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How to Interpret Your Dogs Bark

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Dogs rely on vocalization in order to communicate with owners and other dogs. Do you ever wonder what do dog barks mean? Understanding what your dog is trying to say may help strengthen the bond.

Barking chihuahua dog

Dogs communicate with each other in three ways: chemically, visually, and vocally. Chemically, dogs tend to smell each other in order to establish the gender, rank, and temperament of each other. This is accomplished by smelling each other’s anal glands, which is the canine equivalent of a human ‘handshake.’

Visually, dogs communicate socially through body posture. A dog raising its hackles, ears forward, body leaning forward with lips raised, is obviously showing signs of aggression that most dogs will interpret right away. A playful dog instead will keep the tail high, rump in the air, and anterior legs lowered in a typical ‘play bow.’

Finally, dogs communicate vocally by emitting various sounds that may have different meanings. While a bark sounds just like bark to human ears, if owners pay close attention, they will notice there are variable sounds dogs produce to communicate different emotions. The following are some of the most common vocalizations that will help owners interpret canine language.

Understanding a Dog’s Bark

There are different types of barks in dogs. Watching carefully what the dog is doing as it barks may help interpret what the dog may be saying. The following are descriptions of different types of barks and the circumstances they are commonly seen in.


When a dog is afraid it will normally respond by barking, accompanied with hackles raised and tail tucked in close to the body. The bark itself is usually fast paced (often referred to as “yippy”) and often accompanied by high pitched whining noises.

chihuahua barking

Territorial Barking

Barking is mainly used in dogs to establish their territory. If the dog is in a fenced area and barks at the mailman, it is simply telling him in a convincing way to get off the property. The territorial barker will bark until the intruder leaves the premises if allowed to.

This is a habit-forming and self-rewarding type of bark since dogs become convinced that it is thanks to their barking that the intruder has left.

Watchdogs that must alert owners of somebody suspicious near their property will emit a single brief bark that often has a growl in it. It helps to thank the dog for the alert and take over the situation by checking if there is actually somebody nearby. It is ultimately important to point out that it is up to the owner to decide if the person visiting is a welcomed friend or a threat, not the dog.

Attention Seeking Barking

This is a learned behavior stemming often from owners that may unknowingly have reinforced it. The type of dog emitting this bark is a demanding attention seeker. The dog may bark in your face to ask you to throw the ball, get a belly rub, or receive a piece of that juicy steak you are eating.

This may be a frustrating ordeal to deal with since pet parents may hardly have time to relax. Not surprisingly, ignoring the dog will cause the dog to bark even more since the dog will try harder to get the attention it craves; eventually, however, this form of barking should dissipate right after getting worse.

2 chihuahua dogs in dresses barking at each other

Excited Barking

A repetitive, high pitched bark is often indicative of excitement and can be accompanied by play bows, running back and forth, and an overall state of hyperactivity. These come from playful hyperactive dogs or dogs excited to see their owners. These dogs display rapid movements that suggest a high level of excitement. It is often also seen in bored and under stimulated dogs when faced with exciting happenings.

Stress Barking

This type of vocalization is typically characterized by a monotone, continuous bark. This is a self-rewarding bark since it causes dogs to release endorphins into their brain. Such endorphins help dogs cope better with the mental stress they are undergoing.

Indeed, this type of barking is a release of anxious and frustrated energy that is often associated with separation anxiety.


When your dog gets angry and starts barking, it will normally be much lower pitched than happy or excited barks. The body language associated with an angry bark is usually a stiff, almost aggressive stance, often accompanied by teeth baring.

As seen, there are several different interpretations of a dog’s barking. Before resorting to extreme measures such as using electronic collars or inhumane debarking surgeries, it is vital to find out why a dog barks in the first place.

The use of citronella bark collars, (electronic collars are definitely not recommended under any circumstances-specially for small dogs), or ultrasound bark deterrent collars may be helpful but should only be used to treat nuisance barking when all other methods have failed. If the dog is barking for stress or anxiety, the use of such devices may actually make the problem worse.



Friday 8th of December 2023

Any ideas why my female chi has exciteman pee? Almost 4 years old.

Cathy Bendzunas

Friday 8th of December 2023

Is it something she just started doing? If so, she needs to be checked by a vet. If it's a long standing problem, it's quite common. It's called submissive urination and as far as I know there is no cure for it. The best you can do, is try to be as calm as possible when greeting her to curb some of that excitement and take her out right away.

Kim McCarty

Friday 16th of July 2021

Of course they can speak. You just need to listen to what they are telling us.


Friday 16th of July 2021

Yep, and understand what they are telling us.