The Real Meaning Behind Different Dog Noises

dog barking

Dogs are the most beautiful creation of God. People say dogs cannot speak, but let me tell you, whosoever tells you this, is, undoubtedly, unaware of the dog’s upbringing and psychology. Our nature has gifted dogs with an ability to produce multiple sounds which hold different meanings as to what they are trying to tell us. Dogs do speak; it’s just that they do not speak as we humans do. Dogs communicate their emotions by barking, growling, howling, yelping, etc. It only takes a patient mind and love for your pet which helps you to understand what your pet is trying to tell you by his sounds and gestures, be it through its bark, growl, whine, whimper, howl, huff, or a yelp. All these vocalizations are judged by their intensity of tone and pitch. You can easily understand, from the way in which your dog is barking, whether it is happy, hungry, or showing aggression. For instance, a dog barking at a stranger is different from a dog who is barking at you before you take it out for a walk.

Here, I am going to introduce you to many noises that your dog makes and how these noises can be interpreted. Your dog may be sad, feeling hungry, or maybe too happy to see you when you return from your office in the evening or from a tour. Since it cannot speak in words like “I missed you” or “I am hungry,” it makes such sounds which, you as the dog owner, need to understand and interpret. These sounds can be analyzed to access the emotional state of your dog.

1. Barking

Barking dog

The topmost factor which affects the duration of barking in dogs is the Dog’s Genes. Some dogs have the genetic association of barking continuously for a longer duration as compared to any other breed. Some barks recorded for a Cocker Spaniel have been more than 90 per minute. Dogs may bark if they are anxious, hungry, bored, excited, when they just want your attention or in response to the bark of other dogs. When you are sitting in front of a television and watching a movie, you must have seen your dog jumping near your bed and barking profusely at you. The reason here is that your dog is bored, and it might get irritated when he sees you watching the television and not paying him any attention. Your dog tries to tell you that it wants to play or wishes to go out for a walk.

Other reasons why a dog might be barking is:

  • When you go to your neighbour’s house or even near their wall, their dog might start barking loudly; thus, this means that it is not happy to see you and your presence. Through its bark, the dog is telling you that the territory is his and it does not want you to enter it.
  • In the mornings and evenings when you hold your dog’s leash to take it out for a walk, it starts barking at you. At this moment, it is excited to go out with you, and it shows this gesture by barking softly.
  • Your dog may also bark to show its fear. When you are out on a walk with your dog and a stranger dog or a street dog approaches, your pet starts barking and hiding behind your legs. This bark shows that it is afraid of the stranger dog. It is only out of fear that your dog starts barking and not because he is happy or hungry.
  • Separation and anxiety are another reasons which dogs reflect through barking. This is a prolonged barking ranging from moderate to prolonged intervals and your dog’s way of saying, “Is anybody there?,” “I’m lonely,” and “I need you with me.” For instance, if your next door neighbour comes and tells you that your dog had been barking, continuously, the previous night when you were not at home, this means that your dog feels lonely too. He cries in your absence out of isolation and anxiety.
  • Short barks when you come home from the market is your dog’s way of saying “Hello” to you.

2. Howling

Howling dog

Howling is an important form of communication used by dogs. Dogs belong to the wolf pack, just like wolves howl to communicate with other members of their pack; similarly, dogs howl to communicate with their companions. They howl not only interact with their owner but also other dogs at a distance. At times, your dog may not even have a reason to howl; he may start doing it as and when he hears other dogs howling. The common sight is that most dogs howl at night. There are multiple reasons for dogs to howl at night, for instance when it senses some danger in the environment at night, it might start howling. Moreover, it may even howl in response to the howls of other dogs. Your dog may also indulge in sweet howling when it wants to grab your attention. However, there can be multiple conclusions to your dog howls.

  • Some dogs never howl. However, Siberian Huskies howl on a daily basis, not only to talk but also to make strange noises when they are happy, sad, curious, and even to demonstrate the emotions which we are not aware of.
  • Just like we, humans, cannot bear the separation, so, do our dogs. Whether it’s the separation from their beloved canine or their human companion, dogs reflect their sadness when they are separated, by howling. You must have seen that in some movies, too, when the dog’s owner passes away, it starts crying badly and continues to do that for days.
  • There are certain breeds, which due to their personality traits, start howling just because they are getting bored and are in need of your affection; and want you to play with them. This, however, can happen at any time of the day.
  • Sometimes the dog may howl out of confusion. For instance, when it hears an ambulance’s siren, it starts howling in response to the stimulus. Not only this, you must have tried out, or you should at least try, to sing a song, and see your pet’s reaction. He joins you in the chorus and starts singing by giving unique sounding howls.

Howling is, however, not always the depiction of sadness and crying; dogs often show their joy and excitement by howling too. For instance, if it is tied inside and sees its dog companion roaming outside the house, it may start howling out of excitement of meeting its friend.

Howling at Night

dogs howl at night

Dogs have a fantastic hearing sense ranging from 67-45000 Hz, as compared to humans which is 64-23000 Hz. There is no universal reason as to why your dog howls at night but more specifically because they are highly sensitive to the even the faintest sounds, and, thus, when they sense any danger, at night, they start howling to let us know of any such threat, that they perceive in the environment.

3. Growling

growling dog

A dog’s growl or grrr can have different meanings. As soon as you see a dog growling, you immediately guess that the dog is not too happy — the first signs of aggression and anger that dog shows are by growling. However, dogs don’t always growl out of anger; it may also growl when it is in pain or out of fear. You must have seen when your dog is ill and is in pain, or has been injured; it keeps growling. The range or intensity of its growl can quickly help you to understand how much pain it is in. Some of the growls, which are more noisy and medium pitched, without any revelation of teeth are the dog’s indication that he wants to play.

A scientific experiment has proved that dogs themselves have a better understanding of play growls and threatening growls. They can easily interpret what other dog is trying to say and judge the behaviour of each other in any environment.

Interpreting Dog Growls

Interpreting dog growl

Playful growling is yet another aspect which you need to understand. When two of your pet dogs are playing, at times, they may be growling too. Here, you need to be careful and observe the body language of your dogs to prevent them from getting into a dogfight. When dogs get into a tug of war holding a cloth or any dog toy, you ought to see that they must be only into healthy play session and trust me if you physically try to interfere, their playful growls may turn into an actual dogfight. The reason being, as soon as your hand touches any one of them playing, the other one may suddenly jump over other out of anger and jealousy as you tend to support either of them. Growling may be because of pleasure, threat, aggression, frustration, or fight.

Other reasons may include

  • Possessive & Aggressive Nature

Dogs also growl when they are playing with each other or when they are eating. When your dog is eating its bone or playing with its toy, as soon as you approach it, it growls in aggression, thereby telling you, “This is mine, I do not want to share it with you.”

  • Pain

When your dog is in pain, it might be injured. Not only this, just like we suffer from stomach ache and body ache, dogs feel the same too. So, whenever your dog is in any pain, it growls. Sometimes, mental distress, i.e. a stressful or emotional situation also causes the dog to growl. A mother separated from her puppies, or a companion or pup lost in a road accident, causes the dogs to sit beside their dead bodies and cry in pain.

  • Territoriality

When the postman of your area approaches your house’s gate, your dog starts growling. This sort of the dog’s growls means that it is defending its territory and area. He doesn’t want the stranger to enter into its territory.

  • Fear

When an irregular guest comes to your house, or some distant relative comes, your dog may not be too happy to see his presence in your home; and out of fear ends up growling for some time, which happens explicitly when your guest tries to approach your dog. You need to understand that your dog is afraid of that stranger and doesn’t want him to come near him.

4. Whining

A dog’s whine is as flexible as its bark. Dog whine sounds are produced by a dog when its nose and mouths are closed. Dogs whine when they demand your attention or more specifically when they want some particular toy or food. Remember your evening teas? When your dog comes and sits in front of you and demands whatever you are eating and in case you do not pay heed to his demands, then starts whining. The dog’s crying is an exaggerated whine of the dog.

  • “I am in pain”, is what your dog might be trying to tell you if it is sitting on its bed and whining slowly. You must check it physically for any injuries.
  • “I also want whatever you are eating”, the morning tea time and you hear your dog whimpering sitting beside your bed, this is what it is telling you. A dog also wants to have those morning tea biscuits that you are having at that time.
  • Whining is an important sign of submission. Use of submissive postures such as bowing down its head, or entire front body, to show the opposite counterpart, “I give up” is what your dog is trying to depict when it adopts such body language.

The progression from a dog barking to whining indicates a higher level of excitement and need on the part of your dog. However, if it starts whining suddenly without any apparent reason, you should check it out for any injuries as I already said. Besides, a dog may also be under stress, for instance, when you change the position of your pet’s bedding, it may not like it and thus, may start whining.

If your pet is housetrained, it may whine just to let you know that it needs to relieve itself and thus, you need to take it out for that.

We, as dog owners, often find dog whining cute and immediately respond to our dog whines. However, our dogs may become habitual to, continuously, whine all the time for demanding our attention to each of their demand. This may end up in developing irritating behaviour such as constant barking. If it is crying because it wants you to feed it with whatever you are eating, and you immediately provide it so, trust me, now it knows if it whines, it will get whatever it wants. And so a dog shall adopt this habit of barking or crying to get its demands fulfilled. You are the owner; it should be your decision whether to feed it or not, whether to hand him over a particular toy at a specific time or not and thus train him in such way so that he doesn’t take you for granted.

  • Whimpering/Yelping

    Dog’s whimpering is less intense than a dog’s whining. A whimper or a dog’s yelp is the sign that shows that your dog is in pain. This happens mostly when two dogs are playing and one of them while playing bites another one mistakenly too hard. The other dog automatically reacts positively to the dog yelping and stops the playful gesture. Similarly, the dog owner also needs to know that the dog may be whimpering out of other emotions too. For example, when you return home after a long day, your pet gets too excited to see you, and it will not only yelps out of excitement but also starts jumping, licking, and barking. A puppy’s cries are nothing but little whimpers. When your dog produces sounds like yelp; your dog is probably telling you, “Don’t hurt me,” “I am hurt,” or “Stop hurting me.”

  • Groaning

    Dog’s groaning indicates that it is in some physical pain and discomfort. Additionally, a dog may also groan out of disappointment. However, a puppy groans when it is settling down for a nap in your lap. If you own a dog and take it out for a walk, you must be knowing already, how it groans or moans and settles down if you do not pay attention to what it wants or do not fulfil its needs.

  • Dog Purrs

    Just like the cats purr, dogs purr too. However, the sound of a dog’s purr is more like a motorboat. A dog’s purr has been named as rumble sound. Their purr can mean only two things, either happiness or warning. In order to understand the meaning, you can make an estimation from the environmental occurrence and the body language of your pet.

  • Dog Laughs

    Dog laughing is obviously different than our human laughs. A dog laugh though sounds quite similar to that of humans saying, “ ha-ha-ha-ha”, with the difference that “a” vowel becomes silent. The sound of a dog’s laughter is unique. When you see your dog reacting to any action or situation, by wide opening his mouth, jaws stretched and tongue hanging out, this probably means that your dog is laughing. It may sound like panting or a breath exhalation which has been identified as a form of “laughter” by the Nobel prize-winning psychologist Konrad Lorenz.

  • Yap and Yip (Puppy Sounds)

    When your pup is excited, he may produce loud short shriek sounds which are known as Yap. However, when your dog is scared, he may produce the mixture of all sounds i.e they may bark, whimper, and yelp at the same time. You need to understand in this situation that your pup is more of scared and not acting aggressive in any way. A clear understanding of your pup’s or dog’s emotions will, undoubtedly, help you to prevent dog bites and get closer to your pet.

  • Grunt

    Just like humans, dogs also grunt which usually means they are happy and satisfied. For instance, when your dog is on its bed, it may turn over on its back and produce low noises or grunts, which means it is happy to lie down and rest. Once you are aware of what your dog is trying to tell you through different sounds, you shall be able to recognise its sound even out of fifty dogs at a time. A recent show on National Geographic Channel telecasted a dog competition whereby a dog owner was captured saying that he could recognize his Rottweiler’s voice from among 100 other Rottweilers, who stood on the ground, and he could make out from his dog’s sound that his dog wanted to potty.

5. Baying

Baying sounds more like the mixture of loud howling and barking. More specifically prolonged howling is known as Baying. A bay dog is the one who is trained to chase, hunt and then bay (or howl) from distance. Baying is the sound produced by the hound dogs which may either mean, “Let’s attack him,” or “Follow me this way.”

Certain dog breeds have been trained and bred over years to develop their ability to “bay,” a voice which becomes more intense as the hunting dog comes closer to its prey and, thus letting the other dogs or their owner know of the existence of its prey. Though baying is considered to be the result of selective breeding over years, however, this ability has more of a genetical reference which can clearly be linked to the wolves, who also emit such vocalizations on detecting their prey. It has also been said that the word “Beagle” has been derived from old French word “becguele” which means a noisy person or more specifically “bayer” meaning “open throat” due to the beagle dog’s loud baying.

Dogs are also said to produce a weird sound that’s like a mixture of honking, snorting, and hiccupping at once. This is popularly known as the reverse sneeze. It may be caused due to excitement, foreign objects in the throat or pulling on the leash in the wrong way. This has happened quite a few times with my dog too, when I take her out for a walk and suddenly I pull her leash, her throat gets affected and causes her to produce such weird cough or sneeze. Whatever sound your dog produces, it only takes an experienced man to interpret instantly what his dog is trying to tell him.

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