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Nature & Environment

What do dogs say when they bark ?

By T.K. Randall
February 13, 2013 · Comment icon 48 comments



Image Credit: Joseph Moreno
Research in to the nature of dog barks has revealed that thee may be more to these sounds than we think.
Unlike their wild counterparts, domestic dogs tend to bark quite a lot - often at strangers or at anyone who walks by. The exact purpose and significance of dog barking is not entirely understood and it seems that not every individual bark from a dog is the same. Some believe that dogs are able to subtly alter the sounds they make in a way that may have meaning to other dogs but that humans are unable to pick up on.

In one experiment researchers recorded the sounds made as a dog growled at some food, then of a dog growling at strangers. A different dog was then brought in and offered a bone while each of the two growl recordings was played back. The results indicated that the dog was more hesitant to approach the bone when the 'food growl' was played as oppose to when the 'strange growl' was played. The dog seemed to be able to tell the difference despite the two growls being indistinguishable to the casual human ear.[!gad]Unlike their wild counterparts, domestic dogs tend to bark quite a lot - often at strangers or at anyone who walks by. The exact purpose and significance of dog barking is not entirely understood and it seems that not every individual bark from a dog is the same. Some believe that dogs are able to subtly alter the sounds they make in a way that may have meaning to other dogs but that humans are unable to pick up on.

In one experiment researchers recorded the sounds made as a dog growled at some food, then of a dog growling at strangers. A different dog was then brought in and offered a bone while each of the two growl recordings was played back. The results indicated that the dog was more hesitant to approach the bone when the 'food growl' was played as oppose to when the 'strange growl' was played. The dog seemed to be able to tell the difference despite the two growls being indistinguishable to the casual human ear.
Dog vocalizations may not sound very sophisticated. Raymond Coppinger pointed out that most dog vocalizations consist of barking, and that barking seems to occur indiscriminately.


Source: Scientific American | Comments (48)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #39 Posted by Taun 10 years ago
A little off-topic, but for all the smart dogs out there: Beagles are notrious climbers...
Comment icon #40 Posted by Taun 10 years ago
The difference between dogs and cats... (I may have gotten this from this site if so appologies - and thanks- to the OP)... WHAT PETS WRITE IN THEIR DIARIES ....... Excerpts from a Dog's Diary...... 8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing! 9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing! 9:40 am - A walk in the park! My favorite thing! 10:30 am - Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing! 12:00 pm - Lunch! My favorite thing! 1:00 pm - Played in the yard! My favorite thing! 3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing! 5:00 pm - Milk Bones! My favorite thing! 7:00 pm - Got to play ball! My favorite thing! ... [More]
Comment icon #41 Posted by CrimsonKing 10 years ago
Dogs become your best friends,cats are like having stewie griffin around the house all the time lol
Comment icon #42 Posted by Jinxdom 10 years ago
I miss my dog(was a basenji although they don't actually bark) we would literally have full blown conversations. Like about food, what to play and do, even about what to watch. Oh god how she would out smart my ex. Little escape artist. Animals really are some of the best judges of character, I would of avoided a ton of trouble if I noticed it earlier on in life and acted accordingly.
Comment icon #43 Posted by Medium Brown 10 years ago
I havn't really got a clue what Ty and Kayla are trying to communicate when they bark... But Ty does have a habit of talking according to my sister.. He tries this on when he wants to go walkies or it's supper time. But when they actually bark it's not just to warn off intruders.. Kayla does it when her ball goes underneath the sofa or a chair. She does it again when she's greeting Ty back from his walk. And on the approach to Tandle Hill she does an excited one. While Ty does a jealous one when Kayla's getting intimate with my sis. I honestly feel there's a subtle difference in every type of ... [More]
Comment icon #44 Posted by mysticwerewolf 10 years ago
before my friend to the left passed away he was able to say one english word That word was hello. it wasn't a perfect hello most of the time but he had the two syllables correct and usually sounded like scooby doo, a couple times however it was so perfect that we actually looked around to make sure that no one else was in the room. but on the rare occation he demanded to be understood, he was understood. Sometimes i wondered if he was psionic ( psychic ) as most of the time he would just look at someone and they knew what he wanted. He rarely spoke except when someone came home or came to visi... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by xsas 10 years ago
before my friend to the left passed away he was able to say one english word That word was hello. it wasn't a perfect hello most of the time but he had the two syllables correct and usually sounded like scooby doo, a couple times however it was so perfect that we actually looked around to make sure that no one else was in the room. but on the rare occation he demanded to be understood, he was understood. Sometimes i wondered if he was psionic ( psychic ) as most of the time he would just look at someone and they knew what he wanted. He rarely spoke except when someone came home or came to visi... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by mysticwerewolf 10 years ago
we never figured out what caused the seizures but magee passed in the middle of a siezure on the vets table on the 5th of november last year. in was the sixth seizure in six hours.... the last thing he said when my sister and i walked into the room at the vet hospital ER was "hello" and the vets says "he just said hello ?!", then magee went into that final siezure that he didn't live through. we tried to teach him the word and somehow he realized that this was a greeting and tried for several years to get his lips around that word. most of the time it was, as mentioned earlier, like scooby do ... [More]
Comment icon #47 Posted by gentai 10 years ago
mysticwerewolf, i am sorry for your loss. once, i said to my friends dog who was staring at me, "what do you want? what are you trying to say? i dont understand. say it in english". i repeated some of these words to him over and over as if to make him feel that he could do it and to give him confidence. the dog in front of his owners began trying to speak to me. he sounded desperate with excitement but it was such a struggle for him that it was both funny and sad and amazing all at the same time. of course it was total doggy sound gibberish but he tried sooo hard.
Comment icon #48 Posted by mysticwerewolf 10 years ago
I am firmly convinced that while not quite as intelligent as humans Dogs and cats are intelligent. and who knows maybe in their own way they are as intelligent they may not be able to speakor do math or quantumn physics but they learn that specific words mean specific things they can find hidden drugs and explosives and they can detect sickness without complicated medical tests(i hear storys occationally where the dog somehow dialed emergency for a real emergency) and they guard and protect others, they guide the blind and or the deaf ( the video i saw a few weeks ago of one dog pulling anothe... [More]


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