The Meaning of a Dog's Bark: How to Interpret Your Dog’s Different Barks

You’ve probably heard your dog bark if you’re a dog owner. Dogs bark for different reasons, and it can depend on things like how high the pitch of the bark is, how long it lasts, how often it happens, and what the situation is.

Why Do Dogs Bark?

Dogs can’t talk to us, but they use many ways to communicate with us. It includes their body language and the different sounds they make. For example, a dog may bark as a warning, to tell us they are excited, or to invite play. They may also bark out of fear or to protect their territory.

According to Dr. Stanley Coren, author of How to Speak Dog: Mastering the Art of Dog-Human Communication, dogs communicate through a sound code. This sound code has three dimensions: pitch, duration, and frequency.


Low-pitched sounds typically mean that an animal is threatening or might become aggressive. It includes the sound a dog makes when it growls. On the other hand, higher pitched sounds usually mean that the animal is not a threat and it is safe to approach it.


According to Dr. Coren, the longer the sound, the “more probable the dog is making a deliberate decision regarding the nature of the signal and his subsequent behaviors.” It means that if a dog growls for a long time, he is likely doing this on purpose to communicate something to other dogs or people.


If a dog barks quickly and often, they are very excited or worried. (For example, a dog scared of the mail carrier will bark at the window whenever they come.) If a dog barks slowly or at least, it means they are not very excited.

Common Reasons for Dog Barking and How to Interpret Them

A dog barks due to a variety of different triggers. It’s important to remember that barking isn’t always harmful, but dogs might bark excessively at times. Excessive barking can happen in lots of different situations.

Here are some of the reasons your dog may bark. (We’ll explain what to do if your dog barks in the next section.)

Dog Barking in Crate:

If your dog barks in its crate, it’s likely because they want your attention. Please ensure your dog is comfortable and has everything they need before leaving them alone. If this is a new behavior, check to ensure they aren’t hurt or sick. They are likely just trying to get your attention if they seem fine.

Dog Barking at Me, Their Owner:

The meaning of a dog barking at its owner depends on the situation. If the dog barks when you come home, they are probably excited to see you. If the dog has their butt in the air and its front end is low to the ground, it might be trying to get you to play with them.

Some situations might be harder to figure out than others. Dogs might bark for different reasons, depending on the situation. For example, they might bark if they’re scared at night or see a squirrel on a walk. They might also bark to get your attention.

High-Pitched Barking:

A dog that barks in a high-pitched tone may be enjoying itself. It might be during playtime or another fun activity. If the dog is barking in a high-pitched tone for other reasons, it might mean they are feeling lonely. High-pitched barking is not usually a warning type, unlike lower-pitched barks.

Dog Barking at Night:

Your dog may bark at night for a variety of reasons. One reason could be that they are barking at wild animals nearby who are only active at night. Another explanation is that they may hear individuals slamming their car doors as they drive home from work. They are sleeping in a different room than your dog may bark for attention because they are lonely.

Barking at night is not always because it’s nighttime. Your dog might bark because they are bored or trying to get your attention. That’s why it’s more annoying to you at night when trying to relax.

Dog Barking at “Nothing”:

Dogs can smell and hear things that humans cannot. People often think their dog is barking for no reason or because they believe there is a ghost. The dog might be smelling or hearing something the human cannot detect. It might be a smell that is too subtle for humans to sense or a frequency in the ultrasonic range. It might also be that a wild animal is nearby, and the dog can smell it!

However, this is not always the case. Your dog may bark to catch your attention or out of boredom. It can be challenging to discern the difference sometimes, but try to notice if your dog barks more on days when they have less exercise or fun. If they do, it is possible that your dog is bored. Lastly, if your dog is older and barking at “nothing” is a new behavior, consider taking them to a vet to check out. They could be showing signs of canine dementia.

What Do I Do If My Dog Barks?

The best technique to cope with a barking dog depends on the circumstances. The reason dogs bark is to communicate with one another and with us. It is unreasonable for us to anticipate that they will never bark. Trainer Karen Pryor recommends that we take a comprehensive look at the situation. She claims that there are occasions when a dog’s barking indicates a more significant issue, such as boredom, tension, or anxiety. For example, if your dog has been getting less exercise than usual, it may be barking more because they are bored. In this case, treating the barking itself will not help because the real problem (boredom) needs to be fixed.

If your dog barks too much, you should start by learning what not to do. Do not yell or snap at them to be quiet. It will only encourage them to bark more. When you engage with your dog’s barking, you reward them and encourage them to repeat the behavior.

Please ignore your dog if it is barking. Look away and turn your back. Ignore it until it stops barking. When the dog stops barking, praise and give it a treat.

If your dog barks a lot, you can train them to stop. Start by having them quiet for a short time, then give them a treat. Gradually increase how long they have to be quiet before getting the treat. You can also try to manage your dog’s environment, so they don’t bark as much. For example, if they bark at people who walk by the window, close the blinds.

If your dog barks when they hear someone talking outside, try playing white noise such as audio of rain sounds. Suppose your dog gets nervous when the mailman comes at 3:00 in the afternoon. In that case, you might want to take it out for a walk at 2:45.You have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to controlling the conditions that irritate your dog.

Instead of staying quiet, you might teach your dog an “incompatible behavior.” It entails teaching your dog something that makes it more difficult for them to bark, such as “go to your spot” (lying down on a mat, dog bed, or blanket). You can also educate them to grab a toy, which they can then carry and use to occupy their mouth. The Humane Society also provides guidelines for a few extra strategies to assist your dog in stopping excessive barking.

Barking can be annoying, but it can also be a way for your dog to communicate with you. If you learn what your dog is trying to say and have some tools to help minimize excessive barking, you and your dog can stay cool and have a stronger relationship.

Read more: How to Be Mindful With a Barking Dog

Frequently Asked Questions About Mean Dog Barking

What Does It Mean When a Dog Barks Aggressively?

When someone or an animal enters the area your dog considers their territory, the dog may start barking excessively. As the threat gets closer, the barking may get louder. During this barking, your dog will look alert and even aggressive.

Should You Growl at Your Dog?

If your dog is aggressive, yelling or hitting it will not help. It might make the problem worse. Researchers found that dogs whose owners use punishment-based training methods are more likely to be aggressive.

Why Does a Dog Growl at a Person?

Dogs growl to show they are uncomfortable or unhappy about something. If another dog gets too close, your dog may growl and warn, “Back off, you’re getting too close.” The point is getting the other dog to move before things worsen.

What to Do if Your Dog Growls and Snaps at You?

Stop what you are doing if your dog is growling. If the growl means a bite is likely, you need to get safe. If the growl doesn’t mean a bite is coming, stop what you’re doing but stay where you are.

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