Communicating With Your Dog and Understanding Their Bark Tones

Dog barking outside

We understand your strange human language, and as it turns out, you basically understand our bark inflections too. Communicating with your dog really isn’t that difficult.

Let me explain.

In a controlled study conducted using the acoustic parameters in dog barks, humans were asked to translate the emotional sentiment behind specific barks. The result was revolutionary.

Humans were able to accurately determine the general meaning behind the bark, regardless of their previous relationship or situational circumstance involving dogs. In short, the subjects proved that communicating with your dog boiled down to situational and emotional awareness.

Disclaimer: The Can My Dog articles contain information based on the individual research and opinions of the author of the site – who just so happens to be a dog. How you utilize the information given is completely up to you. Proceed at your own risk.

Acoustic Bark Parameters and How They Help You Communicate With Your Dog?

The parameters used in this specific study followed closely along with previous findings detailed in Morton’s Motivation Structural Rules. For instance, the tone of the bark indicates a particular motivator, as does the pitch, and even the intervals, or time between each bark.

Believe it or not, even if you weren’t raised by wolves like the rest of us, you still have a basic understanding of what your dog is trying to communicate to you when they bark a certain way.

This could be a testament to our continuous evolution into domestication, but what do I know.

Humans With No Previous Dog Connections Can Still Understand a Bark Tone for Communicating Purposes.

This was one of my favorite parts about the study.

They didn’t just use a group of dog parents – instead they added a wide variety of humans to the test. People with no previous connections to animals of any kind.

What I find particularly interesting is that even the people with no prior dog experience could tell the difference between an aggressive bark, a scared bark, and a playful bark.

How else can you explain this if not for the lines of communication between human and dog being effortlessly and systematically dissolved into one common language.

In other words, dogs are blending emotions and physical sound in order to increase comprehensible communication between species.

According to the abstract derived from the aforementioned study, “humans with different levels of experience with dogs described the emotional content of the bark sequences quite similarly…

Low pitched barks were described as aggressive, and tonal and high pitched barks were scored as either fearful or desperate, but always without aggressiveness.” [Applied Animal Behaviour Science – Acoustic parameters of dog barks carry emotional information for humans]

What Do Bark Intervals Have To Do With It?

Barks with very short intervals, or time lapsed in between barks are typically more aggressive in nature.

On the contrary, barks with long pauses (or intervals) are more playful.

Of course we can dive deeper into the tonality of each bark, but we’ll quickly conclude that deeper toned barks fall on the side of aggression with short intervals, where higher pitched barks fall in the category of the latter, more playful side.

In quick summation:

  • High pitched bark with long pauses in between = playful and happy dog.
  • Deep toned barks with shot breaks in between = mad, agitated, and aggressive dog.

You don’t have to be a bark tone expert to have a general understanding of the emotions a dog is feeling at any given time. Just pay attention to your surroundings, the dog’s body language, and ask yourself the following quick questions:

Why is the dog barking? What’s going on right now? Are they seemingly in a stressful situation? Or are they just trying to get my attention?

It’s always best to air on the side of caution.

And always remember to ask the owner of a dog if it’s okay before you approach their dog in any manner.

Do Dogs Communicate Like This With Humans Only?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Maybe.

How’s that for an undeniably clear answer?

Dogs are emotional beings, so it stands to reason that their way of communicating with their humans would follow suit.

But it doesn’t necessarily stop there.

Dog use portions of their ability to express emotions with other animals too.

For instance, have you ever had to break up a dog fight? I can all but guarantee that you could sense the tension by the way the dogs were barking at each other.

In direct opposition, I bet you can tell when your dog is being playful and barking at another dog in attempts to get the other pup to play back.

Well, guess what? If you (human) can tell the difference, then so can the dog on the other side of the bark.

Emotions behind the bark speaks louder than the actual bark.

All of the analysis derived from your dog’s barks, and the simplistic deductions that can be made based on these sound parameters, can be presented as evolutionary cognition resulting from extensive time spent with more intelligent human counterparts.

I’m basically trying to say that spending time with humans makes us smarter and increases our ability to thoroughly communicate across the spectrum of emotions.


Not every dog can express themselves as fluently and eloquently as me. I’m a gifted fella, no question about it.


You guys know, there’s always a butt.

That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to communicate efficiently with your dog too. As a matter of fact, comprehensive communication evolves tremendously with constant communication.

Read that again.

In other words, talking to your dog and observing situational circumstances as they relate to your dog’s bark is the beginning of heightened awareness and understanding.

In fact, this doesn’t necessarily take a lot of work. Think back to the study referenced at the beginning of this article. As you can see, humans with no dog relationships were able to understand basic emotions behind the sound and frequency of a bark for crying out loud.

If they can do it, then so can you wonderful dog parents out there.

And on that note, may you all continue to Live, Love, Laugh, and Scratch our bellies often.

Love you guys,


P.S. If you’re new to this world, you may want to check out my Ultimate Guide for First Time Dog Parents. It’s a great reference to get you started on this journey.

Related Questions

Do Dogs Understand When You Cry?

Studies suggest that dogs feel distressed and anxious when you are sad.

Not only does you being sad, make your dog sad, but they will try to make it better by nuzzling up in your lap, touching you with their paw, or following you around to keep an eye on you.

How Do You Tell Your Dog You Love Them?

Dogs are emotional beings and respond well to feelings and actions of positive reinforcement.

Those actions include:

If you love your dog – they’ll know by your actions.

This article has been reviewed by our Editorial Board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our Editorial Policies.

Recent Posts