Understanding Your Dog For Dummies
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Though your dog won't "talk" to you in English, you can interpret both her intentions and immediate desires if you know what to listen for. The following table outlines the range of sounds dogs make, providing you with a human translation and the moods behind every utterance.

Overall, a low pitch indicates a more dominant or threatening stance, whereas a high pitch conveys just the opposite — insecurity and fear. A dog whose pitch or vocalization varies is emotionally conflicted. Unsure and unable to properly interpret a situation, this dog needs a lot of direction and interference to feel secure.

Barking Interpreted
Sound Signal

Condition / Emotions
Rapid strings of three or four barks with pauses between (midrange pitch)

"Gather together. I suspect that there may be something that we should look into."
Alerting call suggesting more interest than alarm in the situation.
Rapid repetitive barking (midrange pitch)

"Call the pack!"
"Someone is entering our territory!"
"We may need to take some action soon."
Basic alarm bark. Dog is aroused, but not anxious. Initiated by nearing of a stranger or occurrence of an unforeseen event. More insistent than the broken bark.
Continuous barking (a bit slower and lower pitch)

"An intruder (or danger) is very close."
"Get ready to defend yourself!"
A more worried form of the alarm bark, which senses imminent threat.
Long string of solitary barks with pauses between each one

"I'm lonely and need companionship."
"Is there anybody there?"
Usually triggered by social isolation or confinement.
One or two sharp short barks (high or midrange pitch)

"Hello, there!"
"I see you."
Typical greeting or acknowledgment signal. Initiated by arrival, or sight, of a familiar person.
Single sharp short bark (lower midrange pitch)

"Stop that!"
"Back off!"
Annoyance bark when disturbed from sleep, hair is pulled, and so on.
Single sharp short bark (higher pitched)

"What's this?"
Sign of being surprised or startled.
Single bark, more deliberate in delivery, and not as sharp or short as above (mid to upper midrange pitch)

"Come here!"
Often a learned communication, which tries to signal a human response, such as opening a door, giving food, and so on.
Stutter bark (for example, "ar-Ruff!")

"Let's play."
Usually given with front legs flat on the ground and rear held high as a play invitation.
Rising bark

"This is fun!"
"Let's go!"
Excitement bark during play or in anticipation of play, as in the master throwing a ball.
Soft low-pitched bark (seems to come from the chest)

"Back off!"
From a dominant dog who is annoyed or is demanding that others should move away from her.
Growl-bark (low pitched "Grrrrr-Ruff")

"I'm upset, and if you push me, I will fight!"
"Pack mates, rally round me for defense!"
A somewhat less dominant sign of annoyance, asking for help from pack members.
Growl-bark (higher midrange pitch)

"You frighten me, but I will defend myself if I have to!"
A worried threat from a dog who isn't confident but will use aggression is pressed.
Undulating growl (pitch rises and falls)

"I'm terrified!"
"If you come at me I may fight, but I also may run."
This is the fearful-aggressive sound of a very unsure dog.
Yip-howl ("yip-yip-yip-howl, with the howl prolonged)

"I'm lonely."
"Is there anybody there?"
Triggered by isolation from family and other dogs.
Howl (often sonorous and prolonged)

"I'm here!"
"This is my territory!"
"I hear your howls."
Dogs use this to announce their presence, socialize over a distance, and declare territory. Although it may sound sad to a human, the dog is quite content.
Bark-howl ("for example, "Ruff-Ruff-howl")

"I'm worried and alone."
"Why doesn't somebody come to be with me?"
A mournful sound of a dog who is lonely and isolated, but fears that nobody will respond to its call.

"Follow me!"
"All together now!"
"I've got the scent, so keep close!"
A hunting call from a dog that has the scent, is tracking the quarry, and is assuring that his pack mates are alerted and near for assistance.
Whining that rises in pitch at the end of the sound (may sound like it is mixed with a bit of a yelp)

"I want . . ."
"I need . . ."
A request or plea for something. Louder and more frequent means strong emotion behind the plea.
Whining that drops in pitch at the end of the sound or simply fades with no pitch change.

"Come on now! Let's go!"
Usually indicates excitement and anticipation, such as when waiting for food to be served or a ball to be thrown.
Soft whimpering

"I hurt."
"I'm really frightened."
A fearful passive/submissive sound that occurs in adults as well as puppies.
Moan-yodel (for example, "Yowel-wowel-owel-wowel") or Howl-yawn (for example, a breathy "Hooooooo-ah-hooooo")

"I'm excited! Let's do it!"
"This is great!"
Pleasure and excitement signals when something the dog likes is about to happen. Each dog will settle on one of these sounds to express this emotion.
Single yelp (may sound like a very short high-pitched bark)

A response to sudden, unexpected pain.
Series of yelps

"I'm really scared!"
"I'm hurting!"
"I'm out of here!"
"I surrender!"
An active response to fear and pain, usually given when the dog is running away from a fight or a painful encounter.
Screaming (may sound like a child in pain combined with a prolonged yelp)

"Help! Help!"
"I think I'm dying!"
A sign of pain and panic from a dog who is fearful for its life.

"I'm ready!"
"When do we start?"
"This is incredible!"
"This is intense!"
"Is everything okay?"
Simple sound of stress, excitement, or tense anticipation.

"I'm content and am going to settle down here awhile."
"I'll give up now and simply be depressed."
A simple emotional signal that terminates an action. If the action has been rewarding, it signals contentment. Otherwise, it signals an end of effort.

About This Article

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About the book authors:

Stanley Coren is best known to the public for his popular books on dogs and on general psychological issues. However, within the scientific world, he’s also a highly respected scientist, a Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
His engaging writing style and his broad knowledge about the behavior of dogs and people have made his books The Intelligence of Dogs, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know?, How to Speak Dog, The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?, and Why Does My Dog Do That? all bestsellers.
Roger Caras, President of the ASPCA, and himself a bestselling author of dog books, noted “Stanley Coren has an incredible gift — the ability to take the most complex matters and make it all seem so simple and clear.” Perhaps this is why Coren was named Writer of the Year by the International Positive Dog Training Association and is a sought-after contributor to a number of national dog and pet magazines, including Pets Magazine, Modern Dog, AnimalSense, Dog and Puppy Basics, and AKC Gazette.
Many professional associations have recognized Coren’s work with service dogs, and he’s received awards from several major police dog organizations, including the California Canine Narcotic Dog Association and the British Columbia Police Canine Association. His work with and knowledge of dogs has often caught the attention of the media, and he’s been the subject of feature articles in People Magazine, USA Today, Time Magazine, Maclean’s, US News & World Report, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and others. His affable manner has also made him a popular guest with the broadcast media, and he’s been featured on numerous television programs, including Oprah, Larry King Live, Dateline, 20/20, Maurie Povich, Good Morning America, Charlie Rose, and the Today Show. He currently hosts the national TV series Good Dog! in Canada.

Sarah Hodgson, president of Simply Sarah Incorporated, has been a trainer of dogs and their people in Westchester, New York, and Southern Connecticut for more than 20 years. She’s the author of eight dog-training books, including Puppies For Dummies, Dog Tricks For Dummies, Puppies Raising & Training Diary For Dummies, Teach Yourself Visually Dog Training, You and Your Puppy (co-authored with James DeBitetto), DogPerfect, 2nd Edition, PuppyPerfect, and Miss Sarah’s Guide to Etiquette for Dogs & Their People. In addition, Sarah has produced two videos, patented a dog training leash (the Teaching Lead), and invented many other products to simplify the shared lives of dogs and people.
Sarah is frequently featured as a dog training specialist on network television, radio, and print media, including The New York Times, NBC, CBS, Animal Planet (Disney syndicate), FOX, CNN, WOR, Hollywood Pets, Parenthood magazine, and others. She has worked with many famous persons’ dogs, including TV personality Katie Couric, actors Richard Gere, Glenn Close, Chazz Palminteri, Chevy Chase, and Lucie Arnaz; business moguls George Soros, Tommy Hilfiger, Tommy Mottola, and Michael Fuchs; and sport greats Bobby Valentine and Alan Houston.
In addition, Sarah is a behavior consultant and education facilitator at the Adopt-A-Dog shelter in Armonk, New York, where she holds training and socialization programs, conditioning each of the dogs within a fully decorated home environment before their formal adoption.

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