What your dog’s bark actually means

As dog owners, we all like to think that we know exactly what our dog is thinking. We got used to their dog body language, those little habits that let you know what they want. You probably also realized that dogs have many different barks. If you haven’t quite figured out what each bark means, read our guide and it should help you figure it out.

Barking is a way dogs tell us that they are hungry, thirsty, need some love, or want to go outside and play. They can also alert us to potential security threats or intruders. So, if we can interpret a dog’s barking, it helps us differentiate between annoying barking and when our dog is trying to share important communication.

According to dog expert Dr. Stanley Coren, who wrote How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication, barks sound different and mean different things in different situations. He says there is no such thing as a universal voice signal, and they definitely serve a greater purpose than just saying “hello” or “watch”.

The dog behaviorist who wrote Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog says barking is also emotionally complex. Dogs don’t just bark when they’re excited, although it may appear that way when they’re trying to get your attention. They bark when they are scared, lonely, surprised, irritated, and more. That means there are also different barks for different moods.

When you’re trying to figure out what your dog is trying to tell you or why they’re barking, Coren says dogs vary their vocalizations in three ways.


The pitch of a dog bark varies from individual to individual, but it can also reveal internal motivations. He says that higher dog barking generally indicates a dog that is afraid, insecure, or in pain. A lone dog also barks higher to solicit company, sometimes increasing to sound almost like a plaintive yowl.

A deeper dog bark is more threatening and can come from a confident dog or a very scared dog trying to scare you away.

Consider your dog’s barking when a stranger walks up the front corridor compared to the barking he makes when you walk through the door. The first warns the house of a possible intruder, while the second is called “Welcome Home” and is likely to have a higher pitched tone.


Dogs can extend their barking to a “wooh-wooh” bark or even a howl. A longer, elongated bark seems to indicate more intent behind the bark. A short, sudden “yip” is likely to come from a place of surprise, while a prolonged howl may have more meaning.


Repetitive barking at a rapid pace indicates urgency, stress, or excitement. Dogs that bark in quick staccato outbursts are trying to convey something very exciting to them.

The more barks in a row, the more excited the dog is. A single bark can be given when a dog is surprised or upset, as if to say, “What?” or “stop”. On the other hand, a long bark likely indicates that the dog is much more excited, such as the prolonged alarm barking.

Happy woofing!


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