What Dog Sounds Mean

Julia Henriques
dog sounds

From playful barks to aggressive growls or snarls, dogs use a variety of vocalizations to communicate with their owners and other dogs. But what do these different dog sounds actually mean?

As a dog owner, it's important to understand the sounds your furry friend makes. That’s why In this post, I want to walk you through the different types of dog sounds and what they mean. First, let’s make sure we’re clear on why dogs make so many sounds in the first place.

Why Do Dogs Make So Many Sounds?

Dogs have a wide range of vocalizations, and each sound they make can indicate different emotions or motivations. 

For example: growling is usually a sign of fear or aggression, while whining can indicate anxiety or discomfort. 

Barking, a seemingly simple sound, can actually mean a wide variety of things, such as alerting an owner to potential danger, expressing excitement, or trying to communicate a specific need or desire. Your dog likely uses several different barking "voices" depending on what he wants to communicate.

The 6 Dog Sounds You Need To Know (And What They Mean)

To determine what your dog might be trying to communicate, it’s important to pay attention to the context surrounding the sounds he makes. But here are some general rules of thumb you can use to figure out what your dog is trying to say based on the sounds he’s making

1. Barks

Barking is perhaps the most common sound dogs make, but it can have a wide variety of meanings.

A sharp, short bark can indicate excitement or playfulness, while a long, persistent bark can indicate fear or anxiety. 

If your dog barks excessively, it could be a sign that he’s bored, anxious, or in need of exercise.

2. Growls

Growling is a warning sound that dogs use to communicate aggression or discomfort. 

Dog growling can be a low, rumbling growl or a higher-pitched growl that sounds almost like a snarl. 

If your dog is growling, it's important to figure out why… as the reason is usually negative (though it can sometimes be a playful sound among dogs who are very familiar with each other). 

Don’t ever try to stop your dog growling. It’s an important method of communication for him that means “I don’t like that” or "please stop."  Teaching a dog not to growl takes away his ability to warn you, and you could end up with a dog who bites unpredictably, without a warning growl.  

Most often, growling indicates a dog may be feeling threatened or anxious, or may be guarding their territory

3. Howls

Howling is a long, mournful sound that dogs use to communicate over long distances. 

It's a sound that's often associated with wolves, but many domesticated dogs howl or “aroo” as well. 

If your dog is howling, he may be trying to connect with other dogs in the area or just trying to “talk” to you! 

4. Whines

Whining is a high-pitched sound that dogs use to express discomfort, unhappiness or anxiety. It can indicate that your dog is in pain, hungry, or feeling neglected. 

If your dog is whining excessively, it's important to address the underlying issue and provide them with the care they need.

5. Angry Dog Sounds

Dogs can also make a variety of angry sounds, such as snarls or snaps. These sounds are meant to warn potential threats to back off, and they can be a sign of aggression, fear or discomfort.

If your dog is making angry sounds, it's important to deal with the underlying issue. You may need to work with a professional trainer

6. Happy Dog Sounds

Finally, dogs can also make a variety of happy sounds, such as excited panting and playful barks. These sounds indicate that your dog is content and comfortable in his environment. 

If your dog is making happy sounds, it's a sign that he’s enjoying life and feels secure in his surroundings.

How To Respond To Different Dog Sounds

Knowing how to respond to different dog sounds can help you communicate better with your own dog (and others) and avoid potentially dangerous situations. 

Approaching a growling dog can result in a bite. So if your dog or someone else’s dog is growling, it's best to give them space and avoid approaching them until they calm down.  Avoid making direct eye contact or leaning towards a growling dog, as that is a threatening posture for dogs. Turning your body to stand sideways is a more neutral posture.

If your dog is howling, it might sound funny, but you could try joining in with him to create a sense of connection and calm. Howling is a natural way for dogs to communicate with each other, so joining in may make him feel more comfortable and secure. Some dogs howl when they hear police or ambulance sirens or other sounds on TV. 

When your dog whines, you'll want to figure out if it means he's in pain, especially if the whining continues and he seems distressed. Get your vet's help if necessary. 

When your dog barks a lot, the best thing you can do is figure out why he's doing it. Often dogs bark excessively because they're bored, anxious, or lonely. Providing them with enough exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization can often help reduce barking.

Dog Sounds That Indicate Health Issues

Some dog sounds can actually be a sign of underlying health issues, so it's important to pay attention to your dog's vocalizations and behavior. 

Sounds like coughing or wheezing might indicate respiratory problems, while excessive panting or whining in dogs can be a sign of pain or heatstroke. 

If your dog is making unusual sounds that you’re worried about, ask your vet to rule out any health issues. In many cases, early detection can lead to more successful treatment.

Sounds To Stop Dogs Barking

We’re sometimes asked this question: What sounds stop dogs barking? 

But that’s not the best way to approach the problem. Barking is normal and it’s how dogs communicate … though it can become a problem if it's constant and disruptive.  This leads many dog owners to look for tools to stop the behavior.

We don’t advocate any of these tools. Examples are dog whistles and electronic devices (including shock collars or sprays) that are triggered by barking. These are aversive methods we recommend you avoid. Even if they sometimes seem to help, they can lead to desensitization and will become less effective over time. 

Instead, the better solution is to identify the underlying cause of the barking and address it with positive training and activities. For example, exercise and mental stimulation can help relieve boredom and separation anxiety that might cause your dog’s barking. Consult a good trainer if you need help

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