Why Does My Dog Bark?

Hello Everyone,

Here is an article from Al Skender of BARF World. It caught my attention because Roxie, my sheltie/schnauzer cross, is a determined and dedicated barker (her nickname is barks-a-lot), and I can definitely hear a difference in her barking tones and her reasons for barking.
“Why Does My Dog Bark?” By Al Skender

To a dog, voice and audio signals are very important. Dogs don’t speak our language and must therefore use other methods to communicate with their humans. A dog’s bark is one of the very few resources that he has to be able to effectively communicate with us. As a pet owner, it is important to understand where your dog’s bark comes from and how to be able to distinguish between a bark used as a happy, greeting, a bark used as a warning, and a bark used to tell us when something is wrong.

The Origins Of A Dog’s Bark

Barking has deep origins that trace back to the ancestorage of the wolf. In 1991, biologist and animal behaviorist Dr. Raymond Coppinger and linguist Mark Feinstein suggested that a dog is much like an immature or young wolf. While wolves may be the closest relatives to the dog, they very rarely bark. Young wolves, on the other hand, are different from adult ones as they will often bark and will do so for very different reasons. They will bark or yelp to attract the attention of their mother when they are alone or hungry and as the young wolf grows older, they will use the bark as a sign of dominance as they become more assured of themselves.

Coppinger and Feinstein believed that a domesticated dog’s behavior greatly resembles that of a young wolf and that as such, dogs never really grow into full (adult wolf) maturity. As it is already mentioned, “little wolves” have a tendancy to bark, so it comes as no surprise that domesticated dogs are also apt to do so.

However, this suggestion only explains the origin of barking but not about whether barking transmits information to other dogs and animals.

Using A Bark To Welcome Or Warn Other Animals

In 1977, biologist and animal communications expert, Dr. Eugene S. Morton published two articles in which he put forward an interesting theory about communication, that is, mutual communication. The essence of the theory was that mammals and birds will use the same rules of communication by sending out sound signals. Morton believed that high-pitched sounds, called shrilling, would signal to an approaching animal that they are indeed a friend or perhaps a weaker individual and mean no harm or threat to them. In contrast, low sounds would signal aggressive intentions towards the approaching stranger.

For the main argument, Morton cited the fact that animals and people are able to estimate the size of the enemy by his voice: large individuals produce sounds of lower frequencies than individuals with smaller body size. Based on the study of several unrelated species, Morton suggested that these rules are universal. His articles have now been universally recognized in the scientific community and animal communication researchers have begun to rely his findings.

Barking is a process that is closely associated with emotion and excitement. It has been repeatedly shown that acoustic parameters of these sounds may vary depending on the situation and the motivations. It is proved that the person evaluates the barking in accordance with the rules of Morton: low and rough barking is perceived as aggressive while barking at high frequencies is perceived as fear and despair.

The intervals between separate sounds are important, too: short intervals stain the barking with aggression, long ones sounded as notes of fear and despair or play and joy; a combination of high frequencies and long intervals is described as despair, happiness, or the game (which of three options one may hear depend entirely on the tone of the barking).

Did Humans Encourage Dogs To Bark?

For a long time there was a view among many scientists that the barking of dogs was not so much informative as it was just a “by-product” which emerged in the process of domestication. Like wolves, barking is rarely used in wild dogs and domestic dogs of certain breeds bark with pleasure, including when they communicate with their owners. Next to men, dogs would not run into the danger of being detected by their natural enemies when barking so it became more comfortable for them to use especially when trying to communicate with their owners.

Speaking about barking, one cannot forget the fact that different dog species can vary greatly in their tendencies to “talkativeness”. This is due to the fact that in some cases, people deliberately seek to breed dogs with certain acoustic properties (for example, guard dogs must notify their owner of the approach of a stranger by barking).

Barking is a natural way for a dog to express many feelings.You should not wean your dog from barking if not knowing the cause. If your dog barks with a definite and appropriate reason, you must reward it. Alternatively “idle barking” or barking to attract attention should be ignored. Most trainers agree that the carrot-and-stick policy (where you reward good behavior with a treat) has always justified itself to be successful. Of course the best way to wean your dog from barking is to teach him to bark on command and offer him the appropriate response when he behaves appropriately.

No less important is the fact that the sounds of your dog’s bark can indicate the health of your four-legged friend. It is known that the barking of dogs who suffer from pain is much more noisy than the barks uttered by healthy animals. If you have a pet that barks for no apparent reason or sounds anxious and noisy, make sure to consult your veterinarian as it may be an indication of a more serious problem.

Al Skender is a Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. He’s a self-proclaimed expert on the German Shepherd breed, owning several of them throughout his life. He enjoys being outdoors and prefers it to being stuck in front of the television, unless The Office or CSI is on. For more articles like these and to learn more about the benefits of raw food for your pets, sign up for The Intelligent Pet monthly e-zine at barfworld.com/ezine.


Mar 09, 2012 | Comments are off | Animal Communication, animal welfare, Dog Behavior

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