According to experts, wolves bark as warnings, for defence, or to express dissent, and there is very little variation in the different tones. Domesticated dogs bark far more frequently, and in many different ways. Barking was originally a way of warning the early hunter-gatherers of approaching predators, but as our relationships with our dogs have become more complex, so have their barks.
Play barking is usually high-pitched and comes in short frequent burst. It doesn’t sound particularly intense and it’s often accompanied by inviting body language like eye contact, tail wagging, and a play bow (this is when your dog sticks out his paws and crouches down low.) You'll hear it around human and other dogs; its a sign you have a healthy and happy dog.
This one is a lot more serious, and you’ll know it when you hear it. Territorial barking is repetitive and will increase in intensity as any perceived intruders get closer. It could be humans or other dogs, and although it sounds aggressive, it often stems from fear and uncertainty.
Your dog has spotted or smelt something that it doesn't like and know they’re telling you about it. An alarm bark will be short and sharp, and it isn’t going to stop until you’ll deal with whatever is making your dog distressed.
This is typically associated with pacing, jumping, and spinning. It will be high-pitched and repetitive with a softer tone. It happens in response to excitement or pleasure, like the moment when it realises it's going for a walk, or when it’s owner returns from work.
Fearful or anxious barking
This will sound a lot like territorial barking, but a dog's body language will be completely different. Rather than seeing an open, aggressive stance, your dog will look nervous or even timid. Look out for their ears being pinned back, bulging eyes, and a nervous pacing. Again, this isn't going to stop until the ‘threat’ is removed.
Dogs can bark in response to external stimuli, but they can also use as a way to express their feelings and emotions. Examples include:
Dogs are an extremely sociable creature, and a lack of stimulation and company will make them act out. Boredom barking is a common response, and it will sound a lot like how the dog is feeling - dull, flat, and it will likely go on for hours on end. It's a way for a dog to vent it's frustration, triggering a hormone release that compensates for its unmet needs. This is a serious problem, and prevention is always better than cure. So make sure your dogs gets the company and stimulation it needs.
Separation anxiety barking
Leaving a dog alone for long periods of time can lead to anxiety barking. It can go on for hours, accompanied by a high-pitched whining sound similar to that of a puppy being separated from its mother for the first time. This is because separation anxiety stems from a dysfunctional attachment to the owner, usually caused by giving a puppy too much attention. As hard as it can be, puppies need to learn some independence.
Canine Cognitive Dysfunction barking
Due to high-quality veterinarian care, dogs are living longer. On the one hand, this is great - we get to spend more time with our beloved pets, but it also means they’re becoming more susceptible to cognitive health issues like Alzheimers and dementia. Dogs entering this decline will often start barking for no reason whatsoever. It will sound dull and monotone. Speak to your vet if you have any concerns; they can prescribe medication to help ease the condition.
Attention seeking barking
This bark will be loud, harsh, and incessant. Your dog is barking because it wants some attention. It's learnt that this is the best way to grab your attention, and it might be all your fault. Imagine the following scenario: You're a dog and you've been sitting at home all day waiting for your beloved owner to come home. You can't wait to play with them, but as soon as they get home they switch on the TV and veg out on the sofa. You're desperate for their attention and you’ve tried all your other tricks. So you start barking until you get what you want. Bingo! You tell yourself to try this again tomorrow. This isn't an exhaustive list.
Dogs are complex creatures and they can back for many different reasons, or often from a combination of a few. But giving them the stimulation and exercise they need, as well as encouraging the right kind of behaviours, will keep their barking in check.