Why Dogs Bark

Why Dogs Bark

Dogs bark. It is part of their normal and natural communication and behavior. Dogs can bark for appropriate and good reasons, such as when strangers approach the house, when they hear an odd noise or when they are herding sheep. Most of us want our dogs to be "watchdogs" and alert us to anything unusual. But dogs can also bark inappropriately. In 2 scientific surveys of dog owners, approximately 1/3 of them reported their dogs barked excessively. To control barking in our dogs, we first need to understand why they are barking.

Types of canine vocal communication

Dogs, as well as wolves use many types of vocalizations to communicate. This communication starts very early in life. Young puppies make a mewing-like sound when they are searching for food or warmth. Louder crying sounds are heard if the puppy is hurt or frustrated. As dogs get older, they make 5 main classes of sounds: howls, growls, grunts, whines and barks. Each of these classes of sounds is used in different situations.

Howling is used as a means of long-range communication in many different circumstances. Howls are more often associated with wolves but dogs howl too. Wolves often howl to signify territorial boundaries, locate other pack members, coordinate activities such as hunting or attract other wolves for mating. Dogs may howl as a reaction to certain stimuli such as sirens.

Growling can occur in very different activities. It is used to threaten, warn, in defense, in aggression and to show dominance. But growling is also used in play as well. By looking at the body posture, we should be able to tell the difference. Growls during aggression are accompanied by a stare or snarl, and the growling dog often remains stationary. Play-growls occur in combination with a happy tail and a play bow to signal willingness to play. These dogs are often moving and jumping about to entice play.

Grunts in dogs are the equivalent of contented sighs in people. They can also be heard when dogs are greeting each other or people.

Whines or whimpers are short- or medium-range modes of communication. Dogs may whine when they greet each other, are showing submissiveness, are frustrated or in pain, to obtain attention and sometimes in defense. Dogs generally whine more than wolves, perhaps because they use the whine more as an attention-seeking behavior, and are often rewarded for it. Think about it. The first sound you may hear from a new puppy is the whine at night when he finds himself alone. We often are guilty of unintentionally reinforcing this whining by giving the puppy the attention he wants.

Barking is another mode of communication that seems to be more common in dogs than other canine species. Again, this may be the result of human encouragement. Certain breeds have been bred to bark as part of their watchdog or herding duties. Barking is used to alert or warn others and defend a territory, to seek attention or play, to identify oneself to another dog, and as a response to boredom, excitement, being startled, lonely, anxious or teased.

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