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Decoding Dog Barking Sounds - What Does My Dog's Barking Say?

Decoding Dog Barking Sounds - What Does My Dog's Barking Say?

People talk — dogs bark. People use talking to express what they feel and want. Dogs do the same by barking. Just like there are people that speak only to hear themselves, some dogs do the same.

At times, humans may find it hard to understand each other. And we're speaking the same language! How much harder could it be to understand a different species? So, as much as we love our dogs, it can be challenging to determine what they're telling us.

If you're finding it a little troublesome to differentiate between bark meanings, don't fret. We have a handy guide that may help.


Different Dog Barking Types  

Dogs don't sound the same. Barking sounds can be low-pitched, mid-range, or high. Some dogs also tend to whine or howl instead of barking. Even so-called barkless dogs like the Basenji will make a sound, although it's closer to yodeling than actual barking.  

But what do they mean? How do you know that your dog is saying "hello, let's play" and not "come no closer or I'll bite"?




High Pitch 

Repeated in series 


Repetitive with brief pauses 


Repetitive with lips pulled back 


Low Pitch 

One short growling sound that may also go longer 


Low to High Pitch 

Repetitive and increasing in intensity 






Dog barks can be categorized as:

  • Alert
  • Demand
  • Aggressive
  • Play
  • Anxious


In general, there are three things to consider when decoding and understanding what type the barking sounds fall into.

  • Pitch

This can be low or high or anything in between. According to most dog behaviorists, a low pitch is used when the dog wants to appear larger and more dangerous. Growling is an excellent example of a low-pitched bark.

On the other hand, high pitch denotes friendliness. It's usually a signal that the dog is safe to approach.

  • Duration

Barks can be long or short. Shorter barks signal urgency. This is why dogs need attention, whether due to anger, alarm, or fear, bark in short bursts.

Longer bark durations are less urgent and indicate unhappiness. These are the sounds that turn into howls. When the dog is unsure or holding ground, this sound is usually produced.

  • Frequency

Bark frequency is closely tied to temperament. Single barks denote low excitement or interest levels. Repetitive barks, meanwhile, show joy and excitement, although they can also mean anger.

In deciphering dog barks, it's important to note that different combinations of the above can mean different things.

For example, a continuous and mid-range pitch can mean your pet is calling other dogs in the area. But the same pitch but in short 3-4 bark strings mean they're simply trying to get your attention.


Now that you know what the sounds mean, the usual follow-up question is, "How do I stop my dog from barking?"


Factors Causing Excessive Barking in Dogs

Incessant barking can be a big problem for pet owners. But before you can find a solution to the annoying barking situation, you must identify the reason for it first.

What factors cause excessive barking?

Close Up Image of a beagle

1. Breed

Some breeds are known to bark more tirelessly than others. These include popular pets like:

  • Beagles

  • Small Terriers like Yorkies

  • Collies

  • Dalmatians

  • Schnauzers

  • Pekingese

  • Chihuahuas

  • Pomeranians

If you're the proud owner of any of these breeds, know that training them not to bark may be a little challenging.

2. Separation Anxiety

Usually due to confinement issues or noise phobia. Simply put, dogs that suffer from separation anxiety do not want to be left alone. The relentless barking, whining, and howling is their way of calling for a companion.

3. Barrier Frustration

This happens when pets see their humans but cannot get to them. Excessive barking is their way to signal that they want to be together with you.

Sad Pug Lying on Floor

4. Boredom and Social Isolation

Without someone to play with and keep them company, dogs can quickly get bored and resort to a whole lot of unwanted barking.

5. Environmental Stimuli

Stimuli can ease boredom, but too much can also have the same effect. A dog that's easily excited by outside noise, especially if they happen all at once, can resort to annoying and non-stop barking.

6. Social Facilitation

Sometimes, dogs bark because they can hear another dog barking, too.  

Angry Looking Siberian Husky

7. Territorial

When people or other animals come into what a dog perceives as their space, they will bark and typically won't stop until the area is again all theirs.

8. Attention-seeking

Just like small children will keep repeating themselves until the parent notices, and dogs will bark until they are similarly rewarded with attention.

9. Habit

Any of the previous factors can make a dog feel better about their situation. Unfortunately, if it goes unchecked, they'll think the behavior is acceptable and continue doing it.

Old Golden Retriever Getting a Pat on the Head

10. Old Age

Senior dogs tend to bark without a trigger. This is a sign of declining cognitive function.

Knowing the reason your dog barks will make it easier to identify what their actual barking sound means. This should also make it easier to find the best solution to make them stop.


How to Stop Excessive Barking in Dogs

For the record, you don't want to stop your dog from barking completely. That's not fair to them, not to mention it's a somewhat unrealistic goal. What you want to focus on instead is how to stop them from barking unnecessarily and relentlessly.

Nuisance barking is harder to stop the more it goes uncorrected. It is therefore in you and your dog's best interest to stop it as soon as possible.

To accomplish that, you have to spend time training them. Partnering the command with treats should help. For example, tell your dog "quiet" when they start barking and then give them a treat once they comply.

If that doesn't work, try putting the treat on the ground when you give the command. This should distract your pet from barking and learn to associate the command with the need to be silent.

Of course, if excessive barking happens when you are not there, no amount of command training will help simply because no one is there to give the command. What to do then?


Using No Bark Collars for Nuisance Barking  

When you're not available to monitor your dog's barking, no-bark collars make for the best solution.  

Bark collars are tools that detect your dog's excessive or nuisance barking. Depending on the type, it will then trigger stimulation meant to distract your dog.

The most common bark collar type is the static stimulation bark collars. One popular example is the SportDog® Brand NoBark SBC-R. Highly recommended for medium to large dog breeds, the SBC-R has a unique bark detection technology. It identifies your pet's specific bark and filters outside noise. (Read our full review here.)

SportDOG SBC-R No Bark Collar

Image: SportDog SBC-R No Bark Collar Training Modes 


The second most popular type of bark collar is vibration bark collars. Instead of using static to correct the behavior, vibration is used instead. Many prefer this, especially for more sensitive or older aged canines. Like the E-Collar Technologies BP-504, some models have both static and vibration features, so you can be more flexible and choose what correction works best for your pet.

E-Collar Technologies BP-504 No Bark Collar

Image: E-Collar Technologies BP-504 No Bark Collar


There are also bark collars that use ultrasonic sound instead of static and vibration. High pitched sound is used to correct the dog. The sound is not audible to humans. Extremely stubborn breeds seem to take to this kind of correction. It goes without saying, though, that this is not for deaf or dogs that are hearing-impaired.

PetSafe PBC00-13925 Ultrasonic Bark Control Collar

Image: PetSafe PBC00-13925 Ultrasonic Bark Control Collar 


Finally, spray bark collars utilize scented (usually Citronella or Lemon) or an unscented spray instead of static. The spray is harmless unless your dog is allergic to the infused oil.

PetSafe PBC00-16368 Spray Bark Collar

Image: PetSafe PBC00-16368 Spray Bark Collar

Most modern bark collars have safety features that ensure your dog does not get over-corrected. Consistent and proper use of anti-bark collars will effectively train your pet to stop the nuisance barking and bark only when needed.



To decode your dog's barking correctly, you need to listen to the sound they're producing. You must also understand the reason for their barking habits. Knowing both will help you find the best solution in curbing nuisance barking.


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