dogs also use growls to determine the size of another dog. This was shown in research by Tamás Faragó, PhD, and his team at the Family Dog Project at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. They also showed that dogs know how to interpret different growls by vocalization alone, without any visual component.
Howling is the probably the truest form of communication among dogs. In fact, research has shown that howling is a part of a dog’s genetics, which they share with the wolves. That is why ancient dog breeds, like huskies or malamutes, tend to howl the most. One of the oldest dog breeds in the world, Basenji, doesn’t bark at all but it does howl instead, even though the sound they emit sounds more like yodeling.
Dogs can howl for many different reasons. It can be caused by separation anxiety or attention seeking. Some dogs will howl if they are in pain or feel sick. However, the most common reasons for howling are copying behavior and communication on greater distances.
Whining and Moaning
Whining is another form of dog vocalization that can have different meanings. Dogs often whine when they are in pain, but that should only be temporary. When dogs whine for a longer period of time, that usually means that they are bored or anxious but it can also signal fear or even excitement. If your dog whines for a long time and doesn’t stop if you provide some entertainment to him, it might signal a medical condition, even a mental problem.
Low-pitched moans are a common way for puppies and some adult dogs to express content. Puppies usually do it when they are near their mother or their humans.
In conclusion, dogs are capable of making many different sounds. In addition to the ones we mentioned in this article, dogs can also yelp, yip, huff or whimper. While type of the sound they make can tell you a lot about what dogs want to communicate, each sound can have different meanings. That’s why it is also important to pay attention to the tone and pitch as well to properly understand what your dog is trying to say to you.