Dogs are truly man’s best friend. They always have our back, no matter what. Not only are they loyal, but they are loving, and great best friends for our kids. We just wish we could know what is on their minds.

How awesome would it be to get home from work, and be able to have a conversation with your furry friend about your day as well as their day? Believe it or not, you can interpret quite a lot about what they are saying through the types of dog barks you’re hearing. Your chats may not be long, but you can understand what barks mean to determine whether your dog is happy, sad, or something else entirely.

Types of Barks: A Dog’s Communication System

According to Psychology Today, interpreting a dog’s bark, moan, or howl breaks down into three fundamental aspects: the pitch, frequency, and duration.

Before we get into the meaning of their sounds, let’s first understand how to interpret these three aspects of their communication.

What Does the Pitch Mean?

Just like we have tones of voice to indicate our emotions through our speech, dogs use the pitch of their voice to indicate how they feel about something.

Generally, the lower the pitch the more “in-danger” your furry friend feels. Basically, if your furry friend is growling in a low pitch he is trying to say, “Get away from me”, “Don’t come near my family” or something along these lines.

On the other end of the spectrum, high pitch noises are the opposite message. A higher pitch generally indicates, “I am happy”, “Come closer”, or “give me love”. All of these are positive signs that your doggy is in a happy mood and wants to get attention.

If you wish to communicate safely with a dog, you could use this principle when approaching a new dog. For example, use high-pitched sounds yourself to indicate that you mean no harm. You might also indicate that you’re harmless by vocalizing high pitch whimpers–though you may feel a tad silly while doing this.

What Does the Duration of a Dog’s Bark or Sound Imply?

The duration of a dog’s bark or sound indicates their mental stability in a hostile / non-hostile situation.

For example, if your dog is ready to fight, and not back down in a defensive situation, he will emit a long, low pitch sound. This indicates, “If you start this, I am going to finish it”. We strongly advise you to not aggravate him any further if this is the case.

Again, we have the opposite meaning for a short duration sound that grows. Shorter burst growls indicate that a dog is scared about dealing with an attack, and would prefer not to fight at all if possible.

You can combine these two principles to understand when dogs are scared, hurt, or ready to protect their loved ones. A high-pitched but brief duration whimper/growl could indicate that your dog is in pain, or uncomfortable, and would like love or help to make the pain go away.

If you notice this type of sound, you may want to see if your dog is sick or hurt, or needs medical attention. (We generally recommend having some type of dog insurance for vet visits, as this could save you money over time.)

Bark Frequency and How It Ties In with Both Pitch and Duration

You may understand your dog’s bark frequency better than you realize. When your dog hears other dogs barking in the neighborhood, it’s not uncommon for them to bark lazily once or twice, lay down, circle around and repeat the process. You don’t normally feel concerned when they do this.

This behavior indicates that your dog is paying attention to noises in the area. But, they’re not particularly interested or excited about what is happening.

Alternatively, if someone like a guest or even the mailman approaches the door, your dog probably barks far more often, at a quicker rate. This indicates he is paying close attention, and/or is excited to see who is at the door.

This behavior could help you identify when your dog is barking at external noises that pose no threat to your home or loved ones, or barking at welcome (or unwelcome) guests in your home.

Now, it isn’t that useful to know!

Types of Barks: Applying These 3 Aspects to Common Barks

The Let’s Play Bark

When you play fetch, tag, or anything really with your dog, they seem to have a universal posture and bark for the occasion. Also known as a stutter bark, it’s generally a high-pitched “Harr-ruff” sound which basically means, “come on throw the ball, I wanna play, gimme gimme”.

You Need To Give Some Love

Hopefully, you don’t hear this one too often. If your furry friend barks frequently, with deliberate pauses between each bark, they are trying to explain that they are lonely, and feeling unloved. If you hear this, drop what you are doing and give that little guy/gal all the attention they need.

Call The Pack – There Is Danger!

One of the greatest benefits of having a dog is the safety they offer to your family. Remember how we discussed the combination of fundamentals, pitch, frequency, and duration?

If your dog is emitting 2-4 barks with pauses in between (frequency & duration) in a low pitch (pitch), this typically means a “Call the pack, there is danger” message from your little one. He notices something strange going on, is playing close attention to it, and is scared that the pack is in danger.

The team at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services knows that professional veterinarians listen for types of barks and sounds to understand how a dog is feeling, and how they are coping with ailments. You can use the same tools to understand what barks mean to help your furry friend live a happier life.