How to Interpret your Dog's Bark

How to Interpret your Dog's Bark
Francisco María García

Written and verified by the lawyer Francisco María García.

Last update: 22 December, 2022

The canine species has great intelligence and ingenuity. Dogs always manage to express their feelings and desires. It’s our task to interpret a dog’s bark correctly.

Dogs communicate with people through different sounds. Howls, growls and different kinds of barks are usually the most common ones. Canines try to express their emotions and feelings using these sounds. To know how to interpret your dog’s bark, you have to take several factors into account.

Not all barking means the same thing. In addition, howls and growls also have different interpretations. You’ll need to analyze well the characteristics of the sounds your dog makes in order to understand what they mean.

How to interpret barking, howling, and growling


Dogs emit several types of barks. To interpret your dog’s bark, you have identify the sound’s characteristics :

  • Short and sharp bark: This is a friendly bark. Dogs often use it to greet each other. It’s very common for you to hear it when you get home.
  • Short and low-pitched bark: Females use this bark to scold their puppies.
  • Uncontrolled barking: Dogs use it when there’s danger present. Dogs bark uncontrollably at new or strange events. Fireworks and a stranger’s presence can cause a dog to bark this way.
  • Intermittent bark: Used when the dog is excited or overly happy. The animal barks intermittently so that you’ll let him go outside or so that you’ll play with him.
  • Repetitive and insistent barking: Trained dogs, like hunting or rescue dogs, use this type of bark. When a dog barks this way, it means he’s found something.
  • Other types of barking: As they age, it’s normal for dogs to bark more intensely and frequently. This is because they are going deaf, and are unable to regulate their own sounds.
    interpret dog barks

In addition to barking, dogs howl to communicate. There are different types of howling.


Usually when a dog howls, it means he’s in pain. It can be pain within him or caused by someone else.

  • Long, continued howling: This kind of howl manifests fear and pain. It can be accompanied by jerky barking.
  • Howling at the same time as other dogs: This is how dogs claim a certain territory.
  • Puppy whining: Is complaining or a demand for attention and affection.
  • Imitation howls: These howls mimic other sounds. Generally, they are sounds heard at any given time. Sirens, ambulances, police cars– whatever the dog hears at a certain time. A dog’s ear is very sensitive, so it can easily capture another types of frequencies.
  • Other howls: Some howls also mean that the animal is anxious or depressed.

In addition to barking and howling, growls also have different meanings.


It’s less common than barking and howling, but dogs also growl.

  • Soft, low-pitched growl: It’s a menacing snarl. The dog is demanding his space. If you don’t respect it, you’ll suffer the consequences. Dogs also use this growl when playing.
  • Growl/Bark: This high-pitched mix between a growl and a bark denotes distrust toward another animal. When the pitch is lower, it’s a sign of aggression or a wake-up call.
  • Undulating growl: This growl has sudden variations in tone. It’s a sign of nervousness. The dog may be about to attack. Precautions must be taken.When this happens, you should never look the animal in the eye.

It’s not difficult to interpret a dog’s bark.The same goes for howling and growling. Usually the sound an animal makes matches the expression on his face. It’s another sign to help you guess what the animal is trying to express.

If a dog makes a strange or unknown sound for more than 24 hours, you should take him to a specialist. He may have a health condition.

Dogs are very intelligent animals. They will always find an ideal way to make their feelings and desires known.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.