Types Of Dog Sounds And What They Mean

Written by: Kristina Lalovic
Dog's vocalization is an important part of how they communicate with the world. Each vocalization has its own meaning depending on the surrounding. Learn what barking means at home and why dogs howl. Read on.

If you’re a dog owner you know that canines have a language of their own. Interestingly, they are communicating all the time among themselves and with humans.

In addition, if they are barking, howling or simply whining, the chances are that they are trying to tell you something. Moreover, they are trying to inform you about something. Learn about common dogs sounds and what they mean.

Dog’s Communication

Dog’s are surprisingly great when it comes to communication, regardless of the type of communication and who their talker is. In addition, it turns out that canine is great when it comes to communicating with humans. There is something unique in a way that dog and human communicate.

If you are wondering how someone that can’t actually speak communicate you should bear in mind that there are many different ways of communication, including non-verbal. Canines are superb when it comes to non-verbal communication and body language.

Dogs are using body language mostly when they are around humans, while for their doggy buddies they are using a mix of these two approaches, with a slight accent on verbal communication.

Types Of Dog Vocalization

Dogs are unusually good at communicating with people, considering the fact that they can’t speak. You have probably seen a couple of time a dog ‘talking’ or what it seems to be arguing with its owner, and if you are not sure if it’s a talk or not, be assured that its dog’s way to communicate.

One more thing that’s interesting when it comes to dogs vocalization is the fact that not all dogs have the same type of vocalization. Simply said, some dogs have a wider range of vocalizations than others. It means that you may hear Siberian Huskies ‘talk’, Shiba Inu ‘scream’, Basenji ‘yodel’, and even a might Rottweilers ‘purring’ instead of traditional and penetrative barking.

Dogs are using the following sounds to express their needs, wishes, and troubles.


Dog’s barks. That’s their thing and they will be forever known by it. For a number of people, it’s the first association when someone even mentions a dog. Interestingly, some dogs bark more than others. In some dogs, the bark is intimidating and scary while in others it’s more of a high-pitched.

This sound can be a product of happiness, anger, awareness, frustration or even fear. In some cases, it’s seen as a sign of need. The trick with this sound is to interpret it within a context and from experience.

  • Barking at home – if your dog barks when you get home after a long day, you can expect that this sound is due to happiness for seeing you. Usual addition to this sound is wagging tail.
  • Next door dog’s barking – on the other hand, if you are walking down the street and next to your neighbor’s fence and his doggy is barking at you can be assured that he is defending his territory. In addition, he is letting you know that you are not welcome.
  • Barking on the door – if your dog has an occasional need to bark on the door, it simply means that someone is there. If the barking sounds excited it means that someone that your dog is familiar is coming. On the other hand, if the barking sounds like angry, someone unknown, human or animal is in front of your door.

The best way to understand dogs barking is to monitor your dog in different situations and to track the level of dog’s tone. For example, your dog’s bark pitch can indicate emotion. High pitched voice means danger, while lower-pitched bark indicates a threat. Also, a sharp yelp can indicate that your dog is in pain.


Whining is the second most common dog vocalization sound, less assertive than barking. In general, dogs whine when they want something, food (dog’s stomach can make strange sounds when dog is hungry), something delicious, or they simply want your attention.

  • Door whining – this usually means that your dog wants to go outside.
  • Leash whining – if your dog is whining while he is lying next to his leash, he just might want to go for a walk.
  • Fear whining – dogs can show fear or separation anxiety through whining. This can happen even if you leave him alone for a moment. The chances are that the dog may feel uncomfortable if he is whining and panting.

    If his appetite changed you can rest assured that he could be whining in pain. Just like with the barking, the trick is to figure out the context of the reasons for whining.


Growling may seem straightforward at first glance, but in general, it’s so more than that. Long story short, growling can mean:

  • Don’t touch me
  • Don’t come closer
  • Come closer, and I’ll bite you
  • Stay back
  • And if its in positive surrounding, like a play, growling can mean – Look what I made.

Regardless of the reason you should respect growling every time you hear it. In most cases, its a sign of warning and you should see how you can address it without hard disciplining your dog. If you punish your dog too often you can expect him to easily decide to skip to the next warning level – the bite, regardless of the fact if your dog is an aggressive dog or not. Although growling may sound intimidating in the beginning with the time you will learn to distinguish this sound in different situations, much like barking. Growling in dogs at the glance:

  1. A solid growl – this usually means tat you should keep your distance. It’a a form of warning.
  2. Growling with teeth out – this can mean that your dog is not fond of someones in his presence, it can be a human, or a dog.


This is something that dogs kept from their ancestor’s wolves. Wolves are known for communicating with their pack members through howling. Furthermore, wolves can use howling a set of different emotion that we actually cant fully understated. Just like wolves, dogs howl for similar reasons.

  1. Dogs howling at the owner – dogs that have tendency of doing so are probably trying to communicate with its owner.
  2. Pack howling – this is something that everyone had an opportunity to experience. One dog starts howling, others are instantly joining in. This is identical to wolves behavior.
  3. Some dogs never howl – this is always interesting occurrence. Furthermore, there is nothing strange if your dog doesn’t howl. On the other hand there are dogs like Siberian Huskies that use howl to ‘talk’, make strange noises or even express happiness, frustration, and even more emotions that are unfamiliar to us.


Sighing in your dog can be seen as a positive and less positive manner.

To understand this type of vocalization the best would be to put yourself in your dog’s place. What do you do when everyone around you speaks on a language that you don’t understand, or about a topic which you are not linked with. If just the idea of this troubles you, you can guess your dog’s true emotions when he sighs.

Again, the best way to understand a dog’s sounds is to watch their actions when they make a specific sound. By doing so you will be more able to understand your dog and to bond more.

But, there is much more to sighing than just sadness for missing on a play. What sounds like a sigh to us, may actually be health-related, and the sound can actually be a wheeze. If your dog is wheezing it may be that your dog suffers from respiratory conditions, such as chronic bronchitis.

So, if you notice that canine is sighing while having trouble breathing, or coughs, the chances are that he may be suffering from a specific health problem, and its the time to contact your veterinarian.


In general, groaning is seen as a sign of disappointment and contentment. This sound is common for puppies when they want to settle down for a nap. On the other hand, adult dogs can use this sound when they want to sit next to you or relax in their bed. In addition, if you ignore your dog’s call for a walk or play, he may produce this sound.

There are a couple of different levels of groaning and each one stands for a different feeling.

  • Groaning during petting session – continue what you are doing, your dog loves it.
  • Groaning after activity – your dog is tired and he is ready for some rest.
  • Groaning plus scratching – your dog is preparing himself for sleeping time.
  • Groaning during the walk – your dog wants to go his own way.
  • Groaning near food – your dog wants to have a bite of your food and you don’t want to share it, or you shouldn’t give it to him.

Do Dogs Know What Other Dogs Are Saying?

Now that you know what each sound means, you are probably wondering if dogs are using the same sounds to communicate with their canine buddies. Well, simply said, just like humans talk with each other, dogs communicate with other dogs as well.

However, in their mutual conversation, each sound may mean something different for each dog. For example, howling can present different things to different dogs.

In addition, the pitch of volume of the bark can significantly increase with the dog’s level of emotion. So, yes. Dog’s can understand each other in their own specific ways.

Should I Be Vocal With My Dog?

Also, long story short, yes. Nothing can create a strong bond with your canine like a good human and dog communication.

Actually, a proper and constant grooming practice can add to your bond, because – after all, these are the moments that are reserved just for you two. Moreover, if you talk to your dog using the famous ‘baby voice’ he will love, especially if you use it while mentioning dog-relevant words, like walk, park, and etc.

So, we encourage you to talk with your dog in a ‘baby voice’ as long as you like and whenever you want, because your canine will adore high-pitched voices (they usually connect them with positive reinforcement). Talk ‘baby voice’ and just don’t mind the looks!

Types Of Dog Vocalizations And What Do They Mean – Key Takeaways

In general, communication can be defined as a way of information traveling from one organism to the next one. Moreover, there are organisms that can communicate in more ways than one. Our beloved canines are one of those talented species.

In addition, in canine’s world communication involves all senses, including sight, hearing and smell ta the primary one. Therefore, dogs can vocalize in more ways than just one. This unique trait is something that they have saved from their distant relatives-wolves.

That being said, barking, growling, whimpering, howling and whining in all forms and tones, is common for dogs. Even more, each vocalization comes with a specific meaning depending on the surrounding.

Interestingly, puppies have inherited reflexes that are also known as basic dogs instincts. Furthermore, these basic instincts and actually behavioral and physical warmth abilities which can express itself.

Puppies first vocal reflex is linked with need, as they want to drink and eat. Also, this first need may be seen as a need for warmth as well. And this is how they learn to make high pitched voices to attract mothers attention.

In addition, that’s why they love when we talk with them using a high-pitched baby voice. As they grow older they learn to make new sound sand moreover, to use them accordingly. Therefore, it’s important to know when and in what situation your canine is using what voice.

Barking when you come home from work is happiness, but barking at night suddenly when everyone else is asleep means ‘stranger-alert’, although it may be even just a bird.

Although in most cases dog’s vocalization is coming from a positive surrounding there are some cases when there’s nothing positive about it. Therefore, it is important to monitor your dog in every situation when he makes a sound to know what it really means.