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By Dr. Méline Joaris
Dogs communicate differently than us. While we talk to each other, dogs communicate through their body language and vocalizations, also known as barking. However, barking is just an umbrella term – there are many different kinds of barks! There are many situations where loud noises aren’t appropriate, so we often focus our training efforts on reducing barking in our canine family members. Whether you’re looking to get a better understanding of your dog’s barking or if you want to start training your dog to limit vocalization, the first step is the same: determine the bark.
A dog's bark can vary in sound depending on the breed. Some dogs have a high pitch note, while others sound deeper. Some dogs are even more vocal than others. Regardless of the specific pitch, barking is commonly broken down into the following categories:
Play Bark – often during exciting times when playing with toys and other dogs. Play barking can be an invitation to play or be done intermittently during play.
Over-Arousal – this sort of barking can sometimes stem from play or stress. A dog that is too excited or stress may begin to bark and be unable to focus on things they usually have no issues with.
Demand Bark – a bark for attention, a toy or food. Careful, if you find your dog is barking for attention – any sort of attention will increase the barking!
Alarm Bark – a bark that says “Hey! There’s something or someone there!”. We often hear this bark when someone knocks on the door or there’s a loud noise outside of the dog’s view.
Barking due to Stress and/or Anxiety – such as barking when left alone, a waiting room before an appointment can both be signs that barking is stemming from anxiety or stress.
Warning Bark – this kind of bark is telling another pet or person to back off. This one is often seen when a dog is protecting its yard, on leash and wants something to go away, or the dog is scared and wants distance.
Here are some videos breaking down the categories above to help you determine what kind of barks your dog is exhibiting. When determining the type of bark, it’s best to look at the entire picture. This includes the environment the dog is in and the body language the dog is exhibiting before, during and after barking. For training purposes, different types of barks are treated differently during the training process. Any barking that is related to stress, anxiety, or warning should be handled by a qualified reputable trainer that can determine the underlying issue walk you through the process. If handled incorrectly and just the symptom of barking is punished, you can worsen or create additional behavior problems. Here is a guide by Companion Animal Psychology to help you choose the right trainer, including methods and qualifications to look for.
Another common vocalization we hear from our dog companions is whining. Just like barking, whining can have different meanings depending on the context of the situation and the body language your pet is exhibiting. Often times, whining is associated with some of the same barking categories such as stress, anxiety, and over-arousal.
If you find yourself dealing struggling with your dogs barking or whining, or have questions, you can consult with us through the Fuzzy App. We are happy to help, or help you find a local reputable trainer if needed.