Often, when our dogs start barking, our first reaction is to try to get them to stop. After all, they seem to sound off at the most inconvenient times: when we’re on the phone, when our frightened delivery person is trying to hand us a package, or, for some reason, in the middle of the night. You may even have a dog that barks at just about everything: cats, other dogs, family members, you name it.
In this article, we set out to answer the question that has popped up in the mind of many Owners: “why in the world is my dog barking right now?”
Understanding what drives a dog to vocalise can help us to address our barking dog in the most helpful way. The result is a happier, and hopefully quieter, dog.
The basic function of barking
Put very simply, barking is a warning mechanism. Dogs, as we’ve discussed time and again, are pack animals. They like to keep everyone informed about any changes that they notice in the environment. In the wild, alarm bells are helpful.
Well, wait a minute. If a dog’s bark is a survival tactic to keep the pack safe, why don’t wolves do it too? Well, as veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker explains, wolves have a different communication system that is more elusive to humans. As dogs evolved side-by-side with humans, they developed the sounds that would be most easily recognisable to us. We also bred them to have more of the characteristics of wolf pups, and with that came the more juvenile vocalisation – barking.
But, whether it’s the dog’s bark or the wolf’s whine, the core purpose remains the same – to inform or protect. As irritating as this behaviour can be in a modern world, as Owners, we should try to acknowledge that our pooch is just trying to communicate – either to protect us or to share their emotions with us.
Bark #1: The playful bark
You might also know this bark from when your dog hears a family member’s car pulling into the garage. It’s the sound that says: “Hey everybody! A member of our pack is back! Let’s welcome them!”
Generally, your dog will stop using this bark once they’ve calmed down. That might be after they’ve run a few laps through the house or tried to jump up on everyone’s lap.
Bark #2: The newcomer bark
When your dog hears a sound that is surprising or just new, they might sound off this bark. It is not a high-pitched playful bark, but neither is it a low-pitched and menacing. Instead, it will be somewhere in the middle, with pauses in between barks so that the dog can listen for new information.
This bark is your dog trying to say: “Hey, did everyone hear that? I’m not sure what it is, but it might be dangerous.”
Bark #3: The warning bark
This bark is your dog on full alert. They are at once a rallying call for all of the members of the pack to get ready for danger, and also a warning to the intruder not to come any closer. This bark doesn’t have the pauses of the previous bark. It’s also slower and deeper than any of the other barks.
If you hear this bark, it’s important to assess the situation and make sure that your dog is okay. Generally, dogs don’t make this bark unless they really feel like they’re being threatened. With this in mind, even sitting with your dog and sharing your relaxed energy with them can sometimes be enough to calm them down.
Bark #4: The lonely bark
This is the bark that will probably make your neighbours complain, even though you’ve never heard it yourself. It is medium to high pitch and continuous, with frequent pauses.
The meaning of this bark is to say: “I would really like some company. I don’t enjoy being alone right now.” The frequent pauses allow your dog to listen for any sounds that will break the boredom. In other words, this poor pooch is desperate for attention. If they’ve been barking like this when you’re out at work, you should book them in for Doggy Daycare.
How to speak your dog’s language
Clearly, dogs don’t bark just because they want to drive us crazy. Each bark conveys a specific message that, when you listen closely, can deepen the bond that you have with your dog. When you begin to notice the patterns of their barking, you can learn how to respond with love and understanding.
If, for instance, you realise that your dog gives the warning bark whenever your neighbour takes their not-so-friendly pooch for a walk in front of your house, you might respond by distracting your dog with a quick version of their favourite game. This will disrupt the behaviour and allow your furry friend to associate the passing dog not with danger, but with something fun.
The more you get to know your dog’s barking, the more you can work with them to create a more relaxed atmosphere for the both of you.
Need some train training your pooch to stop barking? Book a Mad Paws Dog Trainer!