What Is Your Dog Trying to Say When They Bark?

An animal expert decodes four commonly heard sounds.

In our day-to-day conversations, we can pick up on the other person's mood based on their tone and the volume of their voice. When it comes to our dogs, we are accustomed to hearing them bark for any number of reasons. According to animal expert Jane MacMurchy, coordinator of Animal Charity of Ohio, the motivation for a dog to bark (excessively or otherwise) can be due to excitement, hunger, boredom, pain, aggression, joy, or fear. Barking is the primary means of expressing themselves. As owners, it's up to us to decipherer what they're trying to vocalize. Depending on the situation, here's what they may be trying to say.

dog howling sitting next to interior window
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Happy and Excited Bark

When we're happy, we typically smile, giggle, or get a little jittery. Our dogs bark to express this feeling, too. When a happy or excited dog barks, their ears are relaxed, the bark is often a higher, yapper pitch, and it's repetitive. Owners will also notice their pet's tail wagging when they're happy.

Scared Bark

When we're scared as humans, we sometimes cry, shake, or even scream. Similarly, a dog that is scared will have their legs bent while (in most cases) backing up. Their eyes will have a sideways appearance with a tucked tail. A scared dog's bark will be preceded by yawning as well as lip-licking.

Injured Bark

Crying or moaning is a common verbal sign of pain in humans. The same type of pain vocalization can be expressed by dogs. If a dog is in pain, its bark will sound like a high-pitched cry. Typically, the high-pitched woof is followed by whining or screaming.

Hungry Bark

Who doesn't get a little cranky when we skip a meal? Dogs yap when they're hungry, too. You'll know your dog is hungry when the barking is continuous and maintains a steady pitch. According to our expert, this is the dog expressing to you to intercept their woofs with positive attention with food or treats.

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